The text came this morning. It was from my aunt, and it simply said, “Danny, Papi is gone… tranquilito…” It wasn’t unexpected, it wasn’t a surprise, but it still hit me like a slap across the face. I tossed the phone down on the table like it was burning me, felt the air go out of me as the tears welled up in my eyes. My grandfather had died.
Miguel, my grandfather, was 88 years old, would’ve turned 89 this summer, a long life by anyone’s account. He was larger than life in my world; a constant father figure in my life from the time I was a baby, he’s present in all my childhood memories, even more than my Dad for some of my early years. He was a military man, and lived by an inner scheduled honed during his time in the Army Reserve, waking up at the crack of dawn to do a million chores before even the sun was up. He wore his hair short and slicked like an old movie star, shaved practically every day but always kept that thin mustache that would later make me think of Clark Gable. He used Old Spice, and he splashed it on his face after shaving without a moment’s hesitation. At least that’s what I remember from my childhood. I don’t think my memories are wrong, though.
He was a man’s man, but he was not a macho man; beyond his desire for me to go into military life, he didn’t raise me with any of the Latino macho bullshit many Puerto Rican men grow up with. He may have at times told me that boys don’t cry, but I remember seeing him cry without shame. He always showed his love for me, and I was never denied a hug or a kiss, not even as an adult, not ever. My culture may have tried to turn me into an asshole macho guy, but my grandfather’s example always taught me otherwise, to be loving, to be responsible, to be honest, and truthful, to respect women, to cherish friends, to love and serve God, to be there for your family, to laugh, to take a nap, to enjoy good food and good company, to live a good life.
I could make a list of all the amazing things my grandfather did for me (at least the ones I know of, cause I’m sure there are far more than I’m not aware of) but I wouldn’t be able to. How can I bullet-point the love and care he provided for me as a baby? The guidance he gave me when I became a Boy Scout? The practical lessons on swinging a machete to cut tall grass? The support he extended in innumerable ways when I moved to the United States? The instant love for my little daughter when he first met her? The pride and joy he showed at my wedding? Need I go on?
Adult-me is a nurse that knew very well what the prognosis was the moment he got sick. Adult-me has been preparing for this moment, and has been holding up strong for everyone. Adult-me is sad, has cried, but understands that a lifetime with such a grandfather was an amazing gift from God.
Child-me is devastated, inconsolable, and in pieces, because his grandpa is gone.
Descansa en paz, Papa. Gracias por todo. Disfruta la gloria de nuestro Padre celestial, y dale saludos a Papi cuando se encuentren.