Recently, I found myself wading through sick memories of my Guelito Chente, missing him (since he died in 2006), but also feeling so grateful for having spent a few precious years in close communication with him, thanks to free weekend minutes and my youthful irreverence that made driving six hours each way to see him not such a big deal.
I didn’t actually get to grow up with my grandfather, since he was in Texas and I was in California, but once I got to college started calling him every weekend. It was that routine that gave me one of the most precious gifts have ever been given in life: memories of the time I spent with him. You see, after I graduated from college, I moved to Texas and while he wasn’t necessarily “close,” he was certainly much more accessible than he was when I was in California.
Somewhat what happened on those visits and in those phone calls wasn’t necessarily “exciting,” but for me, it was very important. Mostly, I would just ask him questions, enough to get them started, and he would just tell me stories or share his experiences with me. Sometimes he would tell me about growing up in Mexico, or the gossip with his neighbors, he talked a lot about his health, we would talk about food, and I would ask him about my father, or his brothers and sisters.
Then, in between all the storytelling, my guelito would impart his wisdom to me, the best way he knew how, with dichos. This Tao of Abuelito represented a lifestyle and philosophy from his experience, old school Mexico, as I used to call it. “Se sufre para merecer” (you suffer to deserve) he would tell me or, “Sí se puede, si se quiere” (if there’s a will there’s a way) he would sometimes say. He would give me advice sometimes like, “Sigue la línea derechita, m’ija, siempre la línea derechita” (always stay on the straight path) and then sometimes he would make jokes, and say things like, “Estuve en la Babilonia m’ija” (to say he was asleep, baba, like drool).
And while he may have died what feels like many years ago, I can still hear him say these things to me, accompanied by his cute little old man laugh, imbued with all that love that he had for me. I miss him so much, even all these years later, but the gift that he gave me of imparting all of his knowledge to me, will never go away. In my happiest and darkest moments, he’s with me, and I find that all of the things he taught me have no shelf life. Which is to say, whenever I need to him, he’s there, because the things he shared with me only get better with age, and become increasingly meaningful and pertinent.
So while he may be dead physically, he’s very much alive in my heart, and continues to guide me sometimes on a daily basis. If there’s any gift you can give yourself this holiday season, I would urge you to spend time with your abuelos, you won’t regret it, and it’ll come back to you in ways that she would never have imagined.[Photo By oedipusphinx — — — — theJWDban]