When you thought they were lost to time...
LLanos Tuna, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Years ago when I first started my own journey to find my family’s story I was so excited with all my findings and could not wait to share with my Abuelitos. I had yet to find out what would it be like to share this information with someone so far I was the only one and give them the gift of knowing their story.
It started with my Abuelo, when he was four years old his father my great-grandfather tragically committed suicide, to be honest I had not thought about how this life changing event may have been for my Abuelito because it was not something he spoke about or anyone in the family. Instinctively I knew this would be a big deal to him and I remember how nervous I was to share with him that I had found his father’s death certificate.
One afternoon on my Abuelitos’ visits I started sharing what I was working on and they both were so interested and had so many questions, I was so happy by their excitement. I asked my Abuelo, “Abuelo, does the name Alfredo Flores sound familiar, he was your father’s father, your grandfather. His eyes opened wide and “Papa Alfredo, siiiiiii, mi abuelo? And I said “Yes I found him”. I sat next to him and showed him the documents and he just sat in awe and started naming names and his excitement just started building not believing that all these people who were part of a life he had left behind when he left Puerto Rico when he was 19 years old for New York City were alive to him again.. Then I looked at him and said “I found information on your Dad”, “Siii?!”, “ Yes, I have his death certificate”. I remember holding my breath because I did not know what his reaction would be. “De verdad? El Acta de Muerte?”, ‘Yes, do you want to see it?”. For the first time in all my years just seeing this man with the eyes of a granddaughter,my grandfather who I loved to debate with, who always smiled, always kind, barely ever raised his voice, working hard outside, always independent, stubborn, protector, for the first time I saw the little boy that lost his father too soon and my heart broke. He looked at me with so much emotion swimming in his eyes and pointed with his head towards the computer, I asked him “Do you want to see it?”, and quietly he said “Si”. I opened it, and read it to him, went over the name, where he lived, the time of death, how he died, and casually mentioned “oh and he worked as a chauffeur”, taking for granted he knew this. Then very quietly I heard him say to himself. “Papi, era chofer?”. I will never forget the look in his eyes, he had information about his Dad that for someone else may not have been significant but for him it was a fact about his father that was not related to the tragedy and connected him to his father in a different way. “Yes Abuelito he was a chauffeur.” “Hay Gracias mija” and then he did his little laugh.
That was when I knew the gift I held in my hands and how important it was to help others find that connection with their ancestors and the desire to help others grew.
My grandmother sat with us and she looked at me and said “Negrita, me ayudas a conseguir mi Abuelita?”. “Si Abuelita te ayudare a conseguir tu Abuelita”