The Hole That Stole My Soul

May 9, 2011
By AlyssaMGarcia BRONZE, Tucson, Arizona
AlyssaMGarcia BRONZE, Tucson, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

They woke me up right after I’d finally cried myself to sleep. It was
2:47 am and I opened my eyes to old mascara running down my mother’s face. I sat
Up and saw my dad sitting down, his eyes lost and swollen.

He didn’t budge when I said, “What? Can someone please tell me what’s going on?!”

Solemnly daddy whispered, “Your Tata… your Tata. My dad! My dad!” And he busted out into tears while my mom took him into her arms. I thought to myself for a second and I got up to walk to my room. I put a pair of sweats on then slipped my slippers onto my shivering feet. I walked out the door, taking my sister’s hand; we walked to the front door of my nana’s house. I felt the sorrow as I took my first step into the house and in the back I see all of my cousins together there in the den, shocked. I had never been in such a quiet situation with my family, in a sense I felt a little awkward. Michael and Chubba, my brothers, came through the doors next. Everyone sat there for a while in complete silence until the sound of footsteps began to tread down the hallway. I looked up and saw my mom, dad, tio’s and tia’s all walking our way.

My mom came over to us and hugged each and every one of us. Slowly, we all began to talk. I began to finally feel the pain of what had just been taken from me. It had just dawned on me that I was never going to hear my grandfather’s voice ever again. That I was never going to see him upright doing his daily thing. That we had to put him 6 feet under where he’d never be seen ever again. I had just realized that from here on out, there was no going back.

One person can take the time and look back on what they cherish the most about their lives. Another can look back and have nothing to cherish. There’s always one thing that everyone is proud of and they always seem to bring it up at some point when they meet someone new. For myself, I have no one event that I am extremely proud of or that I’d like to share. But what I would like to share is how I’ve become the person I am today. Of course there hasn’t only been one person who has influenced me to be the person I am today but there is one person who made the biggest impact on my life. It’s taken several people, several events and several words of the wise for me to find out what I want. Everyone who I have ever encountered with has given me a reason to live. There is no going back.

On the morning of April 24th 1994 at 2:30 am, my journey began. Katherine had just given birth to me, Alyssa Monique Garcia. Out of 4 children, I was the healthiest and the normality of my mom’s pregnancies. The first person to ever hold me was Patricia Vasquez, my grandmother who I call Pita, and the first words spoken to me were “I love you.” Or so I’ve been told. I was 7lbs 14oz, way smaller than my older brother was. I was taken home 3 days after my mother had given birth to me. I went through the first year of life with no structured father. My older brother Michael was always very over protective of me and he always watched over me when we’d go with our biological dad. I never really knew our dad because of how young I was and because he hardly ever came to visit us. While my mom worked, Michael and I would stay with my great nana, Catalina Soto.
I remember I used to run around EVERYWHERE. Before I even started going to school, I was a little heathen. My hand prints were on every window and there’d always be a des madre (AKA a mess). At the time of me being 2 years old, my mom, nana, brother and I lived in this apartment where we’d go outside to find some nice metal stairs in front of our door. I remember everyday my nana and I would go check the mail and I’d always find a way to wander away being the curious little girl I always was. One time I climbed the stairs and my nana was terrified!

All I remember hearing was “Alyssa get down here right now!” I would look at her confused and I’d continue to crawl up farther and farther. I remember seeing her begin to walk up the stairs and I panicked, missing a stair in my attempt to get up and run. I tumbled down past her feet and blood stained through my shirt and shorts. They weren’t nothing all that serious, they were just a few scrapes that needed bandages every so many hours. I remember walking back inside and laughing but my mom didn’t have a happy face. I got in trouble for wandering where I wasn’t supposed to. That never stopped me. I remember I used to run around so much that my nana would tie me down to a chair with a belt instead of putting me in my playpen. She knew better because I used to climb out of my playpen. Those were the good old days where I didn’t have a care in the world.

I had never had a birthday party before until I met my dad. Well, he's really my step dad but I consider him my dad.

