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Advice From my Grandpa

advice from my grandpa
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Estimated reading time — 14 minutes

My grandfather was a deeply religious man. He never missed a service, and he always proved to be a beacon of everything his faith stood for. He seemed like a walking image of what one of the apostles was supposed to be. He had the look and actions of a man who could never die. His image I have presented, should lead you in the direction of my shock the night I heard he was in the hospital. Not only his actions in the public showed him to be an enviable man, but those that impacted me on a personal level built him up to be an invincible statue of purity incarnate. Throughout my childhood, my parents were less than admirable folk. They never hit me, nor did they insult me, but they were as distant as strangers.

My grandfather, who remained unmarried, was more of a friend, and a parent then either of them ever were. They were not nearly as disciplined in the faith as he was, but I didn’t blame them. They were the people in your neighborhood who show up once a month to save face among the neighbors, but don’t practice what they preach in any extent. They were both incredibly hard workers for respectable local companies, meaning they often would not have time for sermons and prayer, meaning any of my spiritual education came through my grandfather.

As well as my standard education. He cared deeply for me, like a father to a son, less so like a grandparent and grandchild. I even ended up staying with him at his home, though significantly smaller than that of my parents, for most of my childhood. I sped towards the hospital faster than I thought possible on a bike, and was there before I knew it. I know now that the adrenaline coursing through me did most of the work that night. I asked the receptionist where to find him, and I was directed to his room. the sound of my sneakers on the freshly mopped floor were deafening. I was told that he was in a car crash, and while not extreme, due to his age the injuries he received would most likely be too much for him.

I saw him in a white gown, his heavy ragged breathing reaching me before the sight of him even registered. There was a bandage with cotton underneath wrapped around the top of his near bald head, with a few blots of blood escaping. His mouth hung open slightly, allowing an outlet for his groans of pain. When he saw me standing there in the doorway, fear blanketing my face, a flash of recognition flickered in his eyes. He closed his mouth and licked his lips quickly before calling for me to come to his side. Tears obscured my vision as I sat in the chair beside his bed.

“My boy, listen to me…” he wheezed again before continuing to speak. “I won’t be around much longer.” I groaned when he closed his mouth, rejecting the message he presented me. He waved a weak finger in front of my face to quiet my protests. “Listen to me, I have a story to tell you.” I looked at him in disbelief, now wiping my tears. “Grandpa, a story? Why now-“he reared up in his bed, demanding my silence once against. “Quiet yourself! I will not demand it again!” I was dumbstruck by his volatility. He was never this openly wrathful.

“You have known me as an honest man your whole life, have you not?” I scooted closer. “Of course! Only the holiest of men could aspire to be cut of your own cloth!” he grimaced slightly, and groaned a deathly groan again. He leaned forward with great difficulty to touch my chest with his finger before leaning back completely to stare at the ceiling. “When I was young, like you are now, I was lost in the world. My father was a soldier in the war and he died where he stood. My mother was sent to work in the factories and she ran away with another man, leaving me alone. I pinched pennies on the streets to feed myself. I was at an absolute low you must understand. I would do anything I could to get by. Atop all of this, I knew nothing of the true god then. I was a lost child in a world of horrors I knew naught of.” His hand moved to his heart for the remainder of his story.

“I remember clutching a few dollar bills, more than enough for a night’s dinner, so with my haul I began to walk towards the market. I was only half way there when a man in one fluid motion snatched the money from my hand, pushed me over and ran for an alley. I lay there dumb struck for a few moments, simply trying to process what had happened. I looked down, and saw I was empty handed, and covered in mud. I wept gently to myself, when the man who would change my life came before me. He was in a long black and white garb, like a common priest would wear, and because of this I figured this must be the case. ‘He wears no rosaries’ I thought. I wasn’t a believer, but I was in no situation to pick my saviors.”

“The hand he outstretched was a working man’s hand, hard and calloused. His face was a kind man’s face, and his shoes were a desperate man’s shoes. He said to me ‘poor child, are you as lost as I?’ his voice was shrill and unpleasant, but his words struck as if the son of god himself spoke them to me. ‘Yes father, please help me.’ I would have been more eloquent or thoughtful with my words if I were in a better mind, but my desperate tone seemed to have done the trick.”

