It's what his death means to my family that makes it sad. This is our Patriarch- a man that presided over all aspects of our family with strong opinions and countless sayings. His generosity was unbelievable. He valued his family- he taught us all to value our family.
When my Grandma died five years ago, our cultural decline began- at her funeral, three separate cousins confided in me that Umpa was soon to follow- he felt this way, too, and longed for it, I think, although my Umpa was not a quitter, and if there was something he could do, he would.
He was a man of quick judgments, open emotions, and both easy affection and disgust. He was not an intellectual, but he was undeniably intelligent, and held in his mind more useful information than most people come across. He had a businessman's drive, and a farmer's practicality.
He was a force- a character that charmed almost everyone he met. I miss the person that he and my Grandma were together- two very different people that balanced each other out, but were complete even without each other. They were together because they wanted to be, not because they needed to be, and I'm not sure why that stands out to me now.
On Thursday we will be going to California for his rosary and funeral. It will be our first trip back as a family in two years, and it is a trip I have been YEARNING for. I have not been able to find my feet here in Florida, and I want to be content, but sometimes I just want to be near my family. I love my people, but in this region where family stands tall above all other relationships, I am always reminded that I come from something bigger, with a rich history and a strange and wonderful culture of its own, thanks to my Umpa and Grandma. I'm hopeful that we can somehow hold on to that culture after my Umpa's death, but I'm not optimistic.