One year ago, on March 18, 2022, our family suffered a tremendous hit when Arturo Díaz Sr died at the hands of cancer. In the past, we've spoken about how crucial his support was in creating Safe Tours Cozumel, but today I would like to write in honor of my grandfather, not the business-savvy and charitable person, but the scrabble-afternoons-enthusiast and the man who constantly reminded me and everyone around him that we are here on this earth with one mission, and that is to be happy.
Growing up, my abu -what I used to call him- didn't live close to my house; he lived with my uncle in Phoenix, Arizona, and would try to visit my dad and me regularly. I will never forget the excitement of driving to the airport with my dad (right after school, which means I looked like a mess) to pick him up and then telling him every bit of gossip tiny me thought would interest him. But what anyone would see the moment the door to my home was open was me stealing the suitcases from my abu's hands to see all the presents and candy he'd brought me, which came with the bonus of a super fun runway with all the new additions to my wardrobe. Even though my abu was always a fantastic gift-giver, he sometimes brought questionable things -empty bottles, flyers, and basically anything you'd receive after a conference-.
When my abu would visit, all hell would break loose; he'd put grass on the soup (he claimed it was an accident, but we all know it was a calculated move), spill shampoo in my eyes, tickle me so much it felt like I would pee myself, and duck when he was supposed to catch me in the pool, resulting in me hitting my chin with the top of his head. Truly a menace.
But apart from all his criminalistic behavior, he played with me the most. We would spend afternoons playing various games; we'd play with my dolls, stuffed animals, domino, scrabble, etc. He even taught me how to play chess, and he lost while trying to do so (my dad says he let me win, but my dad is wrong). One of my last memories with him was of us going to a coffee shop and spending the evening playing scrabble -I won that time too-.
But my abu wasn't only a part of my life when he'd visit me; we'd talk on the phone and always tell each other jokes. It got to the point that whenever a classmate would make a joke, I would create a mental note to share it with him when he called me.
Another thing I vividly remember about him was his love for walking (which I find surprising for someone who fell a lot) and his insistence on having me join him. Looking back on it, his fondness for such a healthy habit wouldn't have struck me so much if his attire hadn't been dress shirts and pants that always ended up dripping with sweat (which is to be expected when visiting an island...in the Caribbean). Another thing I remember in detail is him taking me, Gaby, and Ale to the park, where we'd play for hours, and he'd end up carrying us back. I know that even though Gaby and Ale weren't his blood relatives, he saw them as his grandchildren, and I also know that their hearts shattered like mine when they heard about his passing.
I lost my abu during one of the most challenging times of my life. I didn't know if I would make it out alive, but the pain my uncle and dad had to endure is something I don't think I'll ever truly understand; the fear of having two of the people you love most battling for their lives in such different ways and the inability to do anything about it but to remain by their sides.
My dad didn't see his father one last time and chose to stay by my side while I was struggling.
A year after his death, things are looking so different. At first, I couldn't shed any tears because of all the guilt I held onto, but missing him became much easier once I finally did.
Tonight, I find myself sitting on a chair that he gave me, with a new fondness for walking (and an understanding of why you keep at it, no matter how much you fall), a desire to be happy, and such nostalgia regarding scrabble. I will always thank the man that constantly reminded me that there was nothing else that I needed to be, just happy.
April 16, 1945 - March 18, 2022