My father always called me «son of the old man,» but I often heard my grandfather lovingly call me «sonny.» My grandfather’s antics always made him seem like a quirky person to me. For example, he would hide the guests’ shoes under the pretense that the dog had taken them, just so they wouldn’t leave early. Besides that, he loved his grandchildren and children differently, you could say selectively. In Sherhan Murtaza’s work «Ay and Aisha,» there was a character who, despite being sixty years old, would take away toys from children and run away. He attributed this behavior to a lack of childhood and an inability to play. I drew a parallel between him and my grandfather and realized that his «childish» actions were a result of being orphaned. He never had enough playtime and childhood.

My great-grandmother Dari Bala had four children from three husbands. With her first husband, they already had two daughters when the Soviet government sent him away to certain death. After that, my grandfather’s mother remarried an elderly man named Kalkabay from the Tarakty clan, who had migrated from the Saryarka steppes. And from him, my grandmother gave birth to my grandfather — Uisunbai. Soon after, my great-grandfather followed the fate of my grandmother’s first husband, and she, following tradition, married Kalkabay’s brother. They had another daughter from this marriage. Unfortunately, my great-grandmother did not live long. Thus, my grandfather grew up early, deprived of both his father and mother.

Not only did my grandfather’s life, but also his name was unusual. His grandfathers migrated on foot from the vast Saryarka steppes to the south during famine times. Half of them did not survive the hardships of the journey, only a few managed to reach the Zhambyl region. The locals called these barefoot Taraktinians, who had traveled thousands of kilometers, «koktabandar» (translator’s note — barefoot). I remember some of the old people in the village calling me that when I was a child. Among these «barefoot» Taraktinians were my direct ancestors — four brothers. Only Kalkabay had a son among them. The ancestors were delighted that the Uisunov family line continued on earth and gave my grandfather the name Uisunbai. My grandfather had 6 daughters and 4 sons, one of the daughters died in infancy.

Earlier, I noted that my grandfather was not kind to all of his children, only to some, and the same applied to his grandchildren. Although my grandfather had 8 grandchildren before me, he did not feel as close to any of them as he did to me. Only me — the ninth grandchild — he called his son. When I turned three, my father bought a house in the district center, and they moved separately. But every Friday evening, my grandfather’s car would be parked outside the kindergarten, he would take me away for the weekend and offer me the best of everything. I would sleep with my grandmother and grandfather, and before bed, I would make them kiss every part of my body — these memories remain in my mind as a sweet ghost of my childhood. I remember handing out my nails for kisses when there was no more room on my feet and hands. According to my mother, my grandmother always fed me kefir in the morning, and to prevent me from getting a sore throat, she would boil water and warm it up.

My grandmother passed away in 2003, and less than a year later, my grandfather had a stroke. Afterwards, his left arm and leg became paralyzed, which left him bedridden. Over the course of a year, he became emaciated. During those years, I would usually visit the village, but due to my age, I spent most of my time playing. Only occasionally and at my grandfather’s request, I would massage and apply ointment to his feet. Now, I regret not doing it more often. One day, he asked my father to bring a notary to transfer the house to my name. My father was shocked by this news and tried to dissuade my grandfather, saying that I already had a house and begging him to transfer the property to his youngest son.

Following my grandfather’s example of love towards me, I learned to take care of those I love. And from the way he showed his love to his children and grandchildren, I learned not to do the same. Every action of my grandfather was a life lesson for me.

Recorded by Miras Uisunbai

Translator: Kymbat Kalieva