The important people in my story are my grandparents. They have greatly impacted my life. My grandfather and I were very close and he taught me many things. He loved writing, music, and trains, the same as I do. He died November 8, 2011, on my brother’s birthday. One of the last times I spent with him was when we went to a train station. That place is very important to me. I found, after he died, a story that was one of his many pieces of writing. It was a story about a soldier leaving out of that train station. I believe my grandfather took the train to heaven.
* * *
Wind rushed out as I walked into the station. It was relieving. I looked around to gather my surroundings. There was an endless supply overhead of stained-glass windows. The vibrant colors changed the mood of the place depending on the changes in the sky. The floor was marble, untouched, unharmed.
People were rushing from place to place. Even when people were waiting and sitting, their thoughts took up their eyes. Everyone seemed to be blind to the marvelous surroundings, blind to the fact that they were at Union Station. People made mindless chatter. Most of their questions were rhetorical too. They were always just trying to be polite.
There was a smoke-filled room just left of the entrance. It was locked and vacant. But I pictured how it probably used to be with men in their suits walking out with a trail of smoke to follow them. I looked back at my grandmother and grandfather. I let out a smile. My grandma and papa told me many things. Papa pointed to the chairs and told me, “At least one famous person has sat in all of those chairs, and many people had their weddings here.” I turned to the right and saw a big woven wall, more like a separator. I peered through the cracks to see many people with dresses and suits on. There was a camera crew. It was a celebration. Papa told me a lot of times they will rent a part of the station for movies and commercials.
I kept walking till I was on the other side. The back led to a garden. There were lilies, bottlebrush, honeysuckle, and many other flowers. The colors made me incapable of frowning. I saw a fountain with clear water bursting at the top of the highest tier. It sent refreshing droplets up in the air. I closed my eyes and thought about how I will remember this forever.
* * *
Olvera Street is a famous Mexican street in California across from the train station. I got to see it with my grandparents that same day that I visited the station. Smells filled the air, so I was soon breathing in tortillas and beans. Singers were singing on the street with their Spanish guitars. Many signs hung overhead. To my left, flamenco dancers, with bright colored dresses, tapped their feet on stage. The men swung the women high up in the air while the women held the corners of their dresses. After a while of watching, we decided to eat. We saw a big restaurant that had a Spanish name. When we sat down, we had an immediate conversation. Grandpa told me that my great-great-grandfather worked on a railroad track in China. Later, he moved to Mexico where he owned a restaurant. He got married there. I loved hearing about my heritage. That time I spent at Olvera Street and Union Station, I will remember forever.
* * *
I am sitting in my living room. All my senses are amplified. The air conditioning turns on. I can see the dust on the back of my piano. The stillness, quietness of the room, and of myself, make me realize and notice things that I usually don’t. I begin thinking about how great it’s going to be when I see my grandfather again. I have learned a song for him. But now, I only hear one sound, silence… sometimes the prettiest sound. It is like that right now as I write this. Whenever I sang with the radio, Grandpa always used to say, “Your mama taught you to harmonize.” I’m thinking about those memories that will never be lost.
Scott, my stepdad, walks in and carefully sits down next to me, trying not to disturb me in my thoughts. He hands me a phone and my mom is on the line. Her voice is shaky. She talks, but it is hard to pay attention, until she says, “He isn’t going to make it.”
All I can think about is the horror of losing him. I had thought about it a lot, but never thought it would be so soon. He is leaving when I need him the most. All I can say to her is, “When can I see him?”
She replies, “I don’t want you to remember him this way.”
I just want to see my grandpa. Anger takes over for my sadness. But then she tells me that I can go to California where he is.
For the next week I act fine. The drive feels longer than usual. When I get to my grandma’s, as usual she has food waiting for us. When I see my mom, it seems that stress takes over for her grief. She hugs me. I had missed her.
Sometimes when she puts me to bed, I tell her, “Don’t leave.”
She hugs me and says, “I’m not going anywhere.”
The next day, I go to the hospital early. The place is huge, not welcoming, and it smells like rubber gloves. For two days, I can’t see him. The third day, they take every tube off of him and he is ready to pass on. So, I go into the room and my cousin Natalie comes with me. Grandpa is breathing hard but looks peaceful. It is relieving. The doctor tells my mom that, though he is asleep, he can hear everything we say. So, my mother and I sing for him. The song is the one I wanted to show him. His mouth looks dry so we put a wet sponge to his mouth and we hold his hand. He always had dark warm beautiful hands.
I hope he fulfilled his life the way he wanted to. I hope he still dreams. He had the most creative mind. He loved writing so much, as I do. He loved many things, but most of all he loved his family. His family loved him too.
* * *
Live life and cherish time, because there is a limit to time. But there is no limit to what you can do with it. I have learned many things that will forever be remembered.