The Orange Dictionary and One Page Left

16 May

I remember taking a moment and thinking I should keep it. I should keep it.

And I did.

But in my early 30s, after having moved for the third time in four years, it didn’t survive. It got tossed around in boxes and then eventually tossed in the recycling pile. I remember pausing for a moment, thinking I should keep it. It was Erick’s. I should hold onto it just in case, but I didn’t and I remember feeling a little twinge the next morning when it was gone.

That orange hardcover dictionary with the word DICTIONARY in bold white courier font. He used it during his high school years to look up words he didn’t know, then look up those words in his Spanish-English dictionary, and then finally have an A-ha! moment after twenty minutes because he had finally figured out what they were asking him. He could finally answer.

My uncle Erick … he was more than just an uncle, he was the brother I never had, my role model growing up, my compass when I lost my footing. He showed me education can definitely create change. He was the first one in our family to graduate from college. He was there for me when I was learning my ABCs  and stood by me when I crossed the graduation stage myself. I knew when he had his own family he would be a great dad.

And he was …

uncle erick 007

Uncle Erick … very proud of the pumpkin skills that took place here with his daughter.

So when he died of cancer, when his daughter was only 10 years old, it broke my heart. I knew he was scared, not of death, but of not being in his daughter’s life, watching her grow, dancing at her quinceanera, and clapping for her as she crossed the stage in her cap and gown.

I knew he wanted to be there. So I made sure a part of him would be there with her for all those milestones. I interviewed him and made a scrapbook for her. Quotes, advice, stories, pictures. Messages and things he’d want to say to her when life happened, he was able to do that, to say some of those things.

I’d been giving these pages to her throughout the years, and now 11 years later, after her college graduation I only have one page left. One, and I so wish I still had that dictionary, because it was more than just a book of words, it was a part of his road to success. It was part of his work ethic.

But I didn’t know he was going to die when the dictionary got thrown away. I didn’t know he was gonna get sick. Nobody did. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink. He got the cancer just because he got it. And now I only have one page left.

I gave her the college page this weekend, followed by a hug and the I’m-proud-of-you speech, and the I-know-your-dad-is-proud-of-you-too whisper in the ear.

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My uncle, who helped raise me, was there that day too, sitting in the audience with me. His words were there, in black ink, scribbled in his slanted handwriting written during the last days of his life. He wanted to make sure he was there, and I was glad to have made that possible, because he was always there for me.

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8 Responses to “The Orange Dictionary and One Page Left”

  1. bgddyjim May 17, 2016 at 1:58 AM #

    Dude. You are awesome.

    • The Guat May 17, 2016 at 11:42 AM #

      Uncle Erick was a good brother. Seeing her cross the stage this weekend totally made me think … dude! I wish he were here. I learned so much from him. Thanks for reading.

      • bgddyjim May 17, 2016 at 11:49 AM #

        Sounds more like you’re a good sister. Who thinks of doing stuff like that for a brother’s kids?! Freaking brilliant. Damn near made me burst into tears. And I’m not one of those bursting into tears guys. That was one super-cool move right there.

      • The Guat May 17, 2016 at 11:52 AM #

        Thanks buddy. I wanted to make a video, but he was so sick that he preferred his daughter remember him smiling and healthy. So I was glad we were able to finish it. 🙂

  2. artisticmilestones May 17, 2016 at 7:14 AM #

    I almost cried. You are truly awesome!

    • The Guat May 17, 2016 at 11:40 AM #

      Thanks for reading. He was a special dude and his daughter is doing well. Thanks for the feelings 🙂

  3. Jackie Cangro May 18, 2016 at 4:05 PM #

    Wonderful tribute! I’m sure his daughter will treasure this always. You’re awesome, G. 🙂

    • The Guat May 18, 2016 at 10:13 PM #

      Thanks so much. She’s definitely keeps it close to her and I was so glad to have done this for him. At least she has a little piece of him still. Thanks for reading and for the love.

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