Tag Archive for poppo

On the death of my grandfather

I have a mole on the side of my body, right between my right breast and armpit. It used to look like most of my other moles, small, flat, and brown, but it looks different now, and I’m kind of freaking out about it. Not because I’m scared it’s cancerous or anything like that, but because this mole is special, as my grandpa, Poppo, had the exact same mole in the exact same spot.

For those of you who follow this blog, but don’t know me in real life, my Poppo died at the end of this past December. If you do know me or read me, then you’ll know that this has been a devastating, however expected, loss. I won’t go into everything again (you can read more about him here and here) but he co-raised me and we were very close when I was growing up. For over a decade before he died, he suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. In the end he didn’t really remember any of us except my grandmother, and he lived full-time in a special home for people with memory loss.

A lot of people aren’t close to their grandparents, so they don’t really get it, and they say or want me to say that he was like a father to me, but it wasn’t exactly like that. I never had a father, so I wouldn’t know what that means. Poppo was my best friend and one of the only people who has ever made me feel completely safe and loved. Years ago a sentence like that would have never appeared in my writing, because feeling safe and loved is not funny, or really very interesting as far as the big story goes, but getting older and trying to get healthy mentally makes you say and feel all kinds of things that aren’t super amusing. I have lived for almost my whole life genuinely believing that I just can’t seem to do anything right, but my grandpa’s love always got through to me. He never made me feel ashamed or ugly.

I’ve been hard on myself for mourning so deeply. I can’t figure out why it still hurts so much, especially since he was so old and sick, so ready to go, and went so peacefully. But I suppose watching the person you love most in the entire world exhale for the final time doesn’t fit neatly into the definition of “peaceful.” It was harder in the end to watch him leave his earthly body because I had stuffed down my feelings about slowly losing who he was long before that. Just as my favorite mole is changing, I watched my grandpa change before my eyes for years and then had to turn away. It was too painful to see him, too difficult to accept that he was alive but not there to read my stories or meet the person I want to spend the rest of my life with (who reminds me a lot of him, by the way. Sometimes cliches work out). Of course, unlike the weird, raised, discolored mole (TMI), which I will probably have to get removed, my Poppo never turned into anything ugly. He was beautiful to the very end and beyond, from his last breath with most of my family by his side to the amazing pictures we shared at his rosary to the strength he gave my cousin to deliver his beautiful eulogy.

I know it will get easier, because there are more funny stories about Poppo than sad times, but I will miss him forever.

living ghosts

Those of you who know me or read my blog regularly know that I was very close with my grandfather growing up and that my grandfather now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He has lived in a nursing home for about three or four years, I think.

The years have sort of escaped me because, as you also may know, I rarely visit him for my own personal reasons that only I can wrestle with. I hope it doesn’t make you think less of me as a person. It’s really a lovely place as far as nursing homes go, and the staff is wonderful, but every time I go there I end up running out in tears, so for the most part the only times I see my Poppo are when they bring him out to visit. He can’t be out too long because he starts to get antsy and uncomfortable. People with Alzheimer’s do not like to be far from home, and that place is his home now.

Once upon a time, he lived with me. Or rather, I lived with him, my grandma, my aunt, and my mother. It was a happy home, if somewhat overly filled with grown-ups. I remember being small and sitting at his desk. I don’t think I ever knew what it was he did at that desk. Maybe it belonged to my mother or my aunt, but I associated it with Poppo because he was the one with all the papers. He had so many papers and letters, stacked and wrapped with rubber bands, on the desk, in his dresser, and in the drawers of his bathroom. Then there were the pens. There were pens everywhere. He seemed partial to black pens, belted at their plastic middles with silver rings and with a sliver clicker at the top. I loved those pens, and I would sit at his desk and play all the time. My favorite things to do were to write words and draw (poorly) on huge yellow legal pads, swivel around in the old 70s desk chair that was upholstered in marigold, and press the buttons on the fluorescent desk lamp on and off over and over again. This may not sound that fun, but I liked the way the lamp buzzed loudly and glowed softly if you pressed the button lightly, but then went into a quiet hum and bright glow when you gave it a good, hard press.

The more I think about this, the more I am starting to understand my unreasonable fondness for office supplies.

Anyway, I thought of my grandpa today as I searched online for a vintage desk lamp to go on the desk I rescued from the streets of Echo Park. The desk is old, cheaply made of wood painted a 70s shade of peachy pink. I hope to fill the drawers with pens and paper goods and use its surface to write all the things I will never get to show my Poppo. He is alive and full of love in his heart, I know this, but he is not with me as I wish he could be.

