Then. Abandonment

Written on September 22, 2018

Abuelito Andres.  When I think about him, he is the first memory of a man and father figure that I could remember.  What can I say?  He was there when I was a baby, and at about 5 years old, there is one thing that I knew and that I was sure of;  it is that I LOVED my grandfather, so much.  With him, I felt protected, loved, safe, and secure.  I remember how he used to hold me up in his arms and carry me with such strength and love. I remember his face very vaguely, but from what I do remember, it was a face with features that were strong, sharp, confident, and full of love.  

Abandonment.  I think one of the hardest lessons in this life that I have had to learn is how to overcome abandonment.  I believe that if everyone takes a minute to look back on their life, they will see certain patterns and life experiences that are related.  Experiences that have been repetitive. Things that have consistently happened as a child, teenager, and throughout ones adult life.  Well, abandonment has been mine.  Although I was never raised or lived with my father, I can’t say that I felt abandoned by him because in reality, he tried hard to be there for us, and he was.  He lived in Puerto Rico and we lived in New York, but he would do what he could to call us and come visit us.  My first experience with abandonment came from the first father figure that I ever had and that I remember the most.  

At some point, my grandmother and grandfather (step-grandfather) were divorcing. I had no idea, I was just a little girl free of any cares in the world. I was very close to them because during my first couple years, mom was in school studying to be a nurse, and she was also working full time. I was with my grandmother often, and I also just loved her more than anything, and around that time of my life, I was told that I just wanted to be with her. There were times when my mom would pick me back up from Abuelita’s house and on the car ride home, I would just cry because I wanted to go back. My first few memories of my life, I remember them so vividly, as the center of my world that filled me with so much love and security.

What I do remember is a day, that if I close my eyes, I can go back to it and see it so vividly. I can recall that same day and moment like it was yesterday.  It is so engraved in my memory that it doesn’t matter the years that go by, I remember. I can still feel the pain and disappointment.  It was the day my heart broke for the first time.  It was the day that the greatest, strongest, most loving man who had carried me on top of the world with his strong hands and protected me for so many of the first years of my life on Earth, would cause my heart to break into a million tiny pieces.  

The memory goes like this:  

I was at my grandmother’s house, and she was in her room.  I remember that she calls me into the room and tells me that Abuelito is on the phone and that he wants to talk to me.  I had no idea what that conversation would bring. I imagine me running to the phone, excited to get to talk to my grandfather.  I imagine that it was probably days, if not weeks that had gone by since I had seen him and spoken to him.  I think about my heart, the heart of a child, who had been missing him and just ready to hear his voice.  The details of the conversation are very vague, but there were two very important things that he told me during that conversation.  

The first, he said in spanish, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be your grandfather anymore.” I don’t even know how the mind of a 5 year old could even begin to comprehend that statement. I know that I must have protested against what he was saying in some way or another.  I know I must have asked “but why?.” Whether it was with words or tears, I was devastated.  The final words that I remember as clear as yesterday was when he said:
“I left Rochester, I live in Puerto Rico, and I’m not coming back.”

 My hero, my grandfather, the greatest, strongest man in my life was breaking up with me, and there was nothing I could say or do to stop him.  More than the tears, I remember the sobs that came out of my body.  I remember my body convulsing in pain as my grandmother tried to hold me down to comfort and console me.   Oh how I remember that day so vividly, and it will forever be a day that I will never forget. 

I have this picture in my baby book.  It is a picture of the day my siblings and I were being presented to the Lord.  In the picture, you see my grandmother first, you can see my sister Nellie, and someone holding my other sister Vanessa.  The star of the picture is me, looking straight at the camera being held by the strongest, most loving grandfather I had ever known who was being ordained as my Godfather. It makes me sad because you can’t even see his face.  All that remains of his love and strength is a silhouette of his face.  The one thing I do have is a picture of his hands.  His strong hands holding me with so much love and security.  I’d spend the next 35 years feeling so unsafe and unprotected, but I can always go back to that moment, in that picture, when I know that, in that moment, he loved me and that I was his little girl. 

