By Jason Zavaleta
I grew up in California, and my Grandfather lived in New York. Every year, at least once, from the time I was a year old my family would go out to visit my Grandparents. When I’d see him, I’d get bombarded with hugs and kisses, and all I wanted to do was play. He used to tell me inappropriate jokes that my mother would always scold him for. Some things were special though. He loved chess, and I’d always challenge him to a game after dinner at his house. Of course, I’d always lose, but it was fun to test my skills against the champion. Then there was the famous “Grandpa Tickle”. Which was a combination between a massage and a good scratch on your back while lying down, and every time he did it to me, I’d be asleep within five minutes. My Grandfather always made me laugh, and I know I made him laugh too. I loved him, and I know he loved me too. Every holiday, no matter how small, and often I didn’t even know it existed, he’d send a cute card with a note and a gift. Then when I got older, things changed.
When I was ten or eleven, my Grandmother got sick. A still unnamed neurological illness caused her pain and forgetfulness. My Grandfather now had to spend all his time taking care of her. Soon, when I came to visit, I was doing work, I was helping, and listening to the many conversations he was having with my mom about my Grandmother’s health. I was left pretty much in the dark. Year after year, she got worse, and soon, so did he.
By the time I was 14 my Grandmother was in a nursing home, and not doing well. The last time I went to New York before her death, my Grandfather had pretty much become a stone. No laughs, no “Grandpa Tickles”, and he had grown to ill and tired for a chess game. I was angry, and I felt like going to New York had become a burden. Suddenly my Grandmother decided to stop living, and I flew out to sadly, see her pass. After that, my Grandfather was not the same. He kept talking about how he wanted to die, and our conversations on the phone were short and insignificant.
Meanwhile, a important event in my life was taking place. I had gotten into a relationship with a girl, Alex was her name. Her and I had been friends on and off for about two years, until suddenly in 2007, we started to date. We were working on my first high school film together. Her the leading female role, I the director. It was a great experience, and it somehow brought us together.
A picture of Alex I took on set, before we were together...look closely...
We connected in that special way very fast. We were both into humanities and social service and doing work to make a difference. Our spiritual paths were almost on the same page, while still different, we connected on multiple levels. I would always think about her and my relationship like that of my grandparents. Met young, at 16, got married and 17 and lived together the rest of their lives. I thought her and I would be the same way. But ironically, the deaths of my grandparents caused harsh changes in Alex and my relationship.
When my Grandmother died, I thought it would be a lesson to help me treasure her even more. And it did for a long time, but when my Grandfather passed. I felt like all the hope had been sucked out of the hope of the relationship as Alex and I were in a rough time, right around when he passed. We had been together for almost two years. It was so sad, that with the death of both of my Grandparents, it was like that love that I idolized so much that they had, faded, and my relationship too, faded.
From my eyes, this story is starting to unfold…