I’ve known my papu for as long as I can remember. As soon as we arrived in the village, she was always there to greet us; crying with joy to see us again. My mother always said that on the days that my papu knew we were arriving; she would not go to the garden, go collecting firewood or fetching water. She always wanted to be there when we arrived.
The visits were rare and lasted about three weeks because my parents were working in another province. But it wasn’t long before we were gone again for another two to three years.
Papu’s embrace was a safe haven; safe from the fury of my mother. I loved her attention and how she would scold my mother for being too harsh on me. As I sat in her lap, hugged in her embrace, I would poke around in her coconut frond-woven basket, looking for things to amuse myself. But it was her crooked hand that always caught my attention. “Papu, blong wanem na han blong yu I kurugut?” (Grandma, why is it that one of your hands is crooked?) I would ask her in Tok Pisin. “Em i olsem yet” (That’s just how it is) would always be her reply.
I grew up and following in the footsteps of my parents, I would only take two weeks off in two to three years to go back to the village where my papu would be, looking older and frailer with each visit; always waiting to embrace me with her hugs and her tears.
I never asked about papu’s crooked hand again. “Papu’s hand was not always like that,” I remember my mother saying, out of the blue one day. My mother told me that when she was younger, my grandfather refused to pay for her school fees for high school, because the school was too far from the village and because my mother was a girl. So my grandmother worked hard everyday, collecting and cutting coconut in the coconut plantation to pay for my mothers four years of high school education. One day as she was cutting firewood to burn the coconut shells, the knife slipped and cut her hand, damaging a nerve leaving it crooked for the rest of her life. My grandmother’s crooked hand gave my mother a better education, which gave me a better life.My Story: Holding Hands