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A Spanish lesson:
mi [me] = my
hija [e-ha] = daughter
-ita [e-tah] = suffix for "little"
hijita [e-he-tah] = little daughter
Mijita [me-he-tah] = contraction/Spanish slang for "my little daughter" or for me, the most endearing word I will never hear again.
Even as an adult, every time I would hear my Grandpa say that word to me, I’d melt. The word takes me back to my childhood.
In a town where there wasn't much to do, I’d wait in the back room of their house with Maggie, the German Shepherd, for that blue pickup truck to pull up the gravel drive, and my Grandpa to be home.
- Back to time spent at Grandma and Grandpa's house.
I’d sit right next to my Grandpa, in the middle of the Mexican blanket-covered bench, and right behind the stick shift, as we'd run an errand.
- Back to riding in that blue truck.
But only when Grandma would let me, and only the front part of their acreage. Reruns of shows I'd never heard of, most in black and white, I'd sit curled in my Grandpa's lap watching.
- Back to riding on his lap as he mowed the grass.
The trip when Grandpa got a speeding ticket, Grandma got in an “argument” with the officer, either Stephanie or Samantha got in trouble for waiving the last piece of gum in front of my face before stuffing it into her mouth with the other piece she was already chomping on, and Grandpa pulling off at the next gas station to buy me my own pack of Double Bubble.
- Back to the trip to Connecticut, Vermont, and Niagara Falls.
Initiated by my Grandpa [due to my Grandma's erratic driving], a fifteen-year old, license-less me, drove from San Antonio down to the border after he tested my skills in a neighborhood. The skills my father had taught me on backroads just weeks earlier.
- Back to my illegal driving.
My Grandpa spoiled all of us as rotten as Grandma would let him. That wasn’t much, but when she would turn away he would roll his eyes, give a silent laugh along with a wink, and his toothpick smile and we instantly knew we were loved. When I was little I went to the store with my Grandma and asked for a Barbie Doll so I could have something to play with at their house. She said no. When we got home, I vividly remember my Grandpa looking at me and asking, "what's wrong, mijita?" My Grandma proudly admitted that she did not give into my pleas to get me a Barbie Doll. Ten minutes later we were back at the store, this time with Grandpa in tow. Barbie in hand, Grandma bought it and gave it to me as she gave my Grandpa a look that said, "I hope you're happy." My Grandpa always looked out for me, but it wasn't just me he looked out for.
"Your grandpa is one of
the reasons I was born,
and born healthy."
In February of 1964, my Grandpa's younger brother was being transferred to Georgia from California. His wife, Lucy, was pregnant with their daughter, Sandra. During the move from California to Georgia, she almost lost the baby. Lucy was air-lifted to San Antonio, and her husband had to drive the rest of the children [two boys, and a girl] to San Antonio on his own. Lucy was placed on complete bed-rest, not permitted to travel, but her husband had to report to Georgia.
"Your grandpa and grandma took in my mom, sister, and brothers... In the small house were: your grandparents, Steve, Joe, David, Priscilla, three boarders, and my family. Right before I was born, my mom went into false labor at night and your grandpa had to take her to the hospital. He got very little sleep and stayed at the hospital till mom was sent home and he still had to go to work. [While living there,] my brother Bob got the chicken pox and your grandparents had to take care of him...mom went into labor for real, and again, your grandpa had to take her [to the hospital] and he stayed until she convinced him to go home. And he still helped out with the entire family including Bobby with his chicken pox. Our family had to stay there until the school year was over, which was three weeks after I was born. My parents have always talked about the generosity of both your grandparents, and were always grateful that Rey offered his house to them."
If you didn't count, that was a total of thirteen people living in my Grandpa's house at once; fourteen once the baby came. Thirteen+ people that he helped provide for. He was a father to three boys of his own, an adopted daughter, and an open shelter for anyone in need. He provided for his own family for years, and then kept his doors open for whatever stray animal or foster child my Grandma brought in. He was a strong man with a sensitive and caring side; strength and care that I see in my own father, daily.
"I always admired his strength
As my Grandpa was slipping away, and I cried on the phone from over 2,000 miles away, my dad asked me to remember what a good man my Grandpa was, and said, "I hope someday I can be as good of a father as he was." Newsflash, dad: you already are. My sister and I could not ask for a better father. He is always supportive, encouraging, and caring, not just of us, but also of everyone around him. There's not a person on this planet he would not help. Even my husband recognizes he has big shoes to fill. Countless times he has [sometimes thanklessly] provided free medical advice and house calls to neighbors, family, and friends, helped Spanish-speaking patients communicate with their doctors, and not to mention the amount of money he gives to the church and Christian organizations like the Pregnancy Care Center. The strength and generosity of his father that he so desperately hopes to achieve - he already has. And his father’s laugh? Oh, he has that too.
Anyone who knows my dad knows he's a jokester. From asking the Dollar Store if they have layaway, to pretending my mom's cousin was the son of the governor of Alabama so that we could get seated faster at restaurants on vacation, he's always found a way to embarrass us while secretly gaining our laughter and admiration. If you'd ever met my Grandpa Villegas, you'd have no doubt this was a trait my dad inherited from him. He always had a story to tell that made you laugh so hard that you could skip ab day at the gym the next week. He spent his last few weeks torturing the nurses at the hospitals and nursing homes with jokes and funny stories, "Hey nurse, aren't you going to pay me?" "Pay you?! Why?" "Because I provided entertainment; I made you laugh!" Was this a trait he inherited from his father? I don’t know. But to me, he’s the original jokester who - thankfully - passed on his charisma as well.
I have a lot to be thankful to my Grandpa for, other than a great father. The most important thing he ever did was sit my dad down and tell him that he better ask my mom to marry him. I will forever miss his jokes, his stories, his laugh, and his eye rolls when he was pretending to be serious but we’d laugh anyway. But most of all, I will miss hearing,
"I love you, mijita,"
..because I know he meant it with every fiber in his being.
April 17, 1924 - October 20, 2013
A young boy who use to sneak into the grocery stores his father owned and steal candy.
[..until one day he accidentally grabbed chocolate ex-lax instead of real chocolate.]
A high-school student who played football with future football legend Tom Landry.
[Grandpa is #90, Tom Landry is #77]
Honor Flight, Spring 2012
A [young] US Army soldier, fighting for our freedom during WWII.
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25th Wedding Anniversary Party
A devoted husband of 63 years.
[A handsome one at that.]
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My father's med-school graduation.
A proud father of three boys, and one girl.
[One being a med-school graduate, something my Grandma reminded us at the funeral that my Grandpa was so proud of. Not that he wasn't proud of them all!]
An even prouder grandfather to eight, and great-grandfather to three.
[As he told my dad's cousin, "He told me that he would die if anything happened to any of his grandchildren because they all meant so much to him and he loved them so much."]