My grandpa was a hard, slender, lanky man. He had mocha skin, comforting green eyes, and strong hands. He would always sit beside me, every saturday underneath the mesquite tree in his property. We sat atop a quilt, hand woven by my grandma Rosa. I was only six at the time but I could still remember the scent of Barbasol shaving gel radiating from his skin. What do you want to do when you are older? What do you want to be mijo? I would always reply with rich. I want to be rich grandpa. He would chuckle, his laugh muffled with the years of tobacco smoke stained on his lungs. A man could have all the riches in the world, could have everything and still be unhappy. What you want to be is happy, mijo. Never settle for less.
. My grandpa battled lung cancer, fought it so fiercely and bravely no one knew he was fighting. Until it was too late. I remember being 7 years old. My mom and dad had divorced and my sister, mother and I found ourselves homeless. My father owned the mobile home we lived in, and after claiming ownership of his property left his former wife and two children without a home. We still owned the land the shabby home sat upon, but we couldn’t live in a tent so we moved in abruptly to my grandparents home. I was thrilled. The idea of always being able to have fresh bean tacos, bacon and egg for breakfast, and my absolute favorite caldo de pollo for lunch made me jump for joy. I readily had my grandpa take me to la tienda a mile away from home. Ice cream for lunch was my second favorite. We would drive home from the store in his 1980 dodge pickup and talk between pauses, but mostly we would sit quietly with the windows rolled down feeling the summer valley heat melt our skin. I would look up at him, study his features his strong jaw line and stern face never veering from the road. Concentrated. What are you thinking about grandpa? He turned for an instant, his smile so strange on such a statue face, breaking his concentration he would reply — I am thinking about all my blessings, about everything I have, about all my grandchildren, and the field. I’ve got a lot of work to do, it’s almost time to harvest. Do you ever get tired grandpa? No, never.
. One night, I remember lying in bed jolted awake by my grandpa. He whispered that he wanted me to lay beside him that night. To keep him company. My grandpa and grandma never slept together I never knew why. My grandpa led me to his room in the far corner of his house. He had the window open, the breeze was perfect, comforting. He told me to lay down next to the window so I could see the stars. Mijo, I love you. My heart began to quicken, this was the first time I ever heard my grandpa tell me he loved me. I love you too grandpa. We both shut our eyes and I scooted over just a little closer to my grandpa. It’s cold abuelo. It really wasn’t, but I smiled and fell asleep. This was the summer of 2002, July 10th. The next day my grandpa was rushed to the hospital for respiratory distress. 2 days later on July 13th 2002 my grandpa took his last breath. July 13th was also my birthday. I never knew such an important day could also be one I dreaded the most.
. The days following happened so fast. It was as though suddenly the world was jolted forward. I could see my aunts and uncles, all 12 of them crying, sobbing at the wake. I could hear everyone telling me how sorry they were for my loss. Then again at the burial. I was underwater, floating beneath an ocean. I wanted to stay in the sea forever, to see everyone passing by only from afar. I saw my grandpa lying in the casket at the wake, un moving. But I did not cry, I just looked. I studied his features again, felt his skin. Cold to the touch. My sister was beside me sobbing and sobbing getting her tears and slobber on the red velvet casket. Stop it! Just stop crying. Go sit down my mom said, she gave me the look and I did as I was told. Then the casket was closed and I was in the cemetery. The sky was bright, sunny. It pissed me off. I wanted it to be dark and rainy, I didn’t want to hear a single bird sing, I didn’t want the dogs barking, people talking. I didn’t want to hear the leaves rustling with the wind. Or the swing in the nearby park to creak. I didn’t want my grandma to feed my baby cousin, holding the bottle to his mouth, watching him suckle as though food was more important. I didn’t want the priest reading the scripture, speaking words he’s spoken so many times. I didn’t want the people who never came to visit my grandpa underneath the mesquite tree to cry, the people who weren’t there to help him harvest his crops to cry. I wanted the world to be silent. I wanted everything to stop as my grandpa was lowered into the earth. The world kept going and he slowly was lowered, and was slowly covered. The earth ate him up, and he was sealed beneath the grass, the trees, the baby crying. He was covered beneath the laughs of the children playing ring around the rosies in the nearby park. Beside grandma, beside brother, beside mother and father. Be great, and be happy. I heard his words in my head, echoing as the workers covered the mound he lay under with the last pile of dirt.