Abuelito, I wonder who I would have become if you would have remained in my life. I needed you, but I know that other life experiences drove you away. I know that you didn’t want to leave, but you had to. I wish you would have never left my life. I needed your love to help me become someone even greater in this world. There were so many things you knew that you could have taught me. I needed you to save me from the next man that abuelita would bring into my life. He wasn’t a good man, like you were. I wish you would have stayed and continued to be the loving, strong, protective grandfather that I knew you to be.

After that experience, the feeling of abandonment, or more like the feeling of the fear of being abandoned became intertwined within my soul.  I would later experience that same repetitive type of abandonment.  I would have friends who I would open up my heart and my soul to.  Friends who I would love more than anything, who would from one day to another, change.  They would leave me, turn their backs on me, for no reason, maybe it was their own life journey or circumstance that would cause them to disappear from my life.  I would always be left in a sea of devastation, sadness and confusion.  I would always be left questioning my value, my worth, and in a sea of loneliness and confusion. Every single time, I had to pick myself up from the floor where puddles of tears lay, and keep moving forward.

Written October 9, 2020

It took me over two weeks to post this one. I had just posted my “Now” entry, and my family and I found out that a cousin of ours took his life. It shook my family and myself. I asked myself, “Does it really matter, if I post or not? What is the point, if it doesn’t help someone?” but then I remember, even in grief, we have to keep pushing forward. Descanza en paz, Primo.

This particular entry that I posted today hits me deep into the deepest parts of my heart and soul. It’s such a dee scar that I felt no rush to go back and read this entry, edit it, and add to it. It wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I read a message about one of my posts. A deep reminder and straight up “nudge” from my Creator that allowed me to visualize the purpose of it all. And so I went back, reached out to my sister, who is the cofounder of this project, and she gave me another nudge.

And so I write…..

As I went to my baby book and turned the pages, to try to find this one single picture that I have of my grandfather, I came across the second, and only picture that I have of him. It was taken about 12 years later when my mom took us to Puerto Rico, and we went looking for Abuelito Andres, as I remembered him. I look at the picture, and remember the reunion. I was about 15 years old, and I was so excited to see him. I was young so I didn’t really know how to carry on conversation, so I just looked at him and was thankful to have the opportunity to see him again. At 37 years old, I look at the picture today and realize that when I saw him the second time, it just wasn’t the same. He was a stranger now, and that meeting was some closure for me, and I was so grateful for the gift of seeing him one last time.

And then I go back to this portrait, taken in 1985, on a warm August day. This was in Rock Christian Center, the church I was born and raised in. I know for a fact they got those window air conditioners when I was a teen, therefore it was pretty warm in there which could explain the expression on my face. At two years old, I was probably hot, tired, and had absolutely no clue what was going on, but the man holding me did. This was the day that I was presented to the Lord. The day my parents and my grandparents committed teaching me how to know and love the Lord.

Oh how I love this portrait and the people in the portrait. How I remember so much the love I have for my grandmother. She passed away when I was around 9 years old of uterine cancer. Her face is so vague to me and I remember her voice was soft, but her love continues to make my heart swell when I think of her. Over 30 years later, I’ve been told that my heart and the person I am reminds them so much of Abuelita Benita. For that I am honored to still carry her with me.

Before I finish, I focus on the portrait and how my grandfather is so perfectly present there, yet you cannot see his face. I see the first father figure, I see a tall, dark man, with the strongest hands. I see and feel the love of my Father. As uncomfortable as it feels and it gets, I know that I am protected, I am loved, and I am held.

I love the way You love, Father. I love the way that I can see you in every detail of my life, and even in a portrait that is over 3 decades old. I love that no matter, you remind me every moment that you can, that I am not alone, and that every moment that I was abandoned, you drew me closer. You drew closer to me especially on those days that I felt like I was drowning in tears. On those days that I would look in the mirror, and see sadness and discomfort in my eyes, I looked up at you, my hero, and I melted in complete surrender by your Love. I put my arms up, and look into your eyes pleading for you to save me from this sorrow and discomfort. Without fail, you pick me up and wrap your strong arms around me. In your arms, held by your hands, I’m safe. For that, I am forever grateful. Thank you Lord, because even in an old portrait on warm summer day in August of 1985, I can see you.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Picture taken August 1985 at Rock Christian Church on Bay Street in Rochester, New york