Black and white portrait of Sebastián, my grandfather.
One of the greatest man I have known in my entire life. As a kid, He and my Grandma' took care of me and my brothers. They lived on a house that he designed and built with the help of some friends. It was a huge house; two floors, a big staircase and a ramp, a big plantation on the back. He sowed a variety of different plants. From mangos, to watermelons; from oranges to coconuts; from "carambolas" to "caimito", he had the perfect life in his own perfect world. We moved across the street from where they lived when I was around 5 years old, I believe. The memories I have of him are the best. When my mom or dad couldn't pick us up from school, he would go to the rescue in his '96 Ford Bronco. Often impersonating his Mexican accent (even tho he was Puerto Rican), he would tell us stories to make us laugh and have a great time. As time passed and we grew older, so did he.
When I was in my first year of college, one of my Grandmothers, Rosa (the mother of my mother), had a stroke and, due to the lack of resources in Puerto Rico, my family flew to Connecticut for a better treatment for her. Because I was just starting college, I decided to stay with my grandparents (Sebastián and my grandmother, Juanita) so I could finish my Bachelors Degree. I moved in with them right away and started my college life. During that time, my Grandparents were as they always were, the best you can ask for, but soon things would change.
My Grandfather, Sebastián, had alcohol problems. They weren't severe, but they affected him in the worst way. He was 88 years old, when he got drunk on his house and fell, hitting his head with the floor. From there on, things went south. He used to be a stubborn man, he hated visiting the doctor. But we had to intervene when we noticed something strange on his behavior; he started forgetting things. Sometimes he would get confuse over simple things. I remember once he tried to polish the paint on one of his cars but, instead, he used something that scratched the car all over. It was scary, the thought of him being sick, but what was even scarier was the day when I was working on college assignments and Juanita, my grandmother, enters the room crying, telling me that Sebastian left the house alone in his car. I tried not to panic and asked her what happened. She told me that he was waiting for her on the car and, as she was going down the stairs, he started the car and left. Seconds after she finished explaining, one neighbor comes to us, telling us that they saw him on the next street driving. We went there and brought him back. He told me that he didn't know what he was doing. He knew he was supposed to drive someplace, but didn't know where. That's when I was convinced something was wrong.
We took him to the hospital and they run some tests on him. Results showed he, too, had a stroke. But, unlike Rosa's, this one wasn't that bad. The problem was, that stroke happened around the time he fell and, as days went by, the problem grew bigger. He was hospitalized, and later moved to Connecticut as well. I stayed at their house, to take care of it and finish my college degree (I was on my last year).
Right after I graduated from college, I got a job in a design agency. One year passes by and my father calls me to inform me that Sebastián is sick again. He was stable for that whole year but, out of nowhere, he started forgetting things again. Turns out, he had another stroke and, this time, a bad one. I visited him and my family over the Holidays. He seemed distant. As if he was getting close to another realm; in a journey. Sometimes he looked like he wanted to say something, but didn't. After I returned to Puerto Rico, one month passed and the day arrived.
He passed away.
He is one of the best memories of family I have. Also, he's the definition of perseverance. To know that he, not only designed and built his house by himself with the help of friends, but that he also had a successful liquor store for decades and a plantation on his backyard is admirable.
Did I mentioned he never got to finish elementary school?
(This portrait is of when I lived with him, after the first "mini stroke". You can feel the sense of being adrift in his eyes.)
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