Granpo Died












My mind won't stop running the memories, no matter what I do. I would like a break. Day 5 without my Granpo on earth. As the funeral procession made it's way on Highway 90 from Del Rio to Brackettville, the town of his birth, I found myself confused. I felt six years old looking out the window. My body felt small. My husband drove and my mother and little girl were in the back seat but I couldn't stop feeling like a child.

Along the highway, men at old tire shops and outside their homes working on cars took off their hats and held them at their chest as they bowed their heads when we drove by. On the street that led to the cemetery, people on porches bowed their heads.

Brackettville still has a few dirt streets lined with tiny, wooden houses that were probably next to new 93 years ago. I saw little boys playing on the street and remembered his stories of growing up there, all the stray dogs he'd find and keep. I sat in front of his casket, a pale wooden one I picked out because it was oak and reminded me of the furniture he'd refinish and his love of trees. Taps played and there was a twenty-one gun salute. One of the last WWII veterans from the area was gone.

My husband stood across from me, a pallbearer. He has rough hands like my grandfather had.

I awoke at 4:40 am on Tuesday morning and there was a light rain. I wondered if my grandfather was still alive. He was in the hospital. Usually, I remain awake for at least an hour when I get up in the middle of the night. I was overwhelmed with such a heavy drowsiness that I couldn't fight it. I thought this was strange and gave in. As I began to drift off to sleep I prayed a Hail Mary for my Granpo.

In my dream I was with my best friends and we were in high school again. Suddenly I was in my grandfather's old room. I made my way to their pink bathroom and there I found the toilet was missing. There were studs near the shower and I could see a lush and green backyard from the bathroom window. I exclaimed, "Granpo is back, he's back!" I was so happy and excited. I felt a huge relief and was genuinely happy down to the core. There were no other feelings, no worries, no concerns, no thoughts, complete freedom and happiness and love. I felt he was behind me and when I turned all I saw was a yellow, almost golden light. I was so happy and and felt so close to my Granpo. I was then pulled out of the dream and saw my bedroom window. The contrast between where I was and where I found myself was something that made me wonder what was going on. I was still coasting on the remnants of the most beautiful dream I have ever had but becoming depressed as it began to seep out of the present. I checked the time and it was 6:01 or 6:11. I just remained still and looked at that dark window in my room and tried to think if I had just seen my grandfather or not. I felt I had seen him and that I had heard him but in my dream it seemed I didn't see him and the voice was in my head. He was back to fixing up the house again and being active. I then picked up my phone and saw that it was now 7:15. I read that my grandfather had passed away sometime around 5am.

My grandmother said he had been clutching something in his hand and she asked what it was he had. He said it was money to give me so I could eat and buy groceries. Something my grandparents would do when I was in college. There was nothing in his hand. My grandmother said he held her face and said that he has always loved her.

If I feel this sadness, I wonder what hers must be like. She was with him since she was 16 years old. "He was my favorite guy", she said.

Friday was the final drive on Highway 90 with my grandfather. For years we'd both go up and down that highway. He'd pick me up from college and bring me home, then take me back up. He wanted me to get a piece of land and get some goats and chickens...

At his visitation I didn't want to leave him. I knew he was gone but he was wearing the clothing I picked out for him and looked so handsome, like his photos. Sleeping like the morning I said good bye for the last time. We woke him up and gave him hugs and kisses.

The memories won't stop. They started flowing once my tears stopped. It's Granpo at age 70, a very young 70, when he still kept chickens and did heavy yard work. It's Granpo picking me up from school when I was ten, and then from high school. It's Granpo, taking me to buy groceries at the grocery store on Red River here in Austin. It's Granpo waiting in the car while I buy new underwear at the outlet store. It's Granpo taking out an old, vintage fan from his trunk and bringing it to the garage apartment I was renting where my dog died. It's Granpo who I saw almost three weeks ago, sitting next to me eating his lunch. I remember his scent when I kissed his head every time I said good bye that week I was visiting. I had reached for my phone to show him something and forgot what it was. I told him I forgot what it was I was going to show him and just couldn't remember. I remembered the morning he died. I wanted to play him "Oh Marie" the old Louis Prima song. I knew it was a favorite of his and I just wanted to give him a pick me up that day and talk about it.

"Granpo, I love you and I'll miss you" was what I said when I left him three weeks ago. He was going strong. I didn't expect a funeral any time soon.

