• Marques Taus

Richard Chavez: My Grandfather’s Memoir

The earliest memory I have of my Grandpa was the time he took my brother and I to get ice cream at the frosty freeze in Santa Monica. There were a lot of times just like that, feeling the cool Santa Monica sea breeze, devouring a scoop of ice cream with vanilla and sprinkle shrapnel all over my face, and then going back to Grandpa’s house. We’d watch UCLA football games, Judge Judy or watch the latest episode of Avatar, while my Grandpa would knock out in his recliner chair in boredom. Not to mention the relentless amounts of jokes he would crack at the sight of anything remotely amusing. Even during his final weeks when he was in the hospital, I visited him and jokingly asked him “There are a lot of pretty nurses here huh Grandpa?” to which he’d respond “Oh yeah! Smokin!”

There are countless stories I can tell about my Grandpa. But having heard some of the stories other people have about him truly made me appreciate his existence so much more. I heard things about him teaching dozens of people how to drive huge semi-trucks, and about him teaching each one of his kids how to drive and fix a car. I can remember my Grandpa telling me stories about his childhood and how he remembers seeing his Native American father do tribal dances with his family. He repeatedly told me over breakfast one day about the time he purchased his first car for three thousand dollars with cash, which baffled the car dealership because of a 14-year-old kid having enough cash to buy a car. My Grandpa was one to never let someone go hungry or be lonely. He would give the clothes on his back to anyone in need, no matter the circumstance. My Grandpa stuck to his moral code his entire life, treating anyone and everyone the way he wanted to be treated, and he received all the same care and more in his final years.

All of these memories and stories do a perfect job of showing the amazing life my Grandpa had. And although his life was filled with many highs, he also dealt with many lows: major issues with his diet. It’s safe to assume that he and many Americans during the ’80s, ’90s and the ’00s had awful diets consisting of fast food, sugar riddled sweets and relentless amounts of soda. He essentially had no other choice of food because he was a truck driver, meaning he needed food quick and easy. Sure he could have chosen healthier alternatives than super-sized Big Macs and Cokes, but that didn’t happen. He didn’t want a diet, he wanted tasty food to fill him up when he was on the road.

This diet preemptively put him on track to have diabetes—which he had till the day he passed. His diabetes led to a multitude of issues like kidney failure (which required a kidney transplant), high cholesterol and several other issues with his heart and blood pressure. He had forgotten to take his kidney medication for over a week, and of course, his kidneys began to shut down. He checked into the hospital mid-November and underwent hours upon hours of dialysis and surgery to increase his blood pressure. The treatment worked partially but not enough for him to ever live again on his own. He decided that if he was going to die, he wanted it to be on his own terms and not reliant on being hooked up to machines, bound to a hospital bed. He then went into hospice at my Auntie’s house a few weeks before Christmas, to which I visited him nearly every day. He ended up passing on Christmas Eve, surrounded by dozens of family members and friends.

Although I miss my Grandpa and wish he could have been there to see me graduate, I know now that he lived the best life he could have lived and that he wasn’t in pain (though he called the nurses and doctors a pain in his ass on multiple occasions). I know that my entire family continues to remember his stories and create new stories of their own to later share with their children and grandchildren.

There is one specific memory when I was around nine or ten years old that I have of my Grandpa. Of course, we were watching a UCLA vs. USC football game with a few of my uncles and my brother. My Grandpa was in the deepest sleep you could imagine, releasing the most intense of snores. I don’t exactly remember what the score was, but I know the game must’ve been a close one since each one of my uncles were all three feet away from the TV. UCLA ends up scoring a game-winning touchdown, to my own surprise my Grandpa was the first one celebrating. He threw his UCLA dad hat across the room in excitement, joining my uncles in their celebrations for the huge win.

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