En español | Perfectly trimmed and waxed handlebar mustache; dark, wavy hair; piercing eyes: That was the maternal grandfather I knew, the one from the sepia-toned photograph that hung in an oval wood frame in my Nina's living room. I never knew José Silvano Saucedo any other way. He died in his fifties, long before any of his grandchildren were born.
But I'm getting to know him better, and so are my seven siblings. In 2009, the eight of us faced the most heart-wrenching losses of our lives: Mom and Dad died within months of each other. It was a year of caregiving with love and gratitude for all they had cared and given to us. In the end, we were left with memories embedded deeply within us—and a house filled with family heirlooms and boxes no one had opened in decades.
We used to laugh at Mom's penchant for hanging on to a one-year-old's first drawing, a four-year-old's first letter to Grandma and Grandpa, an old tablecloth, or a piece of lace. Now I silently thank her.
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