One of the biggest occurrences that happened this year is an extremely personal one. My Papi – grandfather – passed away this summer. Just a few days ago my familia and I celebrated our first Christmas without him. My abuela – grandmother – who is in the hospital and we’re all praying for her. I don’t share this information lightly, as I tend to keep family matters private. But this small piece is something I wanted to share. I dearly loved my Papi. He meant the world to me. He was a constant source of warmth and love in my life from childhood. I remember fondly the times he could gently hug me, cradle my face, and say to me, “ay mami, you so beautiful, que linda” and shower my cheeks with kisses.
My papi was always a solid source of love, warmth, and comfort to not only myself but many of my siblings and cousins growing up. I think of him, even months after his passing, and have to stop myself from crying. Yet, I know I am lucky to have had him in my life. I am lucky to have been able to know him, have him love me, to have been able to cook with him – fries and huevos in the morning, arroz con gandules in the afternoon for dinner with pork chops always seasoned with sazon and pan fried – to watch the Animal Planet with him, or Tom and Jerry, listen to him yell at the news, walk with him and his tiny dog BonBon, or to Wawa or the local Spanish market for little odds and ends. He always drank coffee. We used to take the train together and he’d lie about my age so we could get cheaper tickets. Pop always knew how to save a buck.
I didn’t get to see him before he passed. He passed the very night before I came up to see him. I didn’t get to see him for almost two years after I moved down south. It’s one of the biggest regrets I have in my life. It’s a regret I’ll carry like a chain around my neck, weighted and real, for the rest of my life. Platitudes of how it’s “not my fault” and “he went peacefully” and “you wouldn’t have wanted to see him so sick” will never open that lock and release the regret I carry. What lessens the weight, just a bit, is his memory. Beautiful, soft and carrying such warmth in his smile, his laugh, the silly way he’s comb over his hair.
I’ll never hear him call me “Mami” or “beautiful girl” again. I’ll never hear his laugh, his complaints, his singing; I’ll never dance with him again, and we’ll never eat together again. But he’s still with me.
In my memories, my heart, in my tears and prayers. He’s in the rosary hanging in my mother’s room, in the candles next to his picture, he sits right next to my Uncle who passed many years ago. He sits underneath dirt, and grass topped with a shiny slab of stone but I refuse to let him be gone.
My Papi is with me. Every day, every moment and with every accomplishment I achieve he is with me. I carry him in my memories, in my prayers, in my love for him, in my pursuit of happiness. I refuse to let him simply be a soft, fading photograph in the timeline of my life. Instead, he will be sewn into everything I do.
I know I won’t think of him every day. The idea alone is romantic and near impossible. But every night he will be and has been in my prayers. Cause he was our angel. He is my angel. And I’ll work hard to be deserving of that every day I have left.
Thank you for listening.