“He picked me up with his hands, and led me down the curving streets of my home town to what I assumed was his home. ‘He didn’t seem lost to me’ I thought when we arrived, but once we were inside, all thought of speculation left me like the cold air from outside. It was a cozy little home with a large window in the living room and hardwood floors. It reminded me of my childhood home, and I began to cry. I didn’t kneel, I just stood there, crying. The man placed his hand on my shoulder and half whispered to me ‘Weep boy, weep openly in remembrance. It will be the last time you do so.”

“Now boy, I won’t tell you everything that happened. If ever there was a time for me to tell of all my failures, it would be now, as I place my feet into the beach where death swims, but I won’t. If I made clear the things I did, the temptation would prove too burdensome for any to turn their nose to, especially a child. Instead, I will dance around the finer points and tell you the rest. The man never gave me his name, and in time I lost my own. Men would come and go, but he would always stay. He gave me food and water, he gave me a bed to sleep in, and for many years he asked nothing. Though this simplicity would last only until he deemed me mature enough to learn of the education he offered.”

“Until he deemed me no longer a child, he told me nothing of his work and I asked naught. I assumed he was a priest from his garb and from his mannerisms, but I had no proof. He held no holy symbols and kept no books of faith. He would leave for long parts of the day, and come back in the night. He came to me one morning. He tapped my shoulder and shushed me gently, ushering me from my bed. I got up and followed him outside.” He let out another small groan and closed his eyes before continuing to recount his tale. “I don’t remember how long we walked, but I remember feeling the pulsing pain wrap around my legs and center on my upper thighs. My shoes felt wet and spacious, and my hair was matted to my head despite the cold wind blowing through the town that day.”

“I stood in a black room with a few hanging lights vainly trying to combat the dark. The man who took me in seemed indistinguishable among the others wearing the same cloth. They talked amongst themselves for a few moments before disengaging from each other, and starting towards me. I was given a bowl of soup and told to eat. I sat down after the bowl lay empty and damp on the inside. My vision was dulled not only by the darkness, but also by my own exhaustion. The soup felt good but I don’t remember how it tasted. The man I knew came forward and began speaking to me though his words only registered occasionally. He said something with great passion, then pointed past himself and the other men and showed a rising tower of smoke with just enough light on it from the hanging bulbs to remain visible.”

“The smoke originated from the center of the room, initially black before it began to change. It shifted its shape like a plume of incense though it had no origin. Its color shifted from that of a black color only magnified by the surroundings, before it changed to a light gray, and then pale white. It grew increasingly paler, before even changing to a light pink, then red, then purple, then blue and so on. I was completely enraptured by the elegant though simple display before me. My stomach gurgled in protest to my lack of food, not satisfied with the soup alone, but the rest of my attention was still focused on the shifting smoke. A man, not one I knew came before me obscuring the smoke to my dismay, but they grabbed my attention with something new. ‘Anything boy, what do you want?’ I thought only a moment, before gesturing over to the mostly empty bowl of soup and then to my mouth, not wanting to put in the effort to talk. I didn’t even feel like putting the effort in to breath.”

“I was in a sublime state of relaxation I had never known. Nothing seemed to matter in that moment, not even the man currently gesturing towards the soup bowl, only the smoke lazily rising behind him, and appearing over his head. I finally bade his request which was steadily growing in urgency to look at the bowl. I rolled my head to one side with my eyes only half opened. The soup bowl was now fully filled. The man hadn’t moved, and the others at the back of the room stayed in the same positions, so how was the soup now full?“

“It didn’t matter at that moment, I only wanted the hunger pangs to leave. I reached my hand out with little prior deliberation, pulled the warm bowl towards my mouth, and began to drink from it. Though it looked and smelled the same as before, it tasted like honey and sugar now, fully awakening me from my subdued state of earlier. I hungrily took from the bowl until not even the dampness of earlier remained unless you count the new wetness that my tongue left behind. My awakened eyes shifted to the man still kneeling before me, no doubt a begging look within my glistening orbs. He smiled sweetly, showing no age lines as some of the others had adopted. ‘Trust in our lord and all you desire will come freely to you. Yathua is a loving one, and will ordain you in blood and honeyed words if you will only let them do so.’ I didn’t know this ‘Yathua’ he spoke of, but I knew that if they could bring this smoke, and give me more of the soup, then whatever else they offered would no doubt be good.”