"Hi my names Alex." Being only two, almost three, I was scared to see this huge man putting his fairly large hand towards me. Tears began to fill my eyes & I didn't know what to think. I cried for my mom and didn't leave her arms for several hours. Alex Granillo was introduced to me when I was almost 3 years old. My mom had already been 5 months pregnant with a baby I didn’t plan on meeting. I was too young to understand that there was another child inside of my mom. My older brother started to act weirder and weirder as the days passed by. He was becoming quieter and he would just come home and sleep instead of play games with me like he usually used too. Sadness built up inside of me because I had felt so lonely, so lost. When Alex began coming around more and more, I began to become attached. My brother began to feel more comfortable too.

We loved having him around! He always gave us what we wanted. I seemed to get more than my brother because I was definitely a daddy’s girl. But the one thing I’ll never forget was my 3rd birthday party. It was a Saturday. I got up as I did every Saturday to eat my eggs and watch my cartoons while drenching myself in chocolate milk. I remember getting up because the door kept opening & shutting. It was getting annoying & kept interrupting the day long Marathon of CatDog. I walked outside in my Ariel T-shirt looking for the problem.

"BOO!" And there I ran down the driveway scared out of my chonies!
Looking back, Michael stood there laughing as if his feet were being visited by wiggling fingers. I was mad at first but then laughed. I went back inside to find a white box on top of the table. My curious feet led me to the table and my hands pulled me up to the top of the table. As I lifted the lid a monstrous hand pushed the lid back down and I slowly looked up.

Alex stood there with one eyebrow raised and said, “What exactly do you think you’re doing?” I jumped off that bench so fast and ran to the living room diving into the couch underneath my blanky where I thought no one could find me.

“Ohhhh Alyssa! Where are you? It’s time to get ready!” It was my mom. I jumped up!

“Here I am mommy! I want a bubble bath! Where’s Ariel?!” My mom put me into the tub with my mermaid and we swam through the bubbles and at that time it felt like forever to me, when really it was only 10 minutes. I remember getting into this really cute flower dress and my dad, yes my dad, put my hair into two ponytails.

I was sat onto the couch and was told by my mom, “Wait here, we’ll be leaving right now.” My little body was tired and I dozed off thus waking up to the slam of a car
door. We arrived some where. Somewhere colorful and noisy. I was excited but nervous at the same time. We got inside this building and it was so mind blowing! It was like a dream! I saw games and pizza, oh my gosh pizza! I fell in love and leapt out of Alex’s arms running towards all the lights and bright colors. The noise I heard excited my brain and I didn’t know where to go first! My brother taught me how to play some games and I learned how to put the coin into the machines without messing it up. No later than 5 minutes after me and my brother were playing, my mom calls for us. Michael grabbed me by the hand and we walked to the table where not only my mom and Alex sat, but where these strangers I’d never seen before in my life sat as well.

“Hi Alyssa, I’m Olga.” said this older woman and standing next to her a man said, “And I‘m Joe.” I felt my eyes grow huge and I ran to my mom in desperation of meeting these people. I was handed over to Alex and he introduced them to Michael and I as his parents making them our grandparents. We were introduced to other adults who were our tio’s and tia’s. I remember meeting my tia Lisa because she was the nicest. She’s my favorite because of how she treated Michael and I like we were her own. She would never mistreat us nor would she ever make us feel left out.
After we met the older people, all these children walked in and they were just how Michael and I were, curious and a little lost. They were introduced to us as our cousins. I was excited to see that we were going to be around kids who were around our age! We all meshed in pretty well with one another and there was never really any tension between any of us. I had loved them already only knowing them for 5 minutes.

“Here you go, here are 30 tokens for you Alyssa and 15 for the rest of you.” We played games until we owned all the tickets in the place. When the food came I was in hog heaven and the dress I was wearing was a one time show because there was no going back when I was done with it.

Off I strolled with a few more tokens left and hands scooped me up from underneath my arms, “Where do you think you’re going?” said my mom.

Demanding, I said, “To play games.”

“Well, don’t you want to open your presents?”

My eyes opened up a little wider than they usually were and games were out the window as I thought about what was in all those bags on top of the table. Alex guided me to my first gift, a bike with a bow. The pink pom poms hanging off the purple handles and I got on that thing faster than Alex could put me on. I didn’t even care about all the dolls or delightful clothes I had gotten. It was all about the bike.

