I remember you. I remember your buttoned, short sleeved shirts. You wore them in all colors. Pink was your favorite. I guess you were really comfortable with your masculinity. I remember you grabbing me up in your arms. I remember us running down the stairs of our building, you holding me football style. I felt like a super hero gliding through the air. You were so strong. I was never afraid you’d drop me. My sister and I spent every weekend with you, no matter what. You made sure of it.
I remember the beige station wagon you drove. God, I loved that thing. This was the early nineties, before anyone gave a fuck about seat belts. You’d let me sit in the huge space in the back. I remember our drives. How I’d stick half of my small body outside the car window. Breeze weaving through my curls, listening to my favorite song, “La Lambada” over and over again. You knew it was my favorite.
I remember our adventures. You’d buy me ALL the snacks I wanted. You always bought me a coquito from the stand by our home. In the flavor cherry, of course. You knew my mother never allowed it because I would stain myself. I always came home with my upper lip dyed in bright red. By the end of the day, my white shirt was a splattered painting. Each and every color, the evidence of all the delicious crap I’d eaten with you.
I remember the way you dressed your hotdogs. Ketchup and those orange, saucy onions on the top. I was so intrigued, eyes widening. It looked mouth watering. I asked for a bite and was so elated. It was delicious! I shouted “Abuelito, when I grow up, I wanna be a hot dog man!!!” To which you responded “Que!?! Hug dug meng!? Estas loca!?!” Till this day, I’ve eaten my hotdogs just like you ever since.
I remember sitting on your lap as you watched tv. Remote always in your hand. I remember laying my small head on your chest, listening to your heart beat. Sniffing in that musky cologne you always wore. I always felt so safe and protected. Those moments meant the world to me.
Then, things changed. I remember our adventures occurred less and less. Your hearty personality now replaced with a new found quietness, a silent sadness about you. I remember the adults whispering, and not being allowed to listen.
I remember your wide stature narrow before my eyes. You became so thin. I remember sleeping over and waking up to the sound of you retching in a bucket while Abuelita comforted you. I remembered your eyes were different. Once white, now tinged in yellow. I remember how frail you’d become. I remember the large gash you’d gotten from the hospital. Stretching across your entire belly. Silver staples binding your wounded brown skin together.
I remember hearing “The tumor was the size of a grapefruit.” I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. I remember hearing you fight with Abuelita. You were angry. You were hurting. You shouted “I AM GOING TO DIE”. I heard it from the other room. I was bewildered and petrified; I didn’t understand. I ran into the living room, eyes welled up in tears. Looking up at you bawling, asking you if it was true. Your face, full of anguish at the sight of my sorrow. You held me and said “No mijita, I’m not going to die.”
I remember you were home less and less. I would visit you at the hospital. The plethora of tubes that connected to your body. You were their tree and they were your branches.
I remember the day my mother took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom. She shut and locked the door. She knelt in front of me; unsure of what to say as she tucked away her own pain to keep her composure “Kristin, Abuelito is dead.”
I remember my little heart crumbling like some useless piece of paper at the mere age of 7. My chest ached in agony. I sobbed as I said, “This is the worst day of my life.” I remember crying for what felt like forever. No more adventures, no more car rides, no running down the stairs with you “super man style.” I would never hear your heart beat again. What was colorful, now felt bleak.
You were not a perfect man, but in my eyes, you were my hero. Even though you’re not with me. Even though simply thinking and speaking of you still pains me. I still remember. I will always remember. I will always remember how much you loved me. I will always feel your warmth, living in me eternally. I will never, not, miss you. Everything about you. I love you Abuelito.