“I thought of this name ‘Yathua’, and a fondness in it began to grow. I looked back to the bowl, the fondness still in my mind, to see it again full and plentiful. My stomach no longer growled, but my very soul seemed just as hungry. My wide eyes looked disbelievingly at the kneeling young man in approval, to which he maintained his smile and nodded at me to drink again of the soup. I grabbed the soup and began to drink again. This process continued on a while longer, until my stomach felt full, my mind felt at peace and my ravaged soul felt whole. The name Yathua felt sweet and warm to me, and I think the others knew my feelings as they looked kind and lovingly at me. The kneeling man helped me up with his soft hands, and led me over to the other men. I was given a set of clothes like the ones they wore, and asked if I loved Yathua. I answered truthfully with little time spent for consideration. ‘Yes’.
“Although simple, it seemed enough for them, as hands were placed on my shoulders and I was told my education would begin soon.” He sat up slightly his eyes still closed.

I only now noticed the slight wetness now permeating around my grandfather’s eyes. “I won’t tell you the processes they went through in the endeavors of educating me. I would not wish what I know on anyone, instead I will tell you my mistakes so you may not make the same ones. The teaching they gave was purely oral. They kept no books of their knowledge, instead opting to pass the secrets they held on through the living members of their order. They told me that the thing known as Yathua was the true god, and all others were pretenders. Only orphans or any others without parents could join the order, as Yathua must be the provider, the birther, and the role model. Yathua would be a generous patron to all except traitors. It was made abundantly clear that any who turned their back on Yathua would face the worst of all torments, though it was unclear what this exactly meant. To turn away from your truest provider, you would be deserving of whatever the world sent you way, with no protector to stand before you.“

“At the time, I was unclear for what reason any would turn their back on Yathua, as he was the most loving figure I had ever known. I was taught to be conservative with the wishes to Yathua, as abuse of the power they offered was a disgusting affront to our patron. I had tests for my training before I became…baptized is what I would call it I suppose. Accepted may be a more accurate word. I had to prove myself in multiple ways before I was truly prepared to offer the love of Yathua to those deserving of it. Most of the tests were for me to provide accurate summaries of information of Yathua that I had been given by my superiors. Having shown my devotion, they agreed that I was eligible to be a sit in member on a full initiation, which is what happened to me. A visceral display of the practical power that Yathua possessed.”

“My job was to do what the young man did for me, and show whoever was selected face-to-face the love of Yathua. It was imperative that I wake them from the trance that they would fall into, but I was not told why. I was more than ready to accept, my enthusiasm showing further the adoration I held for the order of loyal followers and of course Yathua themself. Roughly a month later, the day, or night rather, the initiation was to occur. I was determined more than anything to show that I truly loved Yathua. They gave me a family, a home, a purpose and a moral code to live by whereas prior I had none of these things.”

“The other loyal ones and I came to a building remarkably similar to the one I met Yathua in. when we came in, we waited a moment before a robed older woman brought forth a young girl of around eleven I would guess. She had blonde hair in curls and bright blue eyes. She was hungry looking and wavering from the long trip she had made to get here. She was sat down as the woman came towards us. Everything about that night was similar to how it was for me. The words they said, the things offered even the spectacle. I found myself watching the same smoke with new, more softened eyes then before, now filled with adoration for the event, more than astonishment.”

“I watched as the girl began to lazily lean back, still watching the smoke. I smiled at her, now realizing this was my cue to walk forward and begin my part in the ritual. I grew close, then knelt down on one knee. I placed a hand on her shoulder and recited the words I had been told to say. She did nothing but lazily eye the smoke behind me. Growing nervous, I said the words again. I looked back at the other loyal ones, and only saw them watching the girl. I shook her lightly, then furiously. She wasn’t breathing, and her face and skin tone began to show it. I was no longer smiling, but furiously yelling at the girl to wake up. The soup bowl by her hand was knocked away by my shaking, the hollow sound echoing across the room being now the only sound save my own panting. She was dead within a few minutes. I knelt there crying and holding the dead girl for a few minutes. I felt a hand on my shoulder to see the man who took me in initially looking at me woefully. ‘Relax my boy. We simply picked the wrong one.’ Though he looked at me sadly, I saw no recognition of the death in his eyes. ‘What?’ was all I could manage to say. ‘Some are just…undeserving. She was too enraptured by Yathua’s power to appreciate Yathua’s love. We are only human, and thusly it is possible for us to pick the wrong students. It is no fault of yours.’ I was dumbfounded.”