The last packaged thing I saw was the white box from earlier that morning and I asked, “What’s that?”

Alex lifted me to it and said, “Open it.” I’m not going to lie, I was super anxious but scared for some reason. It was absolutely the weirdest feeling ever. I open it and I see Ariel and Flounder lifted 5 inches off the table with purple ruffles around them and some words I obviously couldn’t read. A candle was lit.

“Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Alyssaaaaaa!…”, My dad lifted me up, “Happy Birthday to you!!” I was so enlightened to hear this song and the way it was sung by everyone made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. It was my day that day and no one could take that away from me.

Months passed by and my moms tummy got bigger. I wanted to know what exactly was in there. One morning, one hot sweaty morning I woke up to a loud noise of pain coming from the master bedroom. My dad came out with a panicked look on his face as if he was lost and needed someone. My nana came out helping my mom into the car and packing some bags of clothing for my mom. I was confused on what exactly was happening. Michael picked me up and we sat on the couch together watching all the commotion.

My nana came in and grabbed us both, “Everything’s going to be all right.
You’re mommy and Alex are going to the doctor’s and we will meet them there after I get you guys ready, okay?”

Together we said, “Okay.” And we began to do our daily thing.

About an hour later, we arrived at the hospital where my mom had been admitted. My dad came out of a room with this thing on his head and he said, “Come on guys. I want you to meet someone.” I was excited!

Putting a finger to his lips my dad said, “Shhhhhhh…” I was lifted to see my mom lying on a bed sitting half up holding a ball of blankets.

My dad sat me next to my mom on the bed and I began to pet the blankets and I said, “We have a new puppy? Mom had a puppy? What’s his name?” My mom and dad laughed at me but I didn’t get it. I was so serious that my mom had just given birth to a dog. But on July 18th 1997, my mom had given birth to Alex Granillo Jr, my little brother. This kid changes my life in so many ways and I don’t regret anything that has ever happened. I became attached to my little brother and I’d watch over him like a hawk. As we grew a little older I began to take the blame for things I wouldn’t do for Michael and Chubba. Chubba is the nickname that my dad had when he was younger so we gave it to Alex Jr because it was only right. Anyways, one time Chubba took my moms wallet out of her purse and she went ballistic! I’ll never forget the look on his face when he was scared to give it back so I said I did it. I got a hand to my butt and that’s when the blame game started.

I think at one point in everyone’s life they used to take naps on a daily basis. Before I ever began school my daily schedule was to wake up and have a delicious sunny side up egg with 2 pieces of toast. I would continue my routine by brushing my teeth then attending my couch where my nana would put Blue’s Clues on.

“MAIL TIMEEEE!” is what you’d hear every day if you came to my house. It was my favorite part of the show where Steve would say, “Oh look! We have some mail! Let’s check it out!” This was always the bonding part between me and Chubba.

A few years after Chubba was born I realized my mom’s stomach began to grow again. By this time I had already started school and I was comfortable with the schedule I was on. Wake up, eat, ride the bus to school with my tata Joe, come home, eat and watch cartoons until I fell asleep for a nap. My tata Joe picked me up at the bus stop every morning at the end of the cul-de-sac with all the other kids who went to Homer Davis. A lot changed January 7th 2000 when my new baby sister came home from the hospital.

Araceli Marie Granillo was her name and I never said it right until I was about 8 years old. She changed everything. I would come home and play with her instead of with Chubba. Michael and I would fight over who got to hold her next. I felt bad for leaving Chubba out of the loop so we all began to play together. We became closer as siblings and we always taught each other new things. Even though they weren’t always the best things, we grew trust and faith in each other. I personally have grown this unconditional love for them that I don’t always show but I know that they know.

December 24th 2000 was the night where my dad finally asked for my mom’s hand in marriage. I don’t remember exactly what was said but it was a happy moment for all of us. We were finally going to be an actual family. From then on, family was always number one. September 8th 2001 was the day I put on a frilly white flower girl dress to go to church in. The church ceremony went by so fast, maybe because I slept through most of it, but hey I was only seven. The after party was at this place called Bugsy’s and that was where I had my first Shirley Temple. I ate so many cherries that night I was surprised y skin didn’t turn red! When we got home my parents grabbed a suitcase and were walking out the front door.

