Juan Perez Acosta, Grandfather This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I never met my grandfather. Never got the chance to know him. I see him in photos scattered in albums, drawers, and frames, this man my mother speaks of so often with such fondness, then melancholy. She is proud of her father.

My grandmother still mourns him. She always seems exhausted but occasionally her smile and laugh leap forth. You can see that smile in those scattered photos, sitting by my grandfather. She wears his cross, and it seems massive against her tiny body. With her silky blonde hair she looks like an angel – my grandfather's angel.

From time to time, my grandmother visits and gives my mother her father's cross. She wears it with pride and tells stories about Grandfather as if he was a god, often repeating the same stories, but I don't care.

“My daddy was my best friend. He always knew what to do,” she'd say. “I remember he would take us all to the beach and he would swim farther and faster than everyone else and dive down to the bottom of the ocean and bring us shells.

“One day, though, the dog swam after him and began to drown. Dad swam faster than I had ever seen, and he saved her. He came to shore covered in scratches from her toenails. I was so mad at that stupid dog, scratching up my poor daddy, but he laughed at its dumbfounded face, and I couldn't help but laugh too.” She takes the cross in her hands when she speaks, looks down at it and smiles.

She always begins her stories: “My daddy was my best friend. He always knew what to do.” These words seem so strange to me. My father was never Dad or Daddy. Just Father, a provider, and most definitely he never knew what to do. I respected him, but it doesn't seem right to say love. He never had a cross like Grandfather; he didn't adore my mother like Grandfather; and he will never be my best friend.

I feel connected to Juan Perez Acosta through my mother's words. He was only 49 when he died. “I always thought he'd live to be 100,” Mom says. No one so great, so perfect, should be taken at 49, much less by cancer.

So all they have left, all I can know him by, are the stories, the scattered photos, and that cross. That cross is his day at the beach, the scratches on his back and chest, his hearty smile in the pictures, and his contagious laugh at the stupid dog.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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