Last year we had just started this site and I wrote about my dad-isms or Papí-isms in this post. This year I wanted to pay homage to my grandfathers and uncles who are no longer with us.
The Feliciano Family
My Paternal Grandfather Eduviges died when I was just beginning Elementary school, and he did come visit me from Puerto Rico several times until he was too ill to travel to see me. One thing my mom told me when he picked me up for the first time was that he knew that he would never get to see me as an adult. He was in his 80’s when he died.
My Paternal Uncle Daniel, our daughter’s namesake, also died pretty young. He lived in Puerto Rico for most of his life and worked for a soda pop company as a driver. He drank way too much but made us laugh so hard when he would come to visit. One of the last times I saw my Uncle Daniel was when he came for my college graduation. On his visit we spent many nights talking about everything under the sun.
The Martinez Family
My Maternal Grandfather Osvaldo, died very young, at the age of 59. He was a smoker for many years and had coronary heart disease, which contributed to him dying young. He was also the father of 13 children and not all the times were easy raising kids during the 40’s 50′ and 60’s. We were lucky to live with him for the last years of his life. My sisters and I loved our Abuelo Vallo (his nickname). Not all of our cousins got to meet him but he loved all of his grandchildren very much. He loved baseball and would watch games in his room on the second floor of our house. When I would throw a fit, ( I was spoiled by him) he would pick me up and splash water in my face so I could stop crying.
My Uncle Pete also sort of lived with us. All he had to do was set up a bed and he would be there full time with us. We all loved Uncle Pete or Midnight (as some people would call him) for he loved nature and all things Native American. If you gave my Uncle Pete a piece of wood and a carving knife, he would make a peace pipe out of it. He also was a master fisherman with a beer can and fishing string. He would out fish my dad any day of the week. He would always tell my sisters that we should start a singing group. He loved his children, Pedro and Lilly Mae and grandchildren Robert and Tyrell. He did not get to meet his great-grandchildren or grandchild Aidan, but I am sure he protects them with all his being.
My Uncle Vincent and Uncle Jack both died in their forties but not before gifting our family with seven cousins (Sebastian, Christina, and Vincent. Jack, Aliza, David, and Joshua). What I remember about my Uncle Vincent was his laugh. He paved a tough road for himself because of addiction; he was always in and out of jail. He was addicted to drugs and it made his relationship with us strenuous. I remember seeing my Uncle with his youngest son Vincent (at that time he was trying to be clean) at our house one day. I think I had graduated with my Masters Degree and he was looking at the wall with all the diplomas. He asked me what they were and I told they were just pieces of paper that said I had studied way too much. I remember him saying, “Damn that is good Tuli.”
My Uncle Jack also went down the road of addiction and being in and out of jail. While both of my Uncles were clean, they could come to our house. But if they were not, mom did not want us seeing them in their altered states. One of the last times I saw my Uncle Jack was down the street from our house. I remember wanting to stop and say “Bendicion” which in the Latino culture is a way to have our elders give us their blessing. But I did not stop because I was in a rush and not too long after that sighting, he died. In the picture above, my mother wrote on the back that both of my uncles were upset that I was sleeping when they came to visit me. I was two months old. One thing I can say about my uncles is that they never got sassy with my mom. She was the oldest and ruled with an iron fist.
Creating a family tree
Since I moved to Puerto Rico, I have connected with a majority of cousins through Facebook and created a group for us to share our thoughts, pictures, good and bad times as adults. Since most of my cousins were parents before me (I am the sixth oldest out of 35, I am grateful for all of the advice they have given me throughout the year. I also created the group with the purpose of documenting our family tree for my daughter. When I look at the pictures of my cousins with their children, I see my uncles and grandfathers projected in pictures.
I know they are around protecting us and although not physically with us, they are sharing our triumphs and failures.
Thanks to my cousins Elena and Christina for sharing photos with us.