My grandfather is my favourite person.
He scoffs when I tell him this. "I'm your only Tata," he says, scowling. "I have to be your favourite." In the same breath, however, he'll also wail that I'm the only person that loves him and that at least I won't dance on his grave.
He often tells me stories of his uni experiences. "One of my friends got a chicken from his mother," goes one such story. "He forgot about it and left it under his bed in the package. We were hungry the next day, and even though that chicken smelt more terrible than your grandmother's feet, we ate it."
"Did you get sick?"
"Pah, no. We'd eaten worse."
Chile, he says, is a land where they protest for the sake of protest. "Natashitaitaita, if you go to Chile and don't protest, I will disown you."
"Did you protest?"
"Of course. I don't even know what for, but I did." One time, he says, he narrowly escaped arrest out of sheer laziness. "The university students were protesting... ah, I don't know, something. I got bored halfway through and went home. I didn't live too far away. The next thing I know, my friends have been arrested."
He knows, or at least knew, a fair variety of languages. Spanish, of course, was his first language, but he also knows snippets of French. He has learned Italian from watching operas. German, I don't know how he picked it up. In fact, no one really knows how he picked it up. My grandmother nearly died of shock when they were travelling Europe and suddenly Tata's having a nice old chat with some German folk. His English, for a non-native speaker, is better than mine. This could bother me, I suppose, but it more awes me and makes me want to learn more. My mother tells me I must get my taste for words and languages from him because I clearly didn't get it from anyone else in our family.
However, he knows these languages in a manito de gato way - he knows their shortcuts and goes about them the easiest way. He taught me to speak "like a true Chilean". Apparently doing so means chopping 's' out of all your words and chewing on the words before you let them loose with a blase roll of your tongue.
No matter where we go, he has a book. He's sort of forbidden from taking them shopping, but he has, on occasion, hidden them under his shirt until Nana has pushed her trolley into Woolworths. On Mondays when I lived at home, he used to pick me up from work because he was also picking up my cousins. I would have a book on my phone (he always sneered at that) and he would reach into the pocket behind the passenger's seat and pull out the latest JD Robb/Nora Roberts.
Nora Roberts is one of his favourite writers, and I like her too. However, she does romance and crime separately. Tata saw me reading one of her romance novels and beamed. "You like Nora Roberts?"
"Yeah," I said.
Surprised, I closed the book. I'd read it before. "Have you read this one?"
I'm not sure what Tata thought Born in Fire was going to be about, but he snatched it up eagerly. "No! I've never heard of this one!"
"Borrow it then."
The next day he picked me up for work, and Born in Fire was resting on the dashboard. He levelled me with a glare the second I opened the door.
"Romance? You read romance?"
"... didn't you realise?"
"I read through the night, waiting for the murder! It never happened! They got married!"
The other day, Dad was over at Nana and Tata's fixing Skype. (My cousins are over in Argentina/Chile at the moment, and it seems Nana can't go 8 weeks without talking to them.) Dad texted me, knowing I'd be on my phone, and asked me to Skype-call Nana.
Dad's there discussing the program with me, and Nana's leaning far too close to the webcam for me to actually see her, when I hear a shout. "Ay? Is that my Natashitaitaita?"
Nana and Dad got pushed out of the way and Tata filled the screen, saying, "IT IS! Finally someone I want to see! Did I tell you it's boring without you here? I miss you!"
My Tata is a man of crazy.
But he is also a man of excellence.
And I miss him something chronic.