Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of Greetings and Goodbyes

My grandfather passed away Friday, March 19th at 3:09 pm.

Despite my quick blurb about it last week, my grandfather's illness wasn't insignificant. When he had his heart attack two weeks ago, it was devastating. All I wanted was for him to come home but he had another heart attack and died days before he was going to come back.

I'm twenty-four years old and have never NOT lived with my grandfather. In all these years there have been a grand total of sixty days I did not speak to him, and many of those were days I spent at summer camp. He and grandma were the constant in my life, the one source of unconditional love that I wholeheartedly trusted, no matter what severity of teenage angst I was currently experiencing. Grandpa was in every way my father; I called him papi, the greatest endearment I gave anyone.

He walked me to school every single day from ages four through eleven. When I turned twelve and demanded some independence, he trailed a block behind, ever watchful of my steps while giving me space to bloom. He doled out allowances easily, a penny-pincher who didn't give a second thought to getting me ice cream after school or a Slice and a slice (a slice of cheese pizza with a can of Slice soda).

Grandpa and I were odd ones out; we were Mets fans in a household of Yanks. We leaned fiscally towards the right (though he didn't blink twice when my rainbow flag assured I'd always be socially left of center). When I showed off my head of blue hair, he waved off the family's shock and told me I looked fabulous...My grandfather made me feel fabulous every day of my life. He taught me to read and write in Spanish and marveled at my bilingual skills when I picked up English at school. He praised my penmanship when it looked like chicken scratch. He taught me to pick avocados and oranges, his favourite. He taught me to be creative, crazy, daring; When my grandfather discovered an orange tree in the public park he knew it was fair game. He spent half an hour in the backyard and when he came back in, he was wielding a weapon of epic harvesting proportions. Grandpa had taken a broom handle, a curtain rod, a wire hanger, and some duct tape and fashioned himself an orange whacker. He marched to the public park every day during the summer months and would return with bags upon bags of Florida oranges. Even now I still smell the faint whiff of citrus from the bedroom he shared with my grandma, his wife of sixty-four years.

Grandpa was also the best comforter in the world. He understood the disconnect between my head and my heart, the way I could rationalize sadness and go about my day with a smile and tears coexisting on my face. At those times he started all his sentences the same way: "So..."

When my dog died: "So you mourn, you feel better, you get another dog."
When I skinned my knee: "So you wipe it off, get up, and go back and play."
When my aunt died: "So you remember the good times, take a deep breath, and keep on living."

These were the good times.

I've taken my deep breath.

Here I go.

1 comment:

Corrina said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. But it sounds like you were incredibly blessed to have him as a grandfather. Virtual hugs seem woefully inadequate, but that's what I'm sending you.