My grandparents came to this country right around the same time my family and I did. 1976. While I was growing up, my family lived 2 blocks away from them. I saw them all the time. And every time I saw them, my grandpa was always doing something. From the time I was a little kid, to just a few years ago, I remember he was never just sitting around. He was never one of those old men just sitting around waiting to die. He would keep his mind sharp and read newspapers and magazines all the time. Keep his body active by walking everywhere. A nearby park, up and down the block, or to my house when the ex and I moved out of my parents house. Oh did I mention we only moved 2 blocks down from my parents?? So my grandpa would get exercise by also walking to my house every day to bring me a plate of whatever my gramma made that day for lunch. We’re Mexican, we don’t know how to make food for just two people, and my gramma definitely didn’t either!
Whether it was “caldo Tuesdays”, or chile relleno Wednesdays, or molé Thursdays, “Pape ‘Fredo” or “Apa” would be at my door around 11:30 every morning. And sometimes he’d stay a while. I’d show him whatever I was working on that day, maybe I had a translating gig to wrap up or whatever. The best times tho were when he’d hang out and tell me stories about his childhood. About swimming in the Rio Grande as a kid. His oldest sister watching him because his mom died when he was about 3….I loved hearing about his life. At only 2 blocks away, then 4 blocks away, I saw them a lot for the first 35 years of my life. I’ve since moved a whopping 5 minutes by car away from them, so although there was no walking to their house anymore, I could still visit often.
And my grandpa could do anything. With all the knick-knacks he had in various silver buckets around his work station/covered porch, he could fix any broken appliance you brought him. My grandpa was a bad-ass at figuring stuff out and reverse-engineering something just so he can learn how to fix it and put it back together. In fact, up until a few years ago, while in his early 90s, he would still take old, broken assistive devices like a wheelchair or crutches or a walker, he’d fix em up and send them to Mexico to people in need!
My grandpa was a builder, an electrician, and a plumber all rolled into one. He built several houses in his younger days growing up in Mexico. He and his new bride lived in one before moving to the US, my aunt and her kids lived in a different home he built, before they too moved here in the 80s, my parents and older brother lived in one he built, before we too immigrated when I was born. My grandpa kept possession of the homes for a long time before finally giving them up a couple decades ago. Dude was just such a jack of all trades, he could just do anything. ❤️
Gramma passed away in July 2016, and that had the effect of kick-starting, and greatly accelerating, his downhill slide. And not just as you might suspect, with depression. Where 6 months earlier was a man who, tho he was 97, his cognitive skills were still great, his mind was sharp. Within weeks of her funeral, he’d forget who some of his family members were. He wouldn’t remember who came to visit him that day. He’d tell us my gramma was at JC Penny shopping and would be back soon. Everything came to a head when he had a stroke about two weeks before passing. But even after having an embolic stroke, things looked up. He survived the stroke, he survived the surgery, doc said he may only have sustained 1% – 2% brain damage from the stroke because of how quickly he was diagnosed and treated, and given tPA. I mean, everything that could go right, went right! Seriously, he was up and eating soft foods a couple days ago!! He was a fighter right to the end. The doc himself couldn’t believe how good a 99 year old man came out of stroke surgery! We all had hope that his wish of living to 100 would become a reality.
But when they brought him home, he took a turn for the worse. And tonight, he took his final breath at 9:29pm. Surrounded by his 5 kids, and many of his grandkids. Surrounded by love and tears at first, just an overwhelming sense of loss. But then as the night went on, smiles and laughs filled the room. Sharing random memories of his life, I shared how once when his kids wanted to get him a second hearing aid because he only had the one, he said he didn’t want 2 of them because, “Then I’d have to turn off two hearing aids instead of one when I don’t want to hear your mother!” I mean come on, that’s comedy gold people! 😂
Or the time when grandkids (I cannot confirm nor deny that this may have included me and my brother) secretly passed around the tequila bottle and took shots, making sure my gramma didn’t see it because as the matriarch of a Mexican family, she was the most powerful member of the family and the one you should fear the most! But my grandpa saw us, and said he wanted a shot! So we gave him one and I’ll never forget my gramma, rolling her eyes, asked how it was and Apa said it was “like a choir of angels going down my throat.”🤘 #hardcore #thuglife #DamnItFeelsGoodToBeAGangsta 🤘
I said when my gramma passed, and I’m saying it again now, losing a grandparent is never easy, whether you’re 12 or 42. Whether you feel cheated from only having 15 years with them before they died, or whether you’re in your 40s and you’re devastated because you’re a grown man, been alive for decades and decades, and you’ve never, ever existed in a world without them in it.
Either way, it’s damn painful.
But they’re together again. Arm in arm as they always were. He loved her so much, always making sure she was safe. And when he said things like, “I don’t want to have to turn down 2 hearing aids to ignore your mother,” it was all love. They adored each other. He adored her. Just look at the pictures. Always holding her arm, always looking out for her. 70 years together. And now, they are together again. We lost our matriarch and tonight our patriarch. And it sucks. And I don’t know how to end this, but it felt good…..therapeutic, just to write down. As I sit here in tears, I thank you for indulging me and reading this far.
Adiós Apa, lo quiero mucho.
Alfredo Aceves Salas
September 16, 1919 – January 28, 2019
#family #grandparents #OnDeathAndDying #grandpa