“Think so hard your teeth hurt.”

A saying my grandpa used to say. The saying that is forever branded in the side of my brain that tells me to do well in school.

It has been four years to the day that the genius man I called Bapa has uttered those six words. It kind of hurts even four years later to know that I won’t ever hear him ask for a diet soda while he tells stories of his past where he made children laugh in a clown suit.

The six words play through my mind on the daily. When I want to sleep instead of do my homework, I think about it. When I feel like crying because I had to cut a story in the newspaper last minute, I think about it. When I can’t remember that last answer to the test, I stop and think about it.

Frankly, it is a saying I never really understood completely. I never understood how it was possible at all to think enough to make my teeth hurt, and if I were to be completely honest I still don’t get it.

But that is besides the point. The saying he gifted this world helps me compose my thoughts and think until there seems like there is no end and then I figure out a solution. Just the idea of racking my brain until I get it all right makes my teeth feel a little funky.

I could never be more thankful to this man for instilling in me this idea that life may be hard, but I can do it.

Through sitting on the faded leather seats of his navy chevy, he taught me how to spell. He gave me the power of words just by asking me how to spell cat or bank or car.

I would rack my brain until I could mutter c-a-t. In the meantime, he would mention something about my teeth hurting.

Spelling made me feel like I had a purpose. Here I am today, 14 years later, writing about the impact this gesture had.

Four years ago, my dad called to let me know that a big supporter in my life was no longer here to ask me to spell cat. I’m feeling a little extra heavy today, but I know that you are out there somewhere laughing at a fart machine.

I’m thinking so hard my mouth is numb, hope you are proud.

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