“Where are you going?!” I yelled after them. My nana and Pita grabbed me and told me they were going to go enjoy themselves and they’d be back the next day. I threw a fit and I cried myself to sleep underneath my bed all by myself.

My nana is like my second mom because she practically raised me from the day I was born. She would cook and clean for Michael and I and she’d be the one to get us ready for school in the morning.

She would tell us every morning, “Don’t forget to make your beds. If you don’t make it there won’t be anything to eat when you get home.” But I swear that no matter if we made them or not, we’d always have food. Nana always knew what to make me. It’s like she knew what was going on inside my head. There never went one day where I wouldn’t talk to my nana. I could tell her everything and she’d always give me advice or tell me a similar story that I could mooch off of to know what to do next. She lived with me for 16 years.

Pita was like a third mom! Every summer since I was about 6 years old, I went to Agua Prieta, Mexico for the summer. Michael & I would be the only ones to go and we’d stay with my Tata Lucio and grandma Pita as soon as the summer began. This was when Michael & I actually started to bond. My mom would load us up on whatever foods we wanted and anything like coloring books or other activity related things so that we would always have something to do. The summer we brought the Nintendo 64 was the best because all of us enjoyed it and that’s where most of our time would go.

“How does this work??” asked Pita the first time she lifted the controller. I laughed because she was holding it upside down! My brother ended up teaching her how everything worked. The only games we had at the time were Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario and Diddy Kong racing. The game that we only really played was Mortal Kombat because we were determined to have it beat by the time we returned back to Tucson. We came back successful and were the best at playing the game. Pita was pretty BA too and would beat myself on occasion.

The last time I actually went across the border to visit my Tata Lucio was in the summer of ‘06. It’s definitely been a very long and I miss him very much but we aren’t aloud to go across because we need passports. My mom just couldn’t afford them but Pita on the other hand could. She had saved her money and had just enough for one. She bought one and began to come down and stay with us once a month. It was hard because she’d stay for 2 weeks then have to leave for awhile. I missed her so much so every time she comes I make sure to tell her everything and make sure I spend all the time I can with her. She’s always told me to never neglect someone’s presence whether you like them or not, never act like they don’t belong there because everyone is here for a reason.

While Michael and I were in Mexico, Chubba and Araceli would hang out at my nana Olga and Tata Joe’s house. I was always a little jealous because I never got to spend that much time with these grandparents. I was close to my Tata and nana enough for them to know what was going on in my everyday life. When I could, I’d go next door to their house to catch some cartoons and eat some ice cream. This was when I could tell my Tata things that I needed to share with someone. He was always there to listen and I knew he was there because he would always give me the best advice.

There was a time in my life where I didn't really want to be here any more. I constantly thought about ways where I could just go somewhere far away. Somewhere where no one could find me... somewhere that wasn't even real.

"God damn it Alyssa! Don't you know how to do anything right? You're pissing me off! Get out of my face!” I’d hear that pretty often because of the decisions that I made. I would talk back a lot and make faces that I look back at now and I can’t even believe I acted like that. Especially when I’d be told by my tata to respect my mother no matter what.

I ran away from home when I was in 7th grade thinking that I could go live with my friend Jen forever. Her parents loved me so I thought why not? Why can’t they adopt me and make everything better? When I showed up there at 10 o’clock at night no one was suspicious. Jen’s parents thought that I was aloud to be there. A few hours passed by and I felt a little guilty. I sent my brother a text letting him know that if he’s looking for me that I was at Jen’s. And of course he goes to the extent of telling my mom for me, which I did not want to happen. She called me at 3 in the morning asking where I’m at, who I’m with and she says that I’m in a mess of trouble.

I get home to my dad watching TV and he looks at me and asks, “Why?” I told them how I’d been feeling and we had this very long talk on how I can come to them for anything. They made me feel comfortable again and things looked up from there.

In January 2007, my Tata Joe announced to my family that he had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was the biggest heart break ever. My Tia Lisa tried to stay strong by showing her emotions behind closed doors. I felt so bad to see my nana Olga so sad all the time so I cherished all the happy moments we had together as a family.

