Heartbreak

My grandmother was very young when she lost her first husband. The family legend says that she lay in bed for a whole week when he passed, and the eldest of her sons (my father), who was nine or 10 years old, lost his childhood in the blink of an eye. I have no further information about my grandfather, none whatsoever. It was a taboo subject, and my grandmother never mentioned his name again. NEVER. I think that when she lost her husband, my grandmother’s heart cracked in such a way that it could never mend again. The fact that she never mentioned my grandfather’s name kind of confirms that. Whenever she referred to him, she would call him “El Finado,” which literally means “the one that found its end.” The dictionary translates it as “dead.”

So, none of the six children my grandmother had (then) really overcame the death of my grandpa. My father cannot speak more than two sentences about him because the pain and loss overwhelms him, and his voice breaks and his eyes become watery. So no, no talking about EL FINADO.

My grandmother remarried very shortly after the loss of my grandfather, and her new husband Juan León was the only grandfather I ever knew and remember. He was a very darkskinned man, and I always remember him being at the entrance of my grandmothers house, looking at the horizon or in his garage, cleaning some piece of a motor or something. Grandpa Juan (as I used to call him) came to mend my grandma’s heart. She used to call him Gordo (fat).

Grandpa Juan was a weird person, but he was always sweet to me. I was his first granddaughter, and he was very patient with me. I grew up in their house because my parents were very young, and they worked all my life, so my grandparents raised me my Grandma Quina, my Grandpa Juan and my Grandma María.

Grandpa Juan LOVED to read, and he LOVED crossword puzzles. He also loved Coca-Cola and to have a smoke after lunch. I don’t think he ever had a steady job, but he would do one thing here and one thing there. He was always at home and was my Grandma’s companion. He did love to travel, though, and he joined a radio club called “Conejos Liberales.” With those friends, he would go up and down Mexico, and he would have long radio conversations with them when he was home. He was a very quiet person, and he loved my mom. They would always go and have a cigarette after lunch. He would give her honey candy. He would have one, too, and then they would smoke their cigarette together in the entrance of the house while looking at the horizon.

Grandma Quina was older than Grandpa Juan, and she always used to say she would die before him and ask him to take care of her children when she was gone. She had six from her first marriage and shared one with Grandpa Juan. They all got along pretty well, I think.

One day, Grandpa Juan went to the doctor for a checkup, and he never came back. The news of his death was a total shock for the entire family, especially for my grandmother. Her heart was absolutely shattered. The same thing that happened with Grandpa Felipe had repeated, and my Grandma had a meltdown. I think she had to be sedated, and she slept for days. I do remember, though, that when I finally saw her again, she had aged. She looked so old, so sad, so heartbroken. It was hard. It was extremely hard.

As time passed by, Grandma Quina started to get back to her normal life of cooking and keeping herself busy, but he light in her face was gone. She never actually recovered. A year passed by, and we met her for Christmas. She was sitting in a corner of my grandpa’s garage and solemnly said, “I miss my Gordo, dear family. I’ve done my best, but this is the last Christmas I’ll spend with you. I’m sorry.” We all pumped her up, telling her she had so much to live for, that we loved her, etc, etc. She had tears in her eyes but still managed a small, gentle smile. I felt for her.

On December 2 the following year, Grandma Quina had a stroke and died. She kept her promise and didn’t spend that Christmas with us. Even though the death certificate stated she died of complications due to her stroke, I knew she died of a broken heart.

I should confess something at this point. Grandma Quina was my favorite family member, and when she left, she broke my heart, too.

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