My birthday passed which was really nice this year, but being October means that a couple weeks after that, it’s my late grandfather’s birthday and I usually get pretty emotional around Halloween.
As I sit here in tears, I figure why not just write about it?
Eight and a half years ago, I lost my grandfather. I spent months, up until the day he passed, watching him for my dad when he had to work. Figured that maybe it was the least I could do for him after all the time he spent watching me since I was born. Every day he would tell us he didn’t know how long he’d be around, but he was a fighter. Even into his nineties, he spent so much time out in the fields tending to his gardens, climbing ladders, moving the water, picking crops, and putting us kids to shame with how much work he’d put in on those 100+ degree days in a full jumpsuit not even really breaking a sweat. He lived to be 99 and a half, which was pretty damn amazing to have lived a long life, and he stuck around for a great while after my Lola Luz passed. And in true Lolo Felix fashion, he went on his own terms. He didn’t want to spend his last days on machines and even though it became harder to breathe, he didn’t want the oxygen mask on his face because it was uncomfortable. All he wanted was to go in peace, and he did.
He was an immigrant from the Philippines, having moved here with his brother, my Lolo Silver. They came over in a time that had so much working against them, but they didn’t let that stop them. He served in WWII, and I wear a replica of his dog tag from time to time to honor that. My Lolo Felix was one of the hardest working people I have ever encountered in my entire life, and he taught me so much.
Things like shooting for my dreams… he loved coming out to see me sing in choir when I was in school until he couldn’t anymore. Everything I did in the arts, he was proud of and supported me. I loved him for that, especially when I felt down on my luck since the arts can be a tough arena. He often encouraged me to let things go–grudges and what not–which I still have trouble with to this day, but I think about how happy he was because he didn’t let a whole lot of crap get to him. Thing is, he didn’t take a whole lot of crap, either. He taught me to be grateful for things that I have, he taught me to respect others and others’ property, he sure as hell showed me a thing or two about manual labor…my hands still burn with blisters and splinters from having to hoe the weeds in the backyard of his place.
There is so much that I’m hearing now from the family, stories that I’ve either heard a hundred times (but never get old) or stories that I’ve never heard before about things he went through in his life. It teaches me that no matter what I’m going through now, things could be worse. If my grandfather persevered, then I can too…
I started writing If I Should Wake while I was watching him, before he passed away. There’s a lot of his influence in that book too, his likeness, and reference to his work ethic and his legacy. I dedicated it to him and his memory.
Today would have been his birthday. After all this time, I miss him so much.