Saturday, August 25, 2012

Infinity and Beyond

The first summer without my grandpa, the summer of '07, my aunt who lives in Mexico waited for us to head out there before she opened up my grandparent's home to look through the belongings.
She had previously taken the obvious valuables, like the electronics and jewelry, without telling anyone because they'd obviously get stolen had they been left in the house.
The valuables she waited to open were the more personal things... like legal paper work, safes, and personal letters.
Of course, nothing exciting happened there... just shit that made us angry... like more information on more of his illegitimate children... along with their photographs. While it was enraging to see what a dog my grandfather was in playing all these women, it broke my heart to see the faces of the kids-- his kids.
Me: They look so much like... you guys... only darker.
A couple of them even have the same name as some of my "real" aunts and uncles. Sheisty.

My favorite? My grandfather's wallet.
Mom and I stood around my aunt as she opened my grandfather's wallet... and she pulled everything out one by one.
He had photos of his "real" kids... and one of the "illegitimates." He had a photo of us.
He had an old address, written on an old envelope, of some girl from Seattle.
A letter from that Seattle girl-- a gringa... a white girl-- dated some time in the late 50's, written in English. I can't recall what it said, verbatim... except for a part where she mentioned she still "visit(s) our park... our spot by the lake, thinking of you, waiting for you."

As we stood there, pissed off at my grandpa's indiscretions, I pointed at a dark, folded piece of paper.
My aunt pulled it out, and unfolded it.

Straight out of a magazine.
It had Neil Armstrong's biography on it... talking about his first steps on the moon.

My aunt thought nothing of it, my mom got watery-eyed, and I... well... I was speechless.

Grandpa told me a ton of stories. Yeah, he scarred me in a way no other human has, but he also taught me SO much, and he gave me SO MANY good memories-- I was, after all, his absolute favorite human being, he told me so. Whether I like it or not, I'm a lot like him.

He may not have been a model citizen... but, his good moments were incredibly good.
Like everyone, he was a good kid who was screwed over by life at a tender age-- once his dad died and he took charge of his numerous siblings. HIS childhood was abruptly cut once he had to be an adult and find a way to feed his siblings.
I know a good deal about his life... hence why I found it easier to forgive him.

Something I did NOT know until that summer of '07 was who held a spot as one of his heros.
Neil... Armstrong, Grandpa? You admired an American astronaut... even if you were a Mexican farmer, turned American soldier? You admired... an astronaut? I... get you, sir... I fucking get you.

On rainy, stormy nights, Grandpa would take us out to the porch, and as we'd stare off into dark skies... he'd tell us stories. Funny stories, scary stories... all entwined with a bit of truth-- his truth.
I'd shudder after every loud boom of thunder, and he would chuckle.
Don't close your eyes, Mija... you'll miss what's worthwhile in this entire show.
I'd fight to keep my eyes from closing, he'd sit amused, staring off into the dark sky.

He taught me to chill out... and admire the endless possibilities... to imagine... to dream.
I didn't know where he had acquired that optimism from... until I saw that folded, glossy magazine page.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong. Thank you so much.

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