[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Juan Placencia"][/caption]
Blogging about Grandpa is pretty intimidating, to be honest. It seems everyone has at least one story about Grandpa and, depending on who you are or how old he was when you met him, your stories probably differ. The man I knew was (from what I'm told) a completely changed person from the man Dad and his siblings knew growing up, so naturally my memories and impressions are a little different. But that's what makes these blogs so much fun; I've enjoyed reading people's comments and stories that I've never heard before. The conversation these blogs have sparked have become great fun to read.
When Grandpa passed away in 1984 part of me was surprised at how many people in our community were affected, but part of me wasn't. I wish I could remember all of the stories people have told me about him over the years. Most of them have to do with his kindness, generosity, and sense of humor.
Some of the tales Dad and my uncles have passed on to me describe a man I never knew: a stern father, powerful and intimidating, with a short - and sometimes explosive - temper. But, as is often the case, most of those stories end in laughter, as his children usually found ways to skate dangerously close to the brink of his wrath and come away unscathed (ask someone the story about Grandpa furiously throwing potatoes at - I think - my Uncle Dave as a child. Grandpa was upset with Dave and tried to hit him with potatoes. He would throw a potato at Dave, miss, take a couple of steps closer to him and throw again. Dave was standing completely still and with every miss Grandpa became more and more infuriated, until he was only a few feet away, still missing Dave by a mile, and still becoming angrier with each wild throw).
The man I knew was different. Somewhere along the line Grandpa came to know God and his furious anger was exchanged for a complete love for Jesus. He was often heard singing hymns in Spanish as he worked in his garden. He smiled easily and hugged easier. I was only 13 years old when he died, so I didn't really get much of a chance to know him as a person but to this day I can still smell his cologne. I remember his house was always warm and cozy and I can still envision the way his eyes would get crinkly and small when he laughed.
One summer, I must have been around 11 or so, some friends and I were riding our bicycles back from the pool. We stopped by Grandpa's house on the way home and he gave us lemonade. As we left, we gave us each a tomato he had grown in his garden. That moment has always resonated with me, and I don't know why. I mean, it's not a big deal: he gave me a tomato.
But that's the moment that stuck with me. It's my fondest and clearest memory of Grandpa: the time he gave me a tomato.
What is it about that moment? Why is that so special? Is it because I knew the tomato came from his garden? Is it because he also gave one to my friends as well, and showed a bit of love to all of us? Or is it because it is something he gave to me because he loved me?
Maybe it's all of those reasons. Or none of them. I might never figure that out.
But I'll always remember that tomato.