My grand-father Christian, was born in a village called Pilate. In the 70’s, Haiti was governed by a ruthless dictator— as things got heated in the capital, grandpa was elected Mayor of Pilate. Years after he passed, as Haitian custom has it, one night my sisters and I gathered in the lakou (backyard) for bedtime stories. Under a moonlit lakou, we heard the amazing tales of grandpa, his wife and 6 children.
After his Mayoral term came to end, he decided to run for Senate. Haiti’s Political climate grew even more unstable with corruption in the police force. Back in Pilate, after an officer(call him Officer X) senselessly beat up an old woman, grandpa Christian organized a protest which led to some villagers taking over the precinct. He was accused by Officer X of organizing the precinct takeover and thrown in jail. (important to note that during the dictatorship, there was no court process, “thrown in jail” meant in jail indefinitely.)
A couple of months after his arrest, Officer X was convicted and landed in the same jail. Officer X, in need of petty cash while in jail was told the only prisoner with enough money to lend was grandpa Christian. Desperate, he drafted a letter to grandpa Christian apologizing for his actions and false accusations. Only luck would have it that Grandpa used that same later as his get out of jail card a year later.
Keeping in mind that Haitian storytelling is always exaggerated but granpa’s bravery and leadership skills were known throughout the village.
I can’t recall a time when he was in good health. By the time I was born, he had a chronic hiccup, as a child this was both hilarious and devastating to me. He had trouble eating or performing the simplest tasks.
Although I barely remember his personality, his smell and style are forever imprinted in my memory.
An Ode to granpa Christian is not complete without oversized glasses and a good plaid blazer. If I could raid Christian’s closet I’d probably find a nice leather suitcase, a couple of blue denim pants and cognac shoes. If his closet could speak, I wonder what kind of secrets it would spill.