By Abe Villarreal
I’ve never been much of a talker. I prefer to let my thoughts flow out on paper, in stories. Words on paper, in notebooks or online. We all have our preferred ways to communicate.
Think of the Aunt Sally in our families. Most of us have one. She’s the kind that will go on and on. To her, it's all in love and in your best interest, but it’s also never-ending. She asks you about your day, and before you get a chance to answer, she starts sharing about hers.
Aunt Sally is well-intentioned and as annoying as you might find her at times, she’s the one you will end up missing the most. That was true for me with my nana Rafaela.
I’ll never forget the times the family would get together during holidays, form a circle and hold hands for a prayer. Someone would give a blessing in English and then nana Rafaela would take a turn in Spanish. We knew that our eyes would be closed for a good while.
Nana Rafaela, a devout Catholic, used to walk around her home, praying with her eyes open. Every moment, every thought, was a selfless one. That’s what praying is when it’s done right. You are asking for others, communicating your heart and your intentions of love to the guy upstairs. She put everyone else before herself.
I miss Nana Rafaela all the time, and I miss her long, long prayers. I would love to hear one again.
My mother’s father was nearly the complete opposite. Tata Hector was the traditional, sweet old man who rarely spoke a word. He could sit at his rocking chair for hours, quietly thinking, and nodding off. I can only imagine the thoughts traveling through his mind.
A couple of years ago when I was spending a good amount of time building my family tree, I took advantage of some time at the dinner table and asked him a few questions.
Once he got going, he really got going. Tata Hector shared about his family growing up as laborers. All poor Mexicans did in those days. He talked about his panaderia in Mexico, which he named after my mother. At the panaderia, he sold Mexican sweet bread and based on his reminiscences seemed to really enjoy it.
I’m not sure why the bakery closed, but it did, and now Tata Hector is gone so that little piece of history may have left with him.
I cherish the few times that we did have those interesting talks. He only spoke in Spanish and his sentences were short, saying just what he needed to say. His storytelling wasn’t filled with colorful expressions, just simple conversation. I liked that about him.
Words are important and can be life-changing. I like to say them on paper, but I love to hear them from the Aunt Sallys, the Nana Rafaelas, and the Tata Hectors of the world.
Take a little time to listen to the words from the people you love the most, no matter how long and never-ending those moments may seem. You’ll long for them once they are gone.