Remembering my grandfather

Dear Sisters and Brothers
Thank you for all your prayers and your concerns. At age 26, turning 27 in about a week, I can honestly say that this has been one of the most difficult times in my life.

I went home on Friday, February 9th to visit my little brother since he has not been doing well both physically and emotionally. On Friday night, him and I went out and had a great time both catching up and just bonding. The next morning, at approximately 7:30a.m, my mother awoke me and I could see tragedy in her entire face. I started crying without even knowing what had taken place. My stepfather spoke for her and said that my grandfather had passed away. At first I did not know how to react. Also, I had never seen my mother actually 'lose it' before, so a different instinct kicked in. I became an organizational freak making sure that everything was in order.

I had my sister, brother, and grandmother pack their belongings while I booked six tickets with Mexicana Airlines for a 12:30p.m. flight leaving out of LAX to Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico. My uncle, Carlos Flores, met us at the airport and the seven of us flew out in the midst of both a physical and an emotional thunderstorm.

We knew that we needed to be there by 9:00p.m. in Juchitlan, Jalisco, a small pueblo approximately two and a half hours from Guadalajara, for the Rosario, Rosary, as the entire village would gather at that time. Thankfully we only arrived 30 minutes late, but by then we were all emotional wrecks. I'm sure that if you have ever lost someone that you are close to that you know the immense crying headache that takes over. It feels like a migraine that drains your entire body of any feeling. Between our arrival Saturday night and our departure Wednesday evening, too much occurred that I couldn't even begin to put into words. Mi nino Angel's service took place at 8:30a.m. at La Iglesia de Juchitlan, Jalisco. (The church in Juchitlan) We carried the body from mi Tia Juanita's, his sister, house over to the church.

I knew that my grandfather was loved by many people, but when I saw the church completely filled to capacity I realized the impact this man had had on the world.

I started thinking about so many things that happened throughout my encounters with him.

I remember the first time I stayed with him at age 5, by then my father had already left us, and my mother went to the U.S. to try and create a better life for all of us. I stayed with my grandfather and grandmother to start kindergarten in Juchitlan. I ended up staying for years with him in Juchitlan.

I remember how proud he was when, at age six, I began selling cacahuates, peanuts, at the local soccer matches during the weekend. And although I was paid in peanuts he still made me feel so important.

I remember when he gave me my first machete, large chopping knife, and took me out into the sugarcane fields. Segun yo, according to me, I was helping out, although I think I made a bigger mess in the field than what he lead on to be. But he made me believe that I was like him, a campesino, a farm-worker.

I remember when he mounted me on his horse and taught me how to ride. I felt so grown-up and so brave like him. Then he gave me my very own burro, donkey, and I could ride on him all the time. But he taught me never to abuse animals. He said that I needed to respect a donkey just as much as I respected him.

I remember when he taught me how to use a zoga, a rope, and I began to learn to do tricks with it. I would practice and practice because I knew he was a charro, a vaquero, and I wanted him to be proud of me. I didn't want to be 'unos de alla,' someone from over there, meaning from the north, whom, according to my grandfather, tended to have lost their connection to the land.

I remember when he taught me how to milk a cow and how hot both the milk and the nata, milk's crust, tasted from the bucket into my lips for the very first time.

I remember one time when I wanted to play with a baby calf so much that I negated to listen to his warning and I went out into the corral almost to get killed by the calf's mother. He saved my life, and he didn't even scold me, but his look taught me to never doubt his judgment again. I remember one time when my mother sent me American dollars and I was so happy because I was the only kid in Juchitlan with these foreign bills that I took them to the plaza only to lose them within a few hours. My grandmother was furious and she spanked me like I had never been spanked before, but my grandfather remained calm and came to comfort me afterwards.

I remember in the morning he would get up at the crack of dawn and prepare the same thing almost every morning; blanquillos, as he called eggs, with a sprinkle of this thick salt, that made the eggs taste way too salty, along with a dark, dark coffee that he filled half-way with sugar. He didn't stir the sugar or blend it into his coffee because he said he liked to get a little syrup at the end of his drink. I remember when he read to me about different parts of the world from his little books called Selecciones, Reader's Digest.

I remember when he taught me to play dominoes and he would always find a way to lose the game so that I could actually believe that I had beaten my grandfather.

I remember so many things and I also regret so many others.

I remember the day I left to the U.S. for good and how much we both cried. I didn't want to leave. I never wanted to leave. I miss him so much. I miss Juchitlan. I miss him so. I wish there were words that would allow me to convey all that he meant to me. Last night I started to go through some of his personal items and it brought smiles, tears and many questions to mind. I read letters from the 1920s from some of his girlfriends and I read about his fear during the cristero revolution. I saw his Charro registration card, and receipts from many of his bills.

Within all of the papers I found this old picture of him, where he is posing, atop his horse, with nothing but mountains behind him. He's there, peaceful, smiling, gentle, and strong, in harmony with the horse and the fields.

El senor Don Angel Villafana was a very good man. He was a very peaceful man. This man had a lot of heart. And I miss him dearly. I thank you for allowing me to share a little bit about my grandfather. I find myself lost, hurt, confused and very tired. Family, friends and co-workers have given me wonderful advice, but I don't know how to follow it just yet.

I ask for your patience because I don't know how the heart goes on with such a great loss.

Que Dios te protega y te bendiga, May God bless you and protect you,

Cesar Alonso Cruz Gomez Villafana

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