Sunday, June 23, 2013

Return & Retread . . .

Hiatus has lasted longer than I expected, sorry about that. And blogging may still be a little more sporadic than I planned (Tues, Wed, Thurs) when I set out to first do this, BUT I am still alive.

Today's post is one that I wrote several years ago, I've modified it only a little. I know some of you may wonder why I usually only mention my grandmother or my grandparents together and hardly, if ever, my grandfather, maybe this will help explain some.

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The day I got the phone call saying that my grandfather died was bittersweet, because the truth be told, I had lost him years before that day in May 1995.

In my mind, he will always be the man I remember as a child and a teenager. You know when you're younger, things around you aren't always what they seem or what you understand them to be. I remember being three or four years old and visiting my grandparents house, and my grandfather would walk my sister and me down to the little neighborhood tienda (store) a few blocks away to get a treat. As we walked in, everyone would greet my grandfather, come and shake his hand, and "talk his ears off." My grandfather, unbeknownst to me at the time, was somebody--a somebody that had a life before he was my grandfather.

Me (left), my grandpa, and my sister (right), 1975.
As a young man, mantequilla (butter), as he was known, was a pitcher for a local baseball team. Mantequilla because his pitches were smooth, like butter. He played baseball for several years, often traveling to different cities in both the United States and Mexico for games. And you might can imagine my surprise, when I began researching and I found his name in various newspaper scoreboards . . . he was a good baseball player.

As an older man he was a delivery driver . . . and perhaps it was his baseball "fame" or just that he had grown up in the same neighborhood he lived in all of his life, that everywhere he went, people greeted him and talked talked his ears off.

Perhaps, it was his keen sense of humor that drew people in. In his sixties, he took his first ever plane ride for a visit he and my grandmother made to see my aunt and her family in southern California and my mother and our family in central California. I remember one afternoon he was teaching my brother and me how to play "dice" (I imagine he'd played it a time or two for money); the radio was playing in the background and then that song from Footloose, "Almost Paradise" came on. He turned to us with the dice shaking in his hand and a twinkle in his eyes, "Almost pair-of-dice, get it? Pair-of-dice?"

So many memories flood my brain when I think of my grandfather, and I only wish that as he neared the end of his life he could have remembered those and so many more.

My grandfather, like many older Americans, suffered from Alzheimer disease. My family and I watched as the simple, Sundowners Syndrome (his hallucinations began when the sun went down) developed into full-blown Alzheimer disease that required constant nursing attention. The vibrant, often witty man, with his own brand of humor disappeared slowly at first, and then more rapidly, in front of our eyes. He was replaced by a man who did not always recognize his wife, his children, or his grandchildren and was unable to care for himself, eventually dying from complications of that disease.

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In the end, it’s about remembering the people around us, our own strengths and abilities, and a lifetime of memories.

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