Tata Joe began going through chemo in California at Cedars Sinai hospital. My siblings and I thought it was pretty cool because that’s where all the famous people went. When my dad would go every few months with my Tata he’s always come back with stories! One time he came back with a picture of Mark Wahlberg! It was insane! Mark told my dad that his brother was admitted into the hospital because he was very sick and my dad walked him to his room.

Even though it was exciting to have my dad come back with all these stories, it was still upsetting to see my Tata come back sicker and sicker. At this point in my life I was barely a preteen and I didn’t really have anyone to talk to.

Towards the end of my 7th grade year a new student was introduced to my Gold 5 P.E. class. Her name was Yvonne Venalonso.

My first impression of her was “Wow. She’s so small and her voice is a little squeaky.” She quickly became my best friend and I’ll never forget how it happened. It was our second to last away game for volleyball and we had just finished beating Tortolita in a 3 game match so you can imagined it was a honoring win. Yvonne and I went and sat on the side watching the other team warm up. There we started talking about boys and gossiping like we normally did. Caring Melgarejo came and sat right behind us and she was entered on our conversation. When me and Yvonne started talking about a previously talked about topic, we began to start finishing each other’s sentences!

Carina had the funniest look on her face possibly because she was lost but then she asked, “Are you guys Best friends?”

Yvonne and I looked at each other and we both said, “I don’t know.”

“Well do you know everything about each other?” asked Carina.

“I know all there is to know about Yvonne, even her middle name.” I said with confidence.

Then before Carina could say anything Yvonne said, “Yeah, me too. I can tell you anything you want to know about this girl right here.”

Then Carina said, “Well then I announce you guys Best friends.” Yvonne and I looked at each other and smiled at each other making it official we hugged and said we’d be Best friends forever no matter what happened. We promised to always have loyalty and respect for one another no matter what the situation was. We literally talked about everything, especially about my Tata. She was always there for me to vent to. There was literally not one thing that she didn’t know about me. We would call each other all the time to talk about the randomest things! As we grew together, 7th grade obviously ended and led into 8th grade where the biggest challenge we ever had to face together as friends; boys.

I always seem to fall for the type of boy who never likes me back. I never knew what was so wrong. Was it because I was ugly? Was it because I wasn't thin like all the other girls? I became very self conscious about myself and I'd wear a jacket over my clothes everyday. Even when it was burning hot, my pores would drip sweat from the heat built up inside of my grey sweater. I wore it everywhere sometimes even to bed.

There was never a time where a boy was attracted to me. Well at least I never knew of one. In 8th grade I seriously fell madly in love with the beautiful brown eyes of a baseball player who changed my life forever. His name was Joshua Yanez.

I met him in Ms. Burlison’s English class in mid-October of 2007.

“Hi, I’m Josh.”

Shyly I responded, “Hi, I’m Alyssa.”

“So tell me about yourself.”

“Well what do you want to know?” I questioned. I thought it was cute at the time but then realized it wasn’t.

“Um, what’s your favorite color?”

“Green and grey. Yours?”

“Red and black. Do you play sports?”

“Oh that’s cool! And yeah I do! I play basketball, volleyball and softball. My favorite one is basketball. Do you play sports?”

“Oh that’s cool. And Yeah basketball and baseball.” I smiled at him and he smiled back and it was a moment I remember to this day.

“Oh really?” I said, “My dad is one of the varsity baseball coaches at the high school!”

“No way! Which one is he?!”

“Alex Granillo. Do you know which one he is?”

“Oh dang! He is my favorite! I can’t wait to play for him! I love the way he coaches! I hope to play varsity my freshman year so I can play all four years with him!”

“Wow! Really?! That’s cool! I hope you do too! I get to score keep for varsity so that’d mean we could hang out!”

“That’s pretty tight.”

“Ha-ha, until then though.” And the rest of 8th grade went on. We flirted all the time! I would talk to him in algebra and during 2nd period we were both aides so we’d always do things together. He pretty much became one of my really guys friends and I was always afraid to tell him my true feelings for him. Before I knew it, May 2008 came and my feelings for Josh had definitely grown and I thought it was time to tell him how I felt. So I did, in a two page letter that I had Yvonne give him on the third to last day of school. It was awkward the last couple of days and what I didn’t know was that he was dating this girl, who I had seriously never seen before, at our school. I was clearly upset and made myself look dumb. The last day of school I remember him looking at me and smiling. I looked away upset and the summer of 2008 I didn’t talk to him.

