“When I was younger, Lolo Nani would sit me down almost every day during when I would eat my snacks after school before we did my homework together. He always would remind me to visit and clean his grave once he died. He said that if I didn’t, he would come back to pull my feet while I was sleeping. That sh*t was so scary dude, I would barely be able to sleep at night because, like, all I could think of was what it would feel like, or if he was gonna pull me hard or where he would take me.
It’s a pretty messed up way of getting a kid to regularly clean or visit your grave, but honestly… it makes sense now. Even before he died when we would go to, like, other people’s funerals I would look at stones that had grass growing over them and it just looks lonely. I don’t know, maybe that’s what he wanted me to see then.”
Background: The informant is a 19 year-old college student whose grandfather was his primary caretaker after school before his parents would come home from work. He would feed him after school, teach him his homework lessons, and ensure that he took naps. The grandfather passed away in 2018, but the informant regularly heeds his request to clean and visit his grave often.
Context: This superstition was shared with me over FaceTime.
The mentioned relative in the story often used scare tactics against children in order to keep them in line growing up. He used to tell me that if I kept a towel on my head for too long after a shower, all of my hair would fall out; in reality, he just didn’t want me to catch a cold. Using superstition as discipline happens often in our culture, and preserves family dynamics that the older people in the family see as valuable. The informant’s grandfather also told him as a child that he had eyes in the back of his head that could see whenever he was doing wrong at school, which contributed to his continuing obedience. Such beliefs instilled in children, like cleaning and visiting their graves or adhering to adults’ wishes even when out of sight, preserves the power dynamic between parent and child. The child trusts in the truth of the parent’s words, and cultivates a sense of respect that persists even after death.