When I’m at my grandma’s house, where his dresser still stands, I feel like I can almost see him shuffling about from desk to drawer, stack of papers in hand. Sometimes I have to take a second look to really know he isn’t there. It scared me the first time this happened. It frightened me that I could see his ghost while he is still very much alive. Now I just think of that shadowy figure as a moving memory of the senses, a beautiful memory, like the kind triggered by the scent of jasmine on a summer breeze. Only mine visits with the smell of aging paper and, just the softest finger press away, the drone of a fluorescent bulb in an otherwise darkened room.

pizza, puppies, and poppo

sunday afternoon my cousin had a birthday party for his son in my aunt’s backyard, which is adjacent to my mom’s back yard. joe and i went to the party and it was a wonderful day. it’s been a long time since i’ve chilled out with just joe and my immediate fam, plus my grandpa was there on loan from his home. they ordered pizzas from mama patrillos, my fav, and my mom made her famous salad dressing. as if things could get any better, my aunt and uncle brought their two new beagle puppies! there are SO cute!

if you will remember, my grandpa (poppo) has alzheimer’s disease. he wasn’t looking too great. days before he had broken into a run at his home, fell, and got rug burn on his face. at the end of the day, as my aunt and uncle were about to take my him back, i hugged him and said “bye. i love you poppo!” he said, “i love you too!”

i snapped my head back in his direction, as i had already turned away quickly after i said i love you to him. “what did you say, poppo?”

“i said i love you!” he smiled and his eyes became glossy, then he mumbled something about me being so young. i don’t know for sure, but i think he might have recognized me for a moment. i think he saw me.

this makes way more sense if you have read this post i wrote a while ago when he was really sick. his physical health bounced back somehow, but his mind is steadily deteriorating, and i miss him, but i also love seeing him outside of the home.

a failure, the heart

this isn’t very linear. i appologize in advance. my brain is swimming. my grandpa is in the hospital with horrible pneumonia and congestive heart failure. i’m just sort of… failing as well, you know? i want to pray, as that is all i can do, but i am unsure of what to pray for.

if any one person has defined my life, that person is my grandfather, poppo. he raised me from infancy along with my mother, grandmother, and aunt, all in the same house. i don’t believe i have ever loved or trusted anyone more, or know that i ever will.

well, “trust” is a funny word for me, because really i don’t trust anyone. especially because i am terrified of vampires. i used to be convinced when i was a kid that it was only a matter of time before the night came where i would be awakened to find that my entire family had turned into vicious, bloodsucking vampires ready to sink their teeth into my young flesh. sometimes these fears even carried into the morning, whereupon poppo and i would be riding to school in his rickety, blue datsun pickup truck. i would stare out at the grey sky fizzing with dry autumn leaves and think, “if poppo turned into a daytime vampire right now, that would be so scary. but at least he would make me a vampire too, then me and poppo would be vampires together.”

i was a strange child, but i loved my grandfather very much.

in fact, everyone has always loved him. my mom and aunts used to call him “the phantom of san gabriel” because sometimes he would rake other people’s lawns as well as ours and on the eve of trash day he would go around to several of our neighbors houses and, under the cloak of twilight, drag their trash cans out to the front for them. and this was before all the trash cans had wheels.

when we were little, he made all of us laugh and scream by turning his eyelids inside-out. whenever my mom got really pissed she would tell him to spank me with his belt. he would take me to his bathroom, where he kept all of his belts rolled and filed in the wooden drawer. he opened the drawer and showed them to me menacingly, but he never hit me. never once.

the scent map i made of him is original old spice deodorant, the cracked vinyl of the seats in his truck, yard work sweat, the cheap wooden cabinets of his bathroom, cepacol mouthwash, and old, yellowing hardback books.

he taught me to always have a pen. he taught me that you can make a game of the dictionary. he read me a story over and over again that taught me that art can save your life. he taught me that republicans suck. he taught me to go out of my way for others. he taught me to appreciate a good pun. he helped teach us all every fucking thing we know about love.

he has been in a home for about a year, i think, or a little more. they (i say they) had to put him there when he started wandering away from home. i rarely visit. it breaks my heart. i know it is selfish. i gave him my letter then never followed through.

the alzheimer’s disease has killed his memory. he does not remember me. he does not remember how i used to say, “i love you poppo!” and he would say, “thank you!” and then i would say, “poppo, that’s not the answer!!!” and then he would smile and say “i love you too.”

today, in the emergency room, i leaned down and tried to choke the words out, but i don’t know if he could hear me. i would have given anything for him to just say “thank you!” i would have known what he meant by that.

poppo and i with our favorite, the meyer lemon tree

i love him, absolutely

Img_0707 today i was writing a new poem for my class. it is a prose poem about my grandfather, whom i love absolutely so much and think i owe at least 80% of the good parts about me to. he has alzheimers and has to live in a home now, which i never visit. i beat myself up about this on almost a daily basis, but it’s so hard for me… i know that sounds so selfish. i can’t even say… i know. the thing is i can’t even think or write about it without breaking down. now, as we all know i break down easily, and a lot, but this is the most real and complex situation in my life… the most painful, so painful i can’t even stand it and i’d rather hide from it. he does not remember me. i owe my life to him, and he does not know me. it’s so unfair, i could die. when i was little i always planned that i would kill myself when my Poppo died, knew that i would die too if he ever left me. what to make of this then? what the fuck do i make of this disease that has stolen him from all of us, too fucking soon? i know he’s not gone, but it’s so hard to see him. i just found this old picture in my camera. i took it at my cousin’s 21st bday party, when my grandpa would get confused, but he still knew me. i remember thinking if he was on friendster (hahaha, friendster!) that this would be his pic. it’s so emo-boy. he is gorgeous.