In my life, I’ve only had one Abuelo. My other grandfather died about seven years before I was born so my only recollection, my only experience with a grandfather, was with Juan Ramón.
Abuelo was an interesting man. He could understand English because when he was in grade school Spanish was outlawed. He was interested in politics, religion, and music. For as long as I remember he would go out in the evenings to gather with a group of guys to sing. He was an old-school singer who remembered serenades and singing in the corners of the barrio.
He was also a storyteller. About his growing up on the farm and his leaving home around 14 to go into the city to earn a living. With only an eighth-grade education he left home, moved to the city, and worked as a sales clerk.
He was a gentle man, a compassionate and loving man. One of those people who would give the shirt off his back to anyone. I guess he had the ability to connect, he knew hard work, determination, and family. His life story made him fearful of risktaking and comfortable with stability.
Growing up he would visit us weekly. We were always the “gitanos” the ones in the family who were nomadic, who were constantly on the move. Yet until we moved to the United States in 1992 Abuelo and Abuela would drive to where we were and spent time with us on Sunday afternoons. Abuelo would watch lucha libre (wrestling) and before he went home he would give us two dollars.
On my birthday he would call and sing to me. I was his oldest grandchild and even though I was far away he made sure that we stayed connected. His call and his singing always reminded me of home, it reminded me that no matter the moves and the new experiences there was this place, far away, that will always be there.
Abuelo was a tinkerer and a “collector” (today we might call him a bit of hoarder). He would dumpster dive before dumpster diving was cool. He could fix anything. As a child, I would go into his shop and it seemed like another world. There were old radios, contraptions of all kinds, old toys, and his tape measures which my sister and I managed to break more than once! I always wondered how Abuelo would find such amazing things!
He told me about his life. About leaving home at 14 and going to the city. About renting an apartment from his uncle and sending money home. He told me about meeting my grandmother and about his work at a quarry and his decision to expand his house, brick by brick.
He joined the communion of saints on early this morning. Though I am heartbroken I am glad. After 93 years he got sick, tired, and disheartened all it took was Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. He had never seen anything like it, after over 100 days he still did not have power.
Abuelo taught me to be present and enjoy life. He taught me to remember the ‘little guy” and to welcome all. He taught me to tell stories and to be interested in what was happening in the world around me. In the end, he taught me to be gentle, kind, compassionate, and humble.
I’ll miss you Abuelo, I’ll see you at the great feast!