Leaving Del Rio was difficult. A cousin had invited us to stop at her ranch on the way out. It's something my Granpo had always wanted me to do, to stop at this cousin's house and look at her land, he said it was pretty. I always said I would then never did because I didn't know where it was exactly and I didn't know this cousin and felt awkward stopping by. At the visitation my cousin introduced herself and when I realized who she was I told her I was always told to stop by. On Saturday I found myself touring her beautiful ranch. Being with someone who had his eyes and hands as we drove past mesquite and cactus along the rock bottom Pinto River was what I needed. But I couldn't shut off the memories. It was Granpo at 55 or so when he came with us to Seminole Canyon and Langtry.

It's now... the last time I bought groceries, Granpo was still alive. The last time I saw so and so, Granpo was still alive. Jacob gave me the fig tree when Granpo was still alive. All the things that were done while Granpo was still alive.

It's Lent.

In my drawer is one of his ties that he left still tied from the last time he wore it. There is also a white handkerchief. When I smell them, its his cologne and my grandmother's laundry soap. When I smell them, I see the morning sunrise at his bedroom window, make my way to the kitchen where he's at the vintage, metal turquoise table drinking coffee, the radio playing Tradio and my grandmother laughing while the washing machine is running loudly in their laundry room. One of those days with both of them that was all sunshine.

I need to wake up.

Identity

This morning my three year old told her Papi that he is different than Mommy and herself. She told him he is White and and she is Mexican-American like her Mommy. This follows an incident a few months ago where August saw a photo of herself at 10 months old or so and asked,"Is that me?" I told her it was and then she surprised me by suddenly exclaiming, "I"m White?!" I was shocked because I didn't expect that response. I thought it was adorable but it was clearly a sign that identity was going to be something we would be talking about sooner than later.

I told her she was half White because Papi was White and she was half Mexican-American because I was. After texting close friends and family about what had just happened, I continued, and told her half her family is White and half her family is Mexican-American and she is a combination of both and it's exciting because up until she came along there had been no one like her on either side of the family. I mentioned her younger cousin, is also half White and half Mexican-American and she has friends that are also bi-racial so she's not the only one.

Now, to begin the process of raising a bi-racial child. She has been pointing out things, asking me how to say them in Spanish Then repeats the word. The other day we watched a show and she heard Spanish then asked me to start speaking Spanish to her. For now she is identifying as Mexican-American. I expect it could probably change as she gets older. I only hope she doesn't come to reject my side of her complex heritage that includes Mexican, Mestizo and Native American.

It was difficult for me growing up a Mexican-American, with a mother from Mexico, in a border town. My mother considers herself an American of Mexican decent. I can remember it being daunting and sometimes heartbreaking having a mother from Sinaloa, Mexico, and a father who who was proud of his family's deep roots in America and in Texas. My parents were raised in two different countries. My childhood was split between Mexico and the US, as was my heart and identity. My daughter has two cultures from which to craft her identity. I want her to be welcomed by both. I don't want for her to struggle for acceptance with either one. Will she notice that I am still struggling?

Having been there when she has had these moments of discovery have been met with mixed emotions. I'm proud of her awareness, but I don't want to invade her childhood with any issues like the ones I was introduced to in early childhood. The issue of dark colored skin and hair color versus light colored skin and hair and beauty. One day I will tell her the injustices my grandparents faced with "Juan Crow" Laws that were in Texas well into the mid-seventies. There are Mexican-American families in Texas with three generations of non-Spanish speakers because speaking Spanish was not allowed out of the home. It was highly discouraged in schools and children could be severely punished for not speaking English. In places like Marfa, TX, children literally buried the Spanish language by putting Spanish words in a box and putting it in the ground. My own grandmother was the only child of color in her class and when the class went to the movies to watch a historical film, she was only allowed to sit in the theater if she sat next to her teacher. She said it was up front and she didn't mind.

The icy stares we'd sometimes get at certain diners along Highway 90 in the early '70s were explained to me. Children are very sensitive to behavior like this. They can feel it. I remember those feelings. I was told it was so important to behave better than other children, be an example, don't give anyone a reason to complain. We were being taught that we represented an entire group of people and that we were being judged. Being a child I made it a game, to be the most perfect person in the room. As a result, I failed to attempt anything I thought I could not be perfect in. It took decades to undo that mindset.

August just visited my family and tickled them to death when she said proudly,"I'm Mexican-American, guys!" She is recognized as being bi-racial by my family. My grandmother will say sometimes, "Eres mi gringita, mamita?" To ignore color, culture, identity, race and to just try to "see the person" is something I have heard growing up. "I just see Tera", I have heard this so many times. And I ask them to explain what that means and it was always,"I don't see you as Hispanic." How disappointing, its a huge part of who I am. I just hope that when August is out in the world that they see all of who she is and not what makes them feel safer.