By Contributing Writer// Valerie Pallares
He stood at a length of six feet and one inch. His short white hair mixed with greys and some black would be combed neatly to the side. His eyes were a deep blue with a touch of green. His pearly white dentures would always peak through when he would smile and laugh. His big ears would move as he tried to make me laugh. That was my grandfather. That is my grandfather. Arnus, was his name. When he walked, he dragged his feet because over the years, his knees became weak and he could no longer lift his feet. His shoes were a size 11. Those were some big shoes to fill. He was strong, brave, hilarious, and sweet. I owe it all to him. He called me his “reinita” in Spanish which translates to his “queen” in English. My grandfather never failed to make me feel like a queen. Everything I wanted, I had. Everything I needed, I was given. Whether it was a brand new Dora the Explorer VHS tape every other day or a piece of bread with butter, he gave it all to me. All because he loved me. I’ve never felt and known a love so pure.
Of course, everything good must come to an end. I grew up in the same house as my grandparents, my cousins, my aunt, my brother and my parents. All one big happy but dysfunctional family. When I had to move out of that home and we all went our separate ways, I only thought of the luxury I was no longer going to have. I would no longer come home after school to my grandpa in bed waiting to watch TV and eat with my brother, my grandma and I. I would no longer sleep in my grandma’s arms and hear my grandpa snore as I nudged him every night. These thoughts brought tears to my eyes. The fear of the unknown. I feared losing my grandparents so many years back. Little did I know that I was going to experience my first devastating loss about 6 years later.
Covid. What a time to be alive right? False. It’s devastating. The pain and suffering that has been brought upon mankind by this horrible infection is unimaginable. Unfortunately, my family was hit with covid and so my grandpa became a victim suffering with the worst of it. He was hospitalized January of 2022. It was supposed to be two days. Two days became two weeks. Two weeks became three. Throughout his stay, he was getting better. I called him every few hours, he complained of the food, the confusion he felt, the pain he felt, the anger he felt. It was all so surreal.
If you knew my grandpa, he was never the type to willingly go to the doctor for a checkup—you had to drag the man there. He was irritated that the doctors kept telling him one more day, one more day, one more day and you’ll go home and still he sat in his hospital bed unable to walk or see his family. He lost his appetite, he would become confused at times, but he was still fully there. My grandfather sounded stronger. I was hopeful and fully convinced that he would soon come home. I prayed for the day I would be able to pick him up and play with his hair which he always let me do when it got long and crazy before his haircuts. I longed for the day I could sit between him and my grandmother watching novellas.
Every time I spoke to my grandfather over the phone, I let him know he could call me at any time no matter how late or how early, I would answer his call. I was at work when a call from him popped up. I ran to the bathroom.
“Hi Vale”, he said, “How are you?”
“I’m okay Viejo,” I answered back, “How are you feeling?”
“I’m not too good. I feel weak. I want a cold Coca Cola.”
“Well, you can have one once you come out of the hospital, but it has to be diet because of your diabetes.”
“Yes I know. I hope to have one soon.”
“I miss you grandpa.”
“I miss you too Vale. Please don’t ever forget about me.”
I was heartbroken when I heard him say this. He was saying goodbye to me. Never in my nineteen years of being with my grandpa had he ever said that to me.
“I would never forget you grandpa. You are my entire life and I love you with everything in me.”
“I love you too. Please just don’t forget about me.”
“I love you so much grandpa. I can’t wait to see you.”
This was how we ended the conversation. I assured him he would be okay. I wish I would have told him that I would never forget the walks we’d take, I would never forget the laughs we had, or his loud coughing that would always catch me off guard. I miss those coughs. They would wake you up out of your sleep. It was like thunder. I wish I would have told him I wanted more time. I wish I would have told him I wasn’t ready yet. He could not leave me yet. I wish I appreciated him more than I already did for so many years. Had I said any of this, it would mean I was saying goodbye too and I could not bring myself to do so. He was going to make it out. I was going to pick him up with two liters of diet coke perfectly half frozen and cold all for him. All to see the smile on his face.
I was at the gym trying to distract myself of all that was happening when I received the news that he was on a vent. How was my grandfather on a vent? He was too strong to be on a vent. He was too proud to even allow his body to need it. As per the doctor, it would only be a day. It would only be there to allow his body to heal a bit more. I knew this was bullshit. Deep down, I still believed in God’s power and believed that my grandpa would come home. I believed that I would hear him again. The second day, the family gathered and we prayed. We prayed loud and I begged the Lord to heal him. I prayed to change places with him. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for peace. On the third day, at 8:35 in the morning after sleeping the first full night right beside my grandmother we got the call. My heart stopped as I ran with my grandmother’s phone downstairs to my dad. I sat in silence, I felt my heart stop beating and all I could hear was the deep voice of the doctor speaking to my dad over the phone. “Unfortunately, we lost your father about five minutes ago. I’m very sorry for your loss.” His heart had stopped. My grandfather’s heart had stopped. Everything became silent once more. I couldn’t even cry. It was a nightmare and I would surely wake up from this. My grandma came down stairs and saw the look in our eyes and immediately knew. My grandpa was gone. I could not cry. I had to be strong for my grandma and help her before showing my own emotions. I did not leave her side not once. When I showered it was the only ten to fifteen minutes of morning I got to myself. I cried as I realized what was happening. This was not a nightmare after all but my sad true reality. I can still hear his laugh. I can smell him; I can sense him. He comes to me in my dreams. He is always here with me. What I would do to hear him drag his feet once more, to hear his thunderous cough, to look into his ocean blue eyes, to comb his white hair. I miss him so so much. This is my great sadness.