Learning to Listen

I remember when I was six years old I was visiting my great grandparents, one hot summer day, who lived in Matamoros Mexico. My great-grandparents survived the Mexican Civil War. The revolution did not change anything for them. They were very poor, and lived in a two-room dirt floor shack. When I was young, I did not understand the concept of poverty and wealth. Looking back to my youth, I now understand how poor my great grandparents used to be. The way of life was normal to me and my memories are not poverty but of the love and kindness that my great-grandparents gave me. A child know loved.

Summer days in Matamoros get uncomfortably hot, and on such a day, I was with my great-grandfather working in his tomato garden. He was teaching me how to work the land. I was more of an obstacle than a helper, and he knew it. Never the less, grandpa wanted me to work with him anyway. He was in his mid-nineties; his face was dark from many years of sun exposure. His face was covered with wrinkles and the shadow from his old hat made the wrinkles look deep and dark. His face showed years of hardship and his eyes looked tired. Sweat ran down his face filling all the wrinkles. Sweat dripped onto his arms and hands as he worked. He pulling weeds about his tomato plants showing me how to care for the plants.

I remember he looked up, wiped the sweat off his forehead, focused his eyes at a distance, and then he turn to me and said.

“Son, look at that, have you ever seen such a beautiful woman.”

“Ha?” I looked up, looked around, and was a little puzzled. I did not see a beautiful woman. I saw my great grandmother walking toward us with a pitcher of water. Young children sometimes are blunt and are very honest with what they say. I was six years old, so I had an excuse. I laughed and told my great-grandfather that it was grandma; his eyes were old, and not very good. I said that grandma was old like him.

He turned, looked at me, and smiled. He said that at in his old age, he had just learned to how to see and now he wanted to learn how to listen.