We’re traveling through Spain these days. Yes; it’s exotic at times. The views are spectacular. The food is different. If I didn’t know Spanish there would have been some difficult times. But what strikes me the most is that everyone, I mean everyone, is into conserving energy.
Think about it. They have no oil. Natural gas is expensive to transport. There are wind farms everywhere you go. Saving energy is a way of life.
Recycling is a priority. You will not find 75 watt light bulbs in any hotel or apartment. Water is also precious; every toilet is equipped with two settings for liquid and solid waste. Restaurant napkins are paper thin. And tiny. Toilet paper… Let’s just say that you don’t get the ten-ply product.
I lived in Spain for a year as a teenager. I’ve found myself going back to those days, and then lapsing into childhood. I thought about my grandfather and our visits to his farm. He also had the need to be frugal.
For some reason the first thing that came to my mind was the urinals. Everyone was given one before we went to bed. Both of the grandparents had one. My wife tells me that her father’s childhood bedroom was in the attic. It got cold; there was an outhouse. So the boys were given a urinal in case they could not make it through the night.
I can see the need in temperate climates, but it never gets cold in Puerto Rico. Why did we see the need?
Another thought: what happened to them? Other than in hospitals, I don’t recall seeing a metal urinal in decades. Who did away with them? Would my children have me committed if I handed them one? And transparent TP?
Then there were the blessings. Before we went to sleep it was mandatory to ask both grandparents for their blessing.
“Dios te bendiga.”
We were not trained to do this at home. I always wondered why. I decided that maybe grandpa’s blessing was special. Older. More traditional. It made me feel safe and secure; as if he had the power to keep me from harm. I did not raise my children that way. Now I’m sorry that I didn’t. Part of me felt ashamed to be old-fashioned.
But our children need for us to be strong and old-fashioned.
The coffee. Grandpa had a small cup of black coffee in the morning. He put two heaping teaspoons of sugar in it. When he was done drinking half the sugar was lying at the bottom of the cup. Every once in a while grandma would let me drink the last sip. As I got older she would fix me a cup, diluted with milk. I felt like part of me had grown up.
The dogs. This was a farm. A very rustic one; a one-man operation. There were four dogs. They slept outside. They ate leftovers. We were allowed to feed them chicken bones. I know; this is probably considered abusive these days. They loved them.
They ate lard that grandma had used to fry chickens. Rice and beans. Anything we did not want. If a dog dared to eat one of the eggs that the hens used to lay (they wandered about; chickens were never cooped) he or she got shot. Those were the happiest pets that I’ve ever seen.
I had my own little machete. Grandpa was obsessive about safety. He let me use his shotgun once. Put an old can on top of a fencepost. I aimed and fired. The can was still standing, but I managed to destroy a banana bunch that was ready to be picked. Maybe this is why he insisted that I become a doctor.
I know that America is the land of plenty. We enjoy our wealth of energy and convenience.
Maybe there’s some spirituality in conservation. Maybe we show God that we care; that we’re grateful; that we don’t waste. That we know of the millions upon millions that lack even a tenth of what we have. That it’s OK to use urinals and bless our children every night.
God bless us all.