I had a long, angry post written out when he died and I’m kind of glad that due to errors with my WordPress app., it was completely lost seconds after I finished it. I’m not going to lie and say that he was a great man, but I’m not going to rage at him either. The service for his funeral was very nice and it did do what I believe funerals are meant to do: it commemorated how he changed our lives for the better and it got the family together, which I know he would have liked. Everyone knew the way he was and no one denied it, but we have some excellent speakers and storytellers in the family and it was really helpful for me to hear about better days.
My brother was the one to make me actually mourn Grandpa’s death with a frank description of when we used to live with our grandparents. My grandpa was always an early riser (unlike me) and (like me) always had a project to work on. He was up with the sun every morning building a jungle gym, making a full-size playhouse, laying down bricks, and generally turning our unkempt backyard into a beautiful garden. Unfortunately, he didn’t see why anyone else wouldn’t be up once he was and our alarm clock in those years was window-rattlingly loud, staticky mariachi music. Now I have no problem with mariachis. My bee eff laughs at me every time I put on a ranchero station. What I have a problem with is mornings. I can’t get up before 10 without feeling put upon. Shoot, now that I think about it, once I got out of school and the 6:30am grind, my migraines were much less frequent. Anyways, the mariachi battle with my sleeping mind and the smell of greasy, home-cooked Mexican food are the two things that stick out most in my mind about Grandpa.
I appreciated that the pastor who was running the service had known my grandpa personally because of my grandpa’s constant involvement with the church. It really made the service feel more intimate. I hate hearing people who have never met the deceased sterilely talk about them. I digress though. I appreciated his fellow missionaries who came up and spoke about a part of my grandpa’s life that I had never seen or been involved in: his trips to Mexico with the church to help the poor and the imprisoned. I had been aware of his many trips back to Mexico to help the country he’d left behind, had seen him gather up our old clothes and toys to give to needy children in Ensenada, but I was too young to ever be directly involved or quite understand it.
Most of all, though I appreciated his little brother Candalario’s take on his life. He told a story of legal Mexican immigrants living in Wilmington, joking and being kids and making the best of what they had. I haven’t heard much about how my grandpa got here or his family because he wasn’t big on talking about the past, but hearing his brother’s account of him made me laugh and made me realize that he’s been the same man his entire life and no one was going to change him.
So good-bye, Apolinar Gonzalez. You weren’t perfect. Hell, even the pastor said that. You were gruff and stubborn and opinionated, but you loved your family and your God in the only way you knew how to.