I’ve been thinking about my grandfather a lot lately. I missed him – at the book party, on the trip to the bookstore, even at the signing I did recently. Grandpa was my biggest fan; he gave me my first scifi book when I was young, and he read practically everything I ever wrote, even when it was terrible. I wish he could have been there to see my dream – and his biggest wish – come true.
Grandpa came to the U.S. in high school from El Salvador and learned English from scratch. He worked hard, making it all the way through college where he met my grandmother, and moved wherever he had to in the country to find the next job to provide for his family. There were times when he and his family lived in trailers, but all four of his children went to college and got good jobs. Education was everything to him, education and hard work, and it paid off.
My dad says, when he met my grandfather for the first time, that this was “the smartest man he’d ever met.” Grandpa could do crosswords in his third language I couldn’t do in my first. And every room in his house except the kitchen had three shelves along the ceiling literally overflowing with books. He loved kids, he loved Christmas, and more than anything in the world, he loved books.
Some of my fondest memories as a child were going to see my grandparents in Texas, cooking in the kitchen, and literally being set loose on Grandpa’s collection of books. There was one shelf he said I was too young for, but everything else – literally, hundreds and hundreds of books – were fair game. It was like a wonderland. He had a printout on old-school paper that listed every book he owned, and he had to take it to bookstores. He had so many books he literally could not remember them all.
You cannot imagine how excited he was when one of his grandchildren started writing. He and my grandmother were my biggest fans, back when I was a punk kid with an impossible dream. They thought I could make it, despite all sense and all the odds. And now, many years later, it turns out they were right. The whole time, Grandma was right there, cheering.
And there was a quiet, empty spot in the back where Grandpa should have sat.
So today I slide my book next to all of his others, and remember.