Abuelito means “grandfather” in Spanish. Since my abuelito was from Mexico and only spoke Spanish all his life, it only makes sense to refer to him in the only way I ever did. I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of him and how he shaped my meaning of love.
As a child, I was not lucky enough to have my abuelito live near us since he lived in Mexico and we lived in L.A., but I was lucky enough to have him visit us almost every year. I remember getting excited to pick him up at LAX! We would anxiously wait in Bradley Terminal for his bright cauliflower head to appear among the crowd. Inevitably, he was always wearing a three-piece suit because who doesn’t travel without one? Immediately, I would shower him with hugs. I especially loved rubbing his Santa Claus-like belly, like in this picture below!
My abuelito loved visiting us because he loved his family, but he also tremendously enjoyed traveling. He would talk endlessly about the places he had visited and the places he hoped to visit one day. His face would light up as he described the great wall of China or the beauty of the Australian country-side. Traveling was his passion and it soon became mine. I credit him with my love of travel. I can still hear my abuelito sharing his stories with so much gusto from his lips! My sweetest memories of love are filled with hugs from him.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my abuelito passed away a month before I was to study abroad in London. He always told me that the only continent he hadn’t visited was Europe. I like to think of it as a symbolic gesture that he was passing the “traveling torch’ to his granddaughter. I wasn’t able to go to Mexico before his passing, so I never gave him one last hug….one last “Te quiero mucho.” (I love you a lot)
This week, a strange thing happened. I was taking a shower and I noticed there was a new bar soap Mr. ShuGar had never used before. I took a sniff and I was flooded by memories of my abuelito. It’s like the memories blanketed my entire being and, with it, tears flowing down my face. I couldn’t believe that one scent could have so much power.
After I got out of the shower, I contemplated why I got so emotional. I then realized that my abuelito’s birthday was just a few days ago and I forgot about it. Life is busy these days. What are the chances that the first year I forgot my abuelito’s birthday, Mr. ShuGar uses the same bar soap that my abuelito used in Mexico all his life? Probably slim, but I’m glad Mr. ShuGar bought that soap.
After a death, love doesn’t become past tense. It remains present and multiples. You yearn and miss that person and, sometimes, they may slip your mind but they never escape your heart.
Abuelito, if you can hear me I want you to know that I miss you so much. Thank you for sharing your love. Please know, te quiero mucho.