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The grandfather I hardly knew

Lolo Sonny. Photo courtesy of Sidny Ramirez.


Monterey Park , CA United States

This is the second essay in the Alhambra Source’s new series about immigrant narratives, sponsored by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University. Read the first from Alhambra High School student Sofia Chie here. If you have an immigrant story that you want to share, either about yourself, your family or both, email [email protected].

Immigration. A huge word defining those who come from other countries in search of a better life. Away from hard labor to find a better job, or away from poverty and suffering for huge improvements in their daily lives. We all have different stories, most of them difficult to explain. And, with terrorism increasing, immigrants are denied entry into countries for safety reasons. Some would say it’s for the greater good, but others would argue that these immigrants need a new place to stay. It’s two different sides of the same coin. Our world is shifting throughout the years, finding ways to bring people together, but also being mindful of safety from terrorism and other outside threats.

For my parents, who came from the Philippines, they had a nice life back there. But to have a much better life, they immigrated here to the United States. They managed to go to a good school. From what I learned, my Mom’s father worked as a teacher and my grandmother as a midwife. But I do not know much about my Dad’s parents, just like my Mom’s parents. Along with them on their journey was my maternal grandfather, Lolo Sonny. All I really knew about him was his jovial personality and sincere laughter. We would visit him sometimes, and even see some friendly faces in his small household. He didn’t visit us, unfortunately, since my own family was renting a room back then. My only friend was Genevieve, a girl who was younger than me, and her family’s two dogs. I never saw them again since we moved to our own apartment in 2010.

Lolo Sonny visited our apartment unit on rare occasions. Since I don’t speak fluent Filipino, I couldn’t make out their conversations. But there is one thing I didn’t know. I have an Uncle named JayJay, my Mom’s brother. I don’t know what he looks like: the only thing I know about him is his unknown illness he had during his time in the Philippines. My mom was against Grandfather’s decision to bring her brother to the United States. But she reluctantly agreed to keep Uncle JayJay safe. I’m not sure how long Lolo Sonny took care of Uncle JayJay. But he managed to take care of him before tragedy struck.

It happened while driving around the corner, my grandfather almost crashed into a house. Luckily, the stairs halted him from causing damage to the property he was about to hit. But Lolo Sonny never made it. He passed away on the last Sunday of October, a few weeks after Mom and I went to a Kidz Bop concert in Riverside. But it’s unknown where Uncle JayJay went after Grandfather’s death.

Why didn’t I see Grandfather so much? I could’ve had the courage to ask Mom and Dad back then, but I don’t know how they would have replied. After learning about Uncle JayJay after Lolo Sonny’s death, I finally understood. I didn’t see Grandfather so much because he needed to take care of Uncle JayJay. Without Grandfather, Uncle JayJay couldn’t be still and rest well in his sleep. Did I see him when my family visited Lolo Sonny? No, they probably went ahead of time and kept him out of my sight to keep me safe. Who knows how Uncle JayJay would respond if he saw the niece he never knew?

I did not know of this until at least two days after Lolo Sonny’s death. After getting picked up from school, my Mom told me we were going out. When I asked why, she said that Lolo Sonny died. My heart suddenly dropped as I heard those words. I said nothing as we went to meet up with some of my Grandfather’s friends to talk to the landlord. He and his wife gave details about the car accident, Uncle JayJay, and what Mom and Dad would have to do with Grandfather’s belongings. Then, it was off to the police station. I’m sitting there quietly with my Dad and Tito Ethan (a relative of my mom), watching YouTube videos on my own to keep myself from talking. Mom needed to find the police officer who handled the car accident my grandfather was in. After waiting for a long time, Dad and I went back to the apartment, after dropping off Tito Ethan back at his home and letting Mom take care of the rest.

My mind is still wrapping itself around all of this new information. It’s like a bunch of dodgeballs thrown at you unexpectedly. “Don’t try to understand everything. Sometimes it is not meant to be understood, only accepted.” I can try to understand, but I can’t bring myself to accept the fact that I didn’t even know Uncle JayJay, even if it was for my own protection.

Sometimes, I hate doing chores in the house, no matter how easy it is. Other times, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to my parents’ advice about living a good life and being self-sufficient. But it’s part of life and I had to deal with it. It makes my parents happy that I listen or do my to-do list by myself. In some cases, they would give me money for the chores, and it made me really happy. Mom was working as a night shift nurse at the Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. She resigned from Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park a few months ago.

What I didn’t have were the friends I need when I need someone to talk to. I maintained a friendly atmosphere around my old classmates at Hillcrest, but didn’t really interact with them. It’s not that easy to find those who have the same goals or ideals as you, but I was fine with it. My parents said that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, but I at least need acquaintances to finish work faster. However, I lost that chance to be with them after graduating as part of the Class of 2015. I don’t know where they are now, but I wish them the best success and that we do cross paths again. Today, I am a freshman in a private high school, dealing with a good amount of homework, keeping an A in all of my classes, and making new friends. I hope to continue being as hard-working, so I can provide for my family when I get older.

Sidny Ramirez is a freshman at San Gabriel Mission High School who loves art and music.

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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