I must have been around five years old.
My father took me by the hand and we walked outside my grandmother’s house, towards the zinc structure that was it’s neighbor.
There he was; white, sleeveless undershirt tucked inside black pants with a very thick black belt holding them on. Straw hat in his head, he was sweating bullets.
I remember thinking his nose was huge. It was the most prominent feature in his face after the hardness in his eyes. You could almost see each set back of his hard life in his gaze, and they dated back to his childhood.
This shocked me so much I couldn’t keep my eyes off of his. That alone made him a complete oposite to my maternal grandfather, who was all love and tenderness for me.
He tried to smile but it came off more like a grimace. After a brief introduction my father stood there, smiling at me, possibly waiting for his father to comment about me, but there was just silence. My grandfather just stood there looking at me with as much sweetness as he had in him, which was almost none, and even then in the ignorance of my youth I felt a bit of pity.
He looked like he needed love.
My father picked me up to leave and told me to say goodbye and I think I didn’t say anything, my eyes were still fixed on this man that I now could recognise as my grandfather. Right before we turned around he took out his wallet in one swift and fast movement, more agile than expected for someone his age, and then he took out a five dollar bill and offered it to me.
I knew it was a bill bigger than the ones I had usually been given and I didn’t take it, instead I observed his hands and his nails. They looked like tools inside a construction box, hard and battered. My father told me to take the money with a grumpy voice that let me know he wasn’t exactly happy about the exchange of currency, but after what seemed an eternity I extended my hand and took it.
We walked back to my grandmother’s house and the next time I saw abuelo Ramón I was a teenager.
Years later, as he lay in a hospital bed waiting for death to take him away, I remembered that first time I put a face to his name and wondered if life had been able to give some of the love he needed, even though it certainly kept being a hard life.
I remember you tried to love grandpa and I remember you.