I lost my grandpa to COVID-19

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(Illustrated by Kendal Foreman/ Warrior Life)

My mom went inside the hospital and I waited in the car. My two aunts met us there hoping they would let them in to see my grandpa once more. I thought mom would come back with some good news about my grandpa.

She didn’t.

My mom and aunts decided there was nothing more they could do after weeks of trying everything they could to save him. While anxiously waiting, my stepdad came to the car with tears streaming down his face and told me that my grandpa died.

He died from COVID-19 complications.

I was in shock and my eyes instantly filled with tears. I began to have an anxiety attack and was trembling uncontrollably. It felt like a nightmare.

My mom came out of the hospital and comforted me. She held me as I was trembling. She thought I was just cold because it was windy outside. I just stayed quiet and let her believe I was cold. After I was able to calm down, I got out of the car and waited outside with the rest of my family. I sat down on a bench that faced the entrance of the hospital alone.

“Why my grandpa?”

As I was trying to calm down, I began receiving phone calls and texts from my closest friends and a few family members that wanted to give their condolences. It seemed that the word got out fast and many of our family and friends found out.

Everything felt so overwhelming and when people were trying to call me, it frustrated me even more. I hated how some people who called me asked me questions about things I haven’t begun to think about or about things I didn’t want to answer.

“What’s going to happen now?”

“Have you guys started setting up the funeral and burying?”

“How are you feeling?”

I wanted to scream my head off.

I was grateful that family and friends wanted to make sure I was OK. What made me upset was that every phone call reminded me that my grandpa was gone.

During the car ride home my head was pounding and my eyes were red. The last time I saw my grandpa was Thanksgiving, without realizing it would be my last. I wish I could go back in time to hug my grandpa again and tell him I love him one more time.

My family and I prayed every day for my grandpa to get better but he only continued to get worse. There were many people who fought COVID-19 like my grandpa did but unfortunately didn’t make it in the end. Between the beginning of January 2020 and March 3, 2021, 494,235 deaths were caused by COVID-19 in the United States.

I think that’s why his death really hurt so much because it was unexpected. We didn’t even get to spend his last days with him.

When I have gone to his house, I feel like he’s going to arrive home from work soon in his big white Toyota truck, but he isn’t. Other times, I feel like he’s going to call me sometime during the day or come to my house, but he isn’t. He was 67 and my last remaining grandparent.

My grandpa, Manuel de Jesus Romero, was an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico.

In 1975 my grandpa officially made the U.S. his home after marrying my grandma, Maria del Rosario Rodriguez. They were married for 42 and half years until my grandma died in 2017. He came here for his American Dream and to provide his future family a better life.

My grandpa was a businessman. He went through hell and back to get to where he was before he died. He was the owner of a restaurant named Rod’s Grill in Arcadia. He was a very hard working man and he traveled from Torrance to Arcadia every day. He would leave for work at 7 a.m and get home around 4 p.m.

My grandpa worked seven days a week with no sick days.

Throughout this past year, my grandpa continued to go to work. He put his life at risk when he should’ve just stayed home. Unfortunately, in order to pay his bills, he had to go and work.

If I told him to stay home, maybe he would still be here.

There are days where I have many regrets about what I could’ve done to be a better granddaughter but I know I was the best granddaughter my grandpa could’ve asked for. I’m extremely grateful that I was able to make many memories with my grandpa these past 20 years.

His passing leaves so much pain but all my memories with him bring me joy. I will never forget our Papa John’s pizza parties on Sundays.

“Grandpa, you know I’m cutting back on bread.”

He laughed knowing I would still eat a slice of pizza. He was right. I did.

He would always embarrass me in public.

We’d be in his car at a stoplight, he would roll down my window, and yell at the people crossing by.

I always buried my face in my hands with embarrassment while he laughed.