In June, my Tata Joe was due for another trip to California to get his chemo done. What I didn’t know until the night before was that my entire family was going! It was insane! I never thought that we’d take a family trip, especially considering how big my family is. But we did it! And it was a trip that I’ll never forget.

When we first got to California, the first couple of days were at Cedars-Sinai and it was life changing. This was the biggest hospital I’d ever seen in my life. I seriously wanted to live there particularly after eating because the food was made by top of the line chefs. I was amazed at how great that hospital was.

After my Tata finished up with his treatments, all he wanted was to spend the next day with everyone and that’s just what he got.

The next day we woke up got dressed and met up at the Marriot where Tata was staying. It was a hot day so we decided to head out to the beach. Following one another, we arrived at Santa Monica beach where a beautiful pier sat with a mini carnival on top.
We walked around for hours until finally, “I’m hungry.” flew out of my Tata’s mouth. We walked our way to Bubba Gump shrimp and we sat to eat there. It was amazing! Memories swarm my mind every time I wear my green souvenir shirt. I’ll never forget that Tata’s favorite piece of seafood to get were crab legs.

We said bye to my nana and Tata because my mom and dad decided we were going to stay one more extra day. I wondered for what but then the next day found out that we were going to Six Flags. Chubba, Araceli and I went on so many rides and we had the times of our lives. It sucks that it had to end but it was a memorable time that’s still brought up.

When we got back to Tucson not even a day had gone by before my Godson, Anthony Rene Garcia was born on June 11th 2008. He is a gift that was sent from above and he was never considered a mistake. He was the first great grand child in my family and it was cute to see him grow and fit in perfectly with our family.

August 2008 came and the first day of school came up fast. Freshman year was already here and it amazed me how I was already in high school. I was nervous but then I grew out of it after the first few days. Volleyball season flew by and basketball came up quick. It was definitely and intense season and I loved every single bit of it. Before I knew it, basket ball was over and spring season was about to begin. This is where baseball season was and I was excited to watch tryouts. As I sat in on practices, I met a lot of new people who I remain friends with even though they graduated already. Josh was being considered for varsity and I developed some serious butterflies when I found out he had made it.

It was daddy, Tata Joe and I sitting at the table in Tata’s house when my dad had said, “Whelp dad, I finally finished the team.”

“How does it look son? Are they hard workers? Or just the best you’ve got?” My Tata always had wise words when it came to pretty much anything.

“They work hard if they want it and they are the best, so yes and yes.”

I had to bud in and know who made it so I bud in and said, “Oh daddy, any freshmen on the team?”

“As a matter of fact, one freshman caught my attention and amazed me enough to show me that he has potential to be a varsity shortstop. Josh Yanez is his name, do you know him?” I sat there with my eyes wide open, speechless. I was excited but at the same time nervous.

“Oh, no! She likes him! Alex, your daughter likes this Josh kid. Don’t let him on the team.” said my Tata, but he was only kidding. I freaked out and got extremely red and embarrassed because he wasn’t lying, it was true.

My dad then questioned me, “Alyssa, you do like him, don’t you?”

“Uh… No way! Are you crazy?! Psh! Me and Josh are just friends.” I lied with confidence. I got the “uh-huh, sure” look and that conversation ended.

Around mid-February my Tata had gotten really sick and my dad had to go with him on an emergency trip to California. They were gone for an entire week and it worried me every time my mom would get off the phone with my dad because she’d say that it wasn’t looking so good. When they arrived back into Tucson, we all went to my nana and Tata’s house. We visited and had a cook out but it wasn’t the same. All my Tata wanted to do was sleep and not visit with anyone. Towards the end of the night, while my entire dad and all of my ties sat around the table playing cards, my Tata came out of no where and said he wanted in. It made everyone’s heart smile and you could tell that my Tata wanted to play. He took everyone’s money as usual, leaving the table a rich man. The night ended and everyone went home.

