My paternal grandfather passed away when I was two and a half, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear his voice. He spoke in polite Spanish with everyone, the kind of Spanish one uses to show respect. He used it with me also.
He was stern and his grown children hesitated before approaching him, but I was too young to be afraid and would crawl onto his lap. I would ask him questions and he would smile and answer me.
He had property out in the country where he raised livestock but lived in town and kept one or two horses, maybe one cow, in the corral next to his house. We lived nearby and would go visit him every weekend, and I would walk alongside him whenever he went out in the yard to check on the livestock.
I remember I had on a pair of red cowboy boots which he thought were pretty amazing. He would place a booted foot on the lower rung of the corral and I did too, except I had to hike my leg a little higher than his. I remember I looked up when I heard him laugh, but he just looked away, a smile on his face, and pretended he was studying the horse.
One visit he didn’t come out to greet us. I checked through the whole house and couldn’t find him. Dad had to be the one to tell me that my grandfather had passed away and we were there for the funeral.
I didn’t cry, but when the grownups all went into the living room to greet visitors, I went back into his bedroom. I climbed onto his high bed and lay down on his pillow. When my aunt found me, she shooed me outside.
The corral was empty, but I hiked my sandaled foot onto the bottom rung wishing he were there to laugh at me.
Family did not believe that I remembered something that happened when I was so young, but I can describe the house, the corral, my grandfather. He is more than a memory; he lives inside me. Maybe this is what people mean when they say that our loved ones live on inside us. I know that would make him smile.