• The Knackered Truth

Going Ancestral, Part Two: Dear Tūpuna

Honoring Tangaroa- god of the sea

*E kōrero Māori ana koe? (Do you speak Māori?)

I don’t either. But I’m learning. So here’s my attempt at honoring this culture by using Māori words in my post. I only hope someday to fully understand the meaning of their words. Forgive me, friends, for possibly butchering your language. I mean no disrespect. Feel free to correct me!

I’ve just returned home from a thirty-five day trip to the USA. Traveling to New England and then on to the Midwest was A LOT. My e tama (son) did surprisingly well even if we were short on sleep. Still, I can’t say I want to do it again anytime soon. But, the depleted energy was worth it because we got to see many whakahoahoa (friends) and whānau (family) we miss on a daily basis.

In the Midwest, I was able to see some cousins I hadn’t seen in awhile. I have always considered myself close to my cousins, largely because my grandparents owned a kōphua (small house) on a popular lake chain. When my immediate family moved there, it was the ideal spot to visit family members during their summer vacations. When the matriarch of our family passed away almost 10 years ago now, the kōphua was sold and with extended family spread all over the country, we lost touch. Until, of course, social media reconnected most of us.

Every year that I’ve been back to visit my parents, I make it a point to visit my grandparents’ rua tūpākapu (grave). My grandfather passed away when I was very young- only five or six years old. My tipuna tāne (grandfather) owned a newspaper in Iowa. He was a businessman of the time: a WW2 vet, married to a young wife, worked hard during the day, smoked, drank too much, and in his later years became a quiet (or just hard of hearing?) and loving grandfather. I like to think of him as progressive- a man who stood for social reform. He gave my great-aunt her own column to write back in a time when wāhine (women) were  ‘settled’ into their routines at home. He also helped turn the city dump into a park and he made sure his tamariki (children) were set up with what they needed to be able to provide for their own families. He was mārohirohi.

My tipuna wahine (grandmother) and I had a playful bond. I would stay with her almost every weekend while I was a little girl. She would pick me up from school and whisk me away up north where there was just a bit of sunlight available to take a swim before dinner. She taught me whakangā. I often credit her with helping raise me.

This is what I honor when I visit their graves.

While visiting the US, I also got to visit my 88-year-old maternal grandfather. My e tama (son) got to talk with him and show him his dinosaurs. My grandfather, although physically weak, didn’t miss a beat and was pulling out his best whakanene (teasing) for my son. He inquired about my son’s schedule, eating habits, and friendships. It was probably one of the best visits I have ever had with him. I left feeling so grateful for all he has taught me as well; lessons he didn’t know he was teaching, and lessons I preferred to ignore or didn’t understand about my family for many years. He taught me kaha.

While in America, I felt the presence of my ancestors. Since I’ve been back in Aotearoa I continue to have whakawhetai (gratitude) for my grandparents’ guidance in my life- for helping me to get to where I am today, which in turn will guide my son.

Standing before the sunlit lake in Minnesota, which has now become an ocean in New Zealand, I say a prayer of thanks to let the tūpuna (ancestors) know their lessons will never be forgotten.

*Ka maharatia tēnei i ahau e ora ana (I shall remember it as long as I live).

*Line from “The Bone People” by Keri Hulme, p. 57 & 347. Joe Wellington gave me a copy of this book in 1998.

proof Joe Wellington is real
Loading comments...