Perhaps one of my favorite memories growing up was sitting out on the front porch of the Isla Verde house with Grandpa watching the stars and talking about "el luna", as he called it. He would sip on his rum and coke and I would mimic his every move with my Malta or Coco Rico which Abuela always kept readily available. I loved this memory! Well, that and him yelling "God damn it!" at us whenever we were being completely obnoxious as three boys growing up would always be.
To me, Grandpa epitomized the American spirit. In many ways he was America. He was an ideologue set in his ways and completely convinced that, should everyone think and act like him, the world would be a better place. So, he set out to do just that.
He was the type of person who naively believed nothing but the best in humanity and the deep rooted “good” in everyone and was recalcitrant to find in them any real faults or flaws. At the same time, he was wise enough to appreciate and celebrate differences in cultures and human beings. He would work to fit himself in to the way of life of the many different cities and countries he would inhabit.
He reveled in stories of hardships, hard work, overcoming struggles, and childhood triumphs which only solidified those very values he admired and expected in others. Perhaps the same struggles he was forced to overcome eventually shaped him to be the intelligent, intensely hard-working, no holds barred, gruff, for the greater good, father knows best, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, man of action not words I remember him as. So entrenched, he was, in these strengths and virtues that he was unable or unwilling to accept any less than this same tenacity for those beliefs and expected even more from his own family.
His world view was progressive believing in the human spirit and its innovation. A man ahead of his time, commenting on how computers would shrink as time trudged on and would one day allow us to communicate internationally way before the presence of facebook or skype. Conversely, to interact with him was to walk into HIS world as he was stubborn to accommodate the ever the changing ideals, principles of the evolving world around him.
He loved and lived routines and only the throes of time would be strong enough to break him out of one routine only long enough to borne out another one. In Puerto Rico, he would barbecue on Sundays, cook the Thanksgiving turkey while Abuela made the sides. In Cocoa, he would walk to McDonald’s every morning to have his coffee. He would continue wearing his pocket protector armed with a pen and a daily planner for years after he had any real use or need of them.
As much as he loved his routines, his friends, his America, he loved his family and, of course, his wife. Ani. We should all be so lucky to have someone like Abuela to help and support our aspirations and daily lives. Grandpa had many whims and would change jobs frequently, continually aspiring to better positions and more fulfilling obligations. Behind it all was Abuela, never really questioning him. Just had dinner ready for him when he got home and trusting that he would go at any length to ensure that his family did not fall into the same adversities he endured when he was growing up.
He wasn’t much the touchy feely guy. He didn’t really show much affection or express any emotional sentiments. Not too many warm embraces or long hugs. Not too many words or wisdom or motivational speeches. Personally, I never really noticed. I heard “I love you” when he smiled at me or patiently listened to my stories, waited till I got home so that we could eat together or said “All right, Kid” to say goodbye. I felt a kiss on my cheek when he shook my hand, held one hand up, patted my shoulder, or hugged me back when I initiated it.
So? How DO you properly eulogize a man who was so constant but such a different man to each of us? In the end, the answer is you don’t. So, here’s a medley of memories that I hope will incite many more: barbecues in Isla Verde, tennis, panaderia espana, computers, tennis, hats, Cornhuskers, Omaha, pocket protectors, pens, daily planners, hero, covered wagons, bikes, beans and ponies, turtles and injuns, US Army, glasses, cowboy movies, belt buckles, walks, kidnapee, traveler. He was an American. Proud. Brief. Precise. Virtuous.
As I said, Grandpa wasn’t much a man of many words. And so, in his absence, I’ll be so bold and dare to make a small sentiment on his behalf. To Susan, who comes once a year to be with Abuela and Grandpa, Thank you. To Mom, who has dedicated her life to ensure that Abuela and Grandpa have nothing but the best quality of life, on behalf of the extended family, and on behalf of Grandpa, Thank you. Thank you so much for doing such an amazing and selfless job. We should all be so lucky to have someone like you to care for us in OUR last years on this earth. There’s very little chance he said this enough, but I’m sure he would join me in saying, I love you. I love you all.