Abuelo is the Spanish translation for grandfather. Adding ito/a to a name is a form of showing affection towards someone in Latin American culture. "Lito" was my name for my maternal grandfather. There really are no words to truly express the special bond we shared ... I actually started writing this blog 3 months ago, on the anniversary of his death, but was too emotional to share my thoughts publicly (my emotions are still pretty raw but I now feel ready to share). I did speak to my parents about it, to help deal with the overwhelming sense of grief I experienced that day. I definitely think of Lito often and miss him everyday but I was caught off guard by the strength of my emotions ... realizing he's been gone for 17 years (half of my life). Time really does fly by.
Aside from my parents, Lito was my biggest fan and the glue that held our family together. He was such a huge part of my childhood and was by my side for many important and special moments growing up. He was in the hospital waiting room, anxiously waiting my arrival as my mom went into labor prematurely and was there for over 36 hours. He watched me take my first baby steps in his front yard and took pictures so my parents, who were at work, could have a keepsake of the moment. My 1st, 3rd, and 10th birthdays were celebrated at his house. The summer of my 2nd birthday, my parents decided to take a road trip to El Salvador. They had a brand new car at the time and Lito tagged along for the ride. Apparently, I was a great mini hostess offering Lito beers along the way. He was with us at Magic Mountain the day that my aversion to roller coasters was born. He was by my side for my first airplane ride as we flew cross country to spend part of the summer with his youngest brother, my uncle Jack, and his family in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Lito thought this would make a good present for my 11th birthday. Not only was it my first vacation, it was also my first time away from my parents; I don't think they would have allowed me to travel with anyone else. He was right... That was an amazing birthday gift! I visited our nation's capital, met extended family, and bought a Jem doll with leftover spending money ;)
By far, my favorite memory of him is dancing the waltz during my quinceanera. I had been patiently waiting for my 15th birthday since as long as I could remember. It was a day that my mom had visualized since the day I was born and Lito used to tell me that he looked forward to dancing the waltz with me on that day. Apparently, I was a tactless little girl because it seems I once told Lito he'd be dead by the time I turned 15. RUDE! I know. I'm embarrassed I ever uttered those words but in my defense I was little and it seemed like I would never reach my teen years. Thankfully, I was wrong and experienced a wonderful celebration dancing De Nina A Mujer with my Dad and a waltz with Lito. Unfortunately, there was another important family celebration going on that day... Lito's sister was celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary. We were sad to have missed such a momentous occasion and although I took for granted that fact that Lito would be there to share that waltz with me I realize it was a bittersweet moment for him because I'm sure he would have liked to have danced with his sister as well.
Lito moved in with us his last two years, which was great because looking back, I feel like I got bonus time with him. He used to love riding the bus so when I started attending public school he used to meet me after school to accompany me home. He and my parents worried about me since the first 10 years of my schooling had been in small parochial schools and they knew I had lived a pretty sheltered life. It gave Lito something to do and he felt good making sure I arrived home safely. Eventually, I asserted my independence and started riding the bus home with friends. Occasionally, I would run into Lito on the bus returning from errands on his way back home. Since he loved to travel, he spent nine months of his last year alive in El Salvador and Honduras visiting family and friends. Unfortunately, my parents and I did not know how sick my grandfather was at the time. He came home just in time for my high school graduation, I think he knew it meant a lot to me to have him there. He was so excited to learn I had been accepted at UCLA and would start college that fall. Because my graduation party had been the bigger deal that summer my 18th was quietly celebrated at home. We did go to dinner to celebrate my dad's birthday a week later. That would be the last time the four of us would celebrate something together. Just four weeks later, two weeks before my first day of classes at UCLA, Lito passed away from heart failure.
There are so many little things that remind me of him ... brewing my morning cup of coffee (he was an avid coffee drinker roasting beans from his tree), doves, a bottle of Michelob, chicharrones (his truly were the best!), and golf caps to name a few.