Hey, Grandpa. It’s me, Sarah.
I never met you, but I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. You would have been 91 last week. You share a birthday with your great-granddaughter, and we always remember you.
I think of you all the time, actually. Especially because I’m always at the ranch. I walk the land you walked for so many years. The presa you built with my uncles is still there and we still use it. I like going there. And even though my great uncle sold it out of the family, I sneak over the fence and explore the land you grew up on. The old house it still there- its windows broken and walls crumbling, but it’s there. We find old cans, bottles, and papers there. Parts of the chicken coop are still standing, and the outhouse with two seats is barely standing. Mom wants to take the seat.
The other house burned down. I’m sad because I never went to see it. I’m not sure why. Maybe the older kids left me behind, or I was too afraid, but I remember the old house sitting there under the tall trees. I regret not going there before it burned, so now I make sure to explore every part of the ranch I can. Anyway, mom said one of the relatives hid her ring in the walls of that house, and since the walls didn’t burn down, I’m on a mission to find it.
We stayed at, what we call the middle house, most of my childhood. You built that house, and that house built me. It’s still there. I played in the ditch, threw rocks from the top of the hill down into the river, picked the wild asparagus growing on the side of the house, and rode my bike down the hill. We always brought cousins and friends with us. I stood in the kitchen watching mom make breakfast. I quietly sat in the living room and listened to the adults talk about everything under the moon. We’d wake up early and watch the animals grazing in the meadow at the bottom of the hill. I once hid under the coffee table because my cousin was bringing a bear. I was terrified, but it was only an archery target. The men worked, the kids played, the women did Tafoya women things- talk and talk and talk. That was my childhood. I miss that place so much.
Now we have our own place. It’s between the middle house and the burned old house. We started our lives out there thirteen years ago. I had an “it’s whatever” attitude when we first bought it, but now I couldn’t imagine life without it. The ranch is a big part of me.
A couple nights ago, my uncle came over for dinner and he and my parents talked about the old times for hours. He told stories of when you all went hunting, or the cattle drives up to La Isla, or how they’d pick peas every evening in the summer because their tio’s pea patch was incredibly fruitful. He calls you The Old Man. I like that.
I’ve heard so many things about you. Everyone knew you. Everyone has a story about you. I always welcome stories about you. I seldom ask, because I can hear the tone of voice change when they talk about you, and the Tafoya family rarely shows emotion. Anyway, the one thing everyone has to say about you, is that you were a hard worker. It wasn’t an easy life for you and Nana, but you did the best you could with what you had. Don’t worry, Grandpa, you instilled that in your family, and I’ve been learning from some of the hardest working people I know. I think you’d be proud of the ranch.
I can’t help but feel a little sad when I think about you. I can’t walk the county road with you. I can’t plant peas with you. I can’t fix fences or dig ditches with you. I can’t invite you over for dinner at our house. I can’t sit with you in Nana’s kitchen and listen to stories that end up being life lessons. But I picture you in the fields at the ranch and I see you sitting on couch next to Nana, and when people tell me that we’d get along, or that you’d be so proud of me, it makes me so happy.
How I wish you were still here, Grandpa. I wish you were here to teach me the things that I could only learn from Ignacio Tafoya. But you’re not here, so I learn what I can from your wife and kids.
Is it possible to miss someone I never met? I think it is, because I miss you. Grandpa, you played a big role in the person that I am and the blessings that we have, and I thank you for that.
Your legacy will continue to live on.