In the last six weeks, I’ve had a few moments that got me to reflect on who I am on this planet, where I came from, and all the many memories that come over 57 trips around the Sun.
First off, welcome to the world Dylan Anthony Weber, who last month became my third grandchild.
The little guy made his debut in early December and, despite my denial, reinforced my standing as a middle-aged guy by pointing out I was the grandfather now of three grandsons.
My mind still tells me I’m in my 30s – sometimes even my 20s – but the birthdate on my driver’s license says differently. There’s no way I’m that old and sometimes I show my belief that I’m much younger when playing with the grandkids (and the trouble I get into with “Noni” from my antics).
Don’t get me wrong. Being a grandfather is a joy as in addition to hanging out with my nugget Grayson, or little paisano Nico, and now my pumpkin Dylan, I get to make up for all the shortcomings I may have had as a father who worked night shifts most the time when my kids were growing up.
After getting through the holidays where I was settling into the realization of my age and patriarchal status, I had two family passings at the beginning of the year where the funeral services were slated within two days of each other.
Before any condolences or sorrow from readers, one service was for a great-aunt on my mother’s side that lived over 105 years. The other was on my father’s side, my aunt, who was near 90.
Both lived very full and healthy lives, were very involved in their families, and their services were actual celebrations of their lives rather than grieving their loss. Very little crying, but lots of stories and laughter.
Like most families as the generations expand, the only occasions that seem to bring them all back together are weddings and funerals. Of course, we all secretly love our families, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen them, so we gather for whatever it is that brings us back together – thus was the case as I saw many of my older cousins and distant family that I hadn’t seen in decades.
My dad, whose parents came to the country from Spain, was the youngest of eight so my group of siblings and I were the youngest when it came to my cousins on that side of the family. At the other service, the one for my great-aunt Alfridina, born in Italy, there were many extended relatives, many I hadn’t seen since my childhood.
What I noticed at both services is that I was less of “Richard Paloma, 57-year-old Papa” that I was in December and more “Richie” circa late 1960s and 1970s, reliving the many stories and recollections we had together.
With the gatherings there were many family history stories and I made new discoveries about my family lineage, hearing that I had relatives who fought in the Spanish-American War, but for Spain, and about an uncle who was one of the first to land and fight in Normandy on D-Day. Another was that I had a great-uncle who was responsible for some impressive patents, some still used today.
I must say the last six weeks played a big part in my self-discovery.
Self-discovery means many things. It means finding your purpose in life; it means going back into your childhood and revealing the experiences that shaped you ... good and bad. It means appreciating your family legacy.
The effects of that discovery include happiness, fulfillment, clarity and maybe even enlightenment.
Life is much too short to simply tolerate it. It becomes enhanced when you appreciate all you’ve gone through to get where you’re at from childhood to adulthood, so I’ll accept my role as “Papa” and what the future holds as I participate in the legacy.
When little Dylan becomes my age in 2074 I can only hope he appreciates his family roots and the stories as much as I do.
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.