I was thumbing through some old JPEGS when I came across this one. Its a pic of me when I was about 2 with my grandfather (my mom's dad). It's sad how we don't realize how amazing a person is until they've passed on from our lives. My grandfather was just such a guy.
My grandparents had 12 kids, 6 boys and 6 girls. So naturally, the holidays are hectic. My grandfather worked for the railroad and my grandmother worked at a hotel as a maid. They emigrated from Mexico right after WWII, when my mom was about 3. No one spoke english but my grandparents learned on their own and with help from the local Catholic church. I'm always amazed that my grandparents did what they did with very little education and only hard work to back them up.
My grandfather was amazing like I've said. He loved music and it's somehow passed from his blood into all of us. He was a self taught guitar player, trumpeter, drummer, bassist, piano player, accordionist, and was learning the violin when he passed away. He loved Vicente Fernandez, this great old ranchero musician from Mexico, especially the song "Volver, Volver" (according to my mother, that was my grandparent's song). Nearly all of my uncles play a musical instrument and many of my first cousins (I have 51 first cousins; typical Catholic families) are musically talented as well. On Sundays, everyone would go to my grandparent's house after church. My grandfather would sit on the front porch playing, always honing his skills. What was also great was when we had relatives come up from Mexico or southern Texas for a visit. The old men would sit out on the porch and play together and sing for hours about Pancho Villa, love, heartbreaks, and Mexico. It was the time when my grandfather shone above all others, although he wasn't much of a singer ... lol.
When I was about 11, I wanted to learn to play electric guitar like a rock star in the worst way. My folks talked it over and settled on an acoustic saying once I mastered that, they'd buy me the electric. My folks knew my grandfather had this dream of passing along all he knew onto his grandkids. He hoped someday he'd have a small band of us playing ranchero and mariachi tunes together, maybe even appear on one of those Mexican television talent shows. Youth is impatient and after about 2 months, I gave up on the acoustic guitar. It was only years after my grandfather passed away that I decided to try to learn again. Sometimes when I start to get those chords right and the rhythm just starts to happen when I'm strumming, I know that his blood is definitely within me, guiding my fingers to the right frets, helping me keep the rhythm.
What I love about this pic is that I remember this vividly although my mom insists that there is no way I could. But I distinctly remember my grandfather placing the guitar in my hand as a right-handed person would play. But right after the picture was taken, I took the guitar and switched it to play left handed (I'm a leftie and I play left-handed a la Kurt Cobain). My grandfather tried to get me to play right handed, but I was stubborn. I still remember how he felt so big compared to me; I remember his hands as he tried to place my fingers on the strings; I remember his fingers were caloused over from years of playing. Howeer, what I remember most of all was the presence of my grandfather; he seemed so much larger than life to me. When I got older, even though some might have seen him as a frail little old guy, I still knew that he was one of the biggest men in the world to me.