“What was the love I had known to mean if none was spared for the death of this child? Not even a tear was shed by any but I. for the first time, I felt genuine doubt over whether Yathua was worth following. What god was worthy of humanly love when they train their followers to not even glance at a child’s death within a holy place? I announced none of these thoughts for fear of scrutiny or violence, but when I looked at my fellow followers, I saw not love, but detestable sin now. This was not what I wanted with my life. I decided then that I would leave.”

“I had a dream the night before I left. I was in the same room that the girl died in. I lay where she died. She stood partially obscured by the shadows, holding the hands of a naked figure. They had no genitalia, or any distinguishers of gender. They’re skin was gray and wrinkly. Long brown nails stemmed from its fingers and toes. It left its hand holding with the girl and slowly started towards me. They were bald, absolutely no hair anywhere. The nose on its face was long and jagged, complementing the long yellow teeth partially escaping from under its dry lips quite well. Its eyes were yellow like jaundice, and they burned with intensity.”

“Before I could fully register what was happening it was upon me. It brought its jagged old hand to face me, then with a putrid scent briefly catching my nose, it brought its fingers to my lips. The scent of waste and death wafted from the thing, nearly gagging me on its own, but the feel of the leathery fingers touching my mouth completed the job. my mouth opened to gag, then it lodged its hand into my mouth. Its fingers wormed around within, touching my teeth, gums and the interior of my cheeks. The gagging had increased to dry heaving then vomiting but it did not stop the gray thing. Though impossible, its hand stretched my mouth further until its dusty and cracked forearm was in my mouth, and its nails stung my throat. My wet and terrified eyes locked with its, and a painful disappointment was all its gaze showed. The salty taste blended with the bile causing my dry heaving to turn into a violent convulsion. I locked eyes one last time before in one quick and bloody movement it ripped its arm from my throat. I woke up before I saw the completion of its movement.”

“I knew it was Yathua. It never said its name, but I just knew. I packed the next day, but seeing as though I had no possessions it went remarkably quick. I gagged in thoughts of the dream as I left, a fear unlike any I had ever experienced propelling me out the doors of my home. I stumbled down the long streets of my hometown until I found a chapel, and the rest is history they say. I went to the confession booth as my first act of rebellion against Yathua. I became a priest later in my life, and vowed to only do good to make up for that girls death. I never received proof that my new god was real, but I knew of Yathua’s existence.”

He opened his eyes to look at me, dread within them. “Boy, trust me when I say this. Whether you believe me or not, dark things exist in this world. Trust in what you know to be good, and don’t stray from the path you find. I never found proof in this god’s existence, but if I did it wouldn’t matter, for I knew what the alternative was. I’ve seen the devil and he is coming for me tonight. Be safe boy, and don’t make the mistake I made. Oh, god.” He began to weep slightly, and his heart rate on the nearby monitor began to rise. A nurse walking down the hallway at the time saw the monitor and the crying man and rushed in. as the heart rate steadily increased, she called for more help, and it came. They spoke in hurried medical terms I didn’t understand and they pushed me out of the room just as my grandfather began to shout and scream. I only saw glimpses of him, as he screamed wide eyed at nothing. Fear blended with his tears to make an expression of pure, unadulterated terror. He begged for something I couldn’t understand as the doctor and nurses frantically tried to assist him, but as his screams suddenly died down, they were visibly less enthusiastic with their movements.

I only saw one more glimpse of him before they shut the door to prevent others from seeing him. His eyes were wide and bloodshot. His mouth was open in a silent scream, and spit flowed from it on to his gown and the pillow beneath his head. Fear was etched on his face, but it was of something no one but he could see. I don’t know how much truth was imparted to me, but he terror I saw on his face was real enough. I went home after that, went to bed, and the next morning I went to church.

Credit : Colson LaCosa

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