The next day, my mom and dad sat Michael, Chubba, Araceli and I down and told us that Tata was put on bed rest and it wasn’t looking so well. I couldn’t take this in. I just didn’t understand, not because it wasn’t clear, but because it’s what I didn’t want to hear. I cried by myself. We all cried together. We went over to visit as much as we could. Before school, after school, and on that weekend we spent the nights with him.

They weren’t letting the younger ones go back to see Tata because he didn’t look the same. I was lucky enough to be old enough to go back there to talk to him.

“Hi Tata.”

“Hi mija.” He sounded horrible. Like as if someone was trying to rip out his voice. As if someone was punching him in the stomach. You could hear the struggle in his voice as he responded to my greeting.

“I love you Tata. I’m praying for you. I don’t want you to go. Please don’t leave me. I’ll do anything. Just please don’t leave me.” I began to tear up but then I remember Tata had told me that there was no need to cry because tears were only for wimps.

“I love you too. And don’t cry. Tears are for wimps,” he said, “and mama didn’t raise no fool.” I had no idea what that had to do with anything but I remember that we laughed so hard together. Then he said, “Promise me you won’t cry when I’m gone? I want you to be the example for the younger ones that we are a strong family and that prayers are stronger than tears, you hear me?” I began to tear up but then held back and threw my emotions aside.

“I promise I will help keep this family strong and I will continue to build the strong foundation you have set for us Tata. I promise.”

“Pray with me.” And together we prayed five prayers that reflect our religion and are very famous to a lot of people.

March 3rd 2009, in the wee hours of the early morning, my Tata Joe was called home by God himself and was taken from us. His funeral was on March 9th and it was so remarkable that there were so many people who attended. The varsity baseball team even went and it meant so much to my dad and I. My Tata was a well known man and he instilled a lot in each individual he ever encountered with. We didn’t know how to cope with the loss of my Tata at first but then we all began to come together as a family.

Every Sunday we’d all go to church and go to the cemetery to follow. We became stronger every Sunday and always had more to say in our prayer circle at the cemetery. We realized that there doesn’t go one moment where you shouldn’t appreciate the people you have because one moment they can be here, and the next moment they can be gone.

My sophomore year came up in high school and it was another hard one when I lost my friend Dario Gaspar Morales. He was an amazing boy and always put a smile on my face. His death was a sudden one and happened unexpectedly. I regret not talking to him the last time I saw him alive. That will always be in my heart that I could’ve saved him if I would’ve taken him home with me. His loss scarred me for life but then I remembered what my Tata told me the last time I talked to him. That prayers were better than tears and mama didn’t raise no fool. So at church I’d pray for Dario and for Tata. I noticed one Sunday that one of the masses was for Dario and for his mom and it made me happy to realize that everyone can come together to pray for one person.

My junior year finally came around and it’s crazy to see how fast it’s come. I can’t believe that I’m already more than half way done with high school. This year wasn’t hard for me but hard for people who are very close to me. I had to help my best friend Yvonne get through her mom having surgery and I had to help my other best friend Dulce get through the loss of two of her cousins who both committed suicide. It’s been a tough year but I used what I learned to help others with what they are going through.

There have been so many people, too many to count and too many to mention that have unquestionably had an impact on my life pushing me to pursue my dreams, but overall making me strive to be a better person. An enormous amount of lessons have been taught and learned from but then again there are still many more to learn from and to encounter with. Hopefully, more of them being positive than negative. A lot definitely came from my tata and his death impacted my life. For now, what I’ve learned is to take no one for granted. To take the time and pick up the phone every other day and tell people I don’t usually see that I love them or to just simply let them know how I’m doing and to wonder how they’re doing and to find out when the next time I’m going to see them is. I never hope to wake up one morning with no one to go to to talk to. The rest of my life is unwritten. And I don’t know what tomorrow brings, and neither do you. You can’t plan the future, you just need to let it happen. I know someone has said that before but I don’t know who. All I do know is that it’s true. Today I stand a young lady with so many things to look forward too. I look forward to accomplishing so much but I look forward to the mistakes too.

I sit here typing and think to myself, “Damn. Seventeen is less than a couple weeks away. Eighteen is in a year or so, and the rest of my life to follow.”

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