On this date, one year ago, my great grandfather Rafael Montalvo quietly passed away after 104 wonderful years. I'm not normally one to be so public about my losses and personal matters, but remembering him gives me peace and I consider myself lucky to have had the luxury of spending so much time with my abuelito Rafa.
I have so many fond memories of him, from being a little girl visiting his home overlooking the beach in Puerto Rico, to the most recent years when he and my grandparents would stay in Miami for extended periods with my aunt and cousins. Over the past 10 years, we had the opportunity to get closer and I will always be grateful for that. When I visited, he would pull an envelope from under his pillow and give me cash (and some for my siblings, too) from his social security stash. Even when his vision was gone, he had such a system that he didn't need to see the bill to know what he was giving; he systematically knew where each denomination was within the stack! Considering he received so little from those checks, it made us melt.
After my niece, his great-great granddaughter (!!!) was born, he would give my abuelita (Wita to us) cash to send to her for a special gift on his behalf. What is extra special about his bond with her is that they share the same birth date exactly 102 years apart! She met him once as an infant when part of my family flew to Puerto Rico to surprise everyone. As she grew, he dubbed her Rumbera #2, second to her Titi Tashy!
Without the use of his vision over the last couple years, abuelito Rafa would rely on his hearing (he loved to listen to baseball on the radio) and hand recognition. As soon as I would get to the house from the airport, I'd go to him without speaking and give him my hands. After embracing them for a few moments, he would instantly know who I was and smile. These moments are perhaps my favorite.
While I am sad I can no longer visit or speak with him, I have peace knowing he lived a full life. How many people are fortunate to live that long in good health? He was truly blessed and I am blessed for having loved and been loved by him.