Laura C. Franqui Domínguez

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Grandpa Luis

The Hole in His Neck –

My grandfather, Luís Domínguez, died when I was seven-years-old, one year after the death of my grandmother, Gilda Trinidad.  He left us with many memories to treasure.

Laura: “Mommy, why does grandpa have a hole in his neck?” I asked her every time my grandpa left the room. I felt scared to ask him.

Mom: “He used to smoke two or three packs of cigarettes a day, Laurie. He got sick and the doctors had to make a hole in his throat to let him breathe.”

Seeing him cleaning and removing phlegm from that hole instead of his nose when he had a cold was really impressive. He covered it with soft gauze most of the time.

Laura: “Mom, tell me more about why Grandpa had a hole in his neck. I asked again when I was nine-years-old.

Mom: “He had cancer Laurie, he needed a channel to his lungs because he lost part of his respiratory system. He couldn’t use his nose anymore. Always remember your grandpa and please never decide to smoke.”

I have never smoked… and I never will.

My grandpa was a man who was gone most of the time working or drinking beers with his friends. My mother said he made it up to his family by giving them money and presents like clothes or jewelry to demonstrate his love. They were the first family with a color television in the entire neighborhood and my uncle was the first child to own a “four-track”.  Every time he saw my mom, he would give her twenty bucks, which was a lot of money for that time.


 A Baptism of Dolls

A neighborhood baptism

For Christmas of 1972, my Grandpa Luís bought my mother three big, blond dolls, two girls and a boy. He wanted to retain the innocence of his little girl who was about to celebrate her fifteenth birthday.  On Christmas Day, my mother received the little boy, Angelino.  On her birthday, January fifth, she received Patatina and on the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, January sixth, she received Carolina.

In those days, my mom and all her friends where always planning fun and games. Old people used to say: “¡Oye, que ustedes no se pierden ni un bautismo de muñecas!” (You guys will not even overlook a doll’s baptism!). It’s a phrase old Puerto Ricans used when somebody is always partying and having fun.

My mother heard that phrase and she said to my grandmother and her girlfriends: “Let’s do a baptism celebration for my new dolls!” She wanted to imitate the Catholic baptism where a priest blesses the children by spilling holy water over them. Denim, her best friend’s brother took on the role of the priest. All the children of the neighborhood acted like the dolls’ family who would welcome “three new members of the family.”

A Case of Spilled Water

My grandpa smiled that special day in his house when he was taking care of my sister and me, some months before he died. We were in our room at his house, where we used to watch TV, sleep or play with our toys. Suddenly he entered with an annoyed face.

Grandpa: “Which one of you girls spilled a glass of water in my bed?” He said out loud looking so angry that made me open my eyes like a frozen fish and feel afraid.

Laura: “It, it wasn’t me Abuelito. I have been here watching the cartoons.” I said almost stammering.

Grandpa: “It had to be someone’s fault; you both go to the room to see my bed!” He screamed.

My sister and I crossed the corridor as if our lives were depending on following his orders. He followed behind us with his big, heavy steps. When we arrived in his room, we looked on his bed and there was no spilled water. Instead, there was the most significant and precious present that I have received in my life, a Pocahontas Barbie from the Disney movie for me and a Nacoma Barbie, (Pocahontas’ friend), for my sister.

I raised my head slowly and I looked to my grandpa’s face and he was smiling a most wonderful smile. No one has ever smiled at me like he did that day.

He said: “One is for you, and one is for your sister.” I ran into his arms and gave him a big hug.

I gave away almost all my toys when I grew up, but this Barbie will be with me for the rest of my life. Every time I see it, I can perfectly remember the joy and the love that my grandpa felt for me.



1 Comment

  1. Your history made me remind my childhood because my grandfather was doing the same with me. Despite the sad of the hole in the neck and the cancer situation your grandfather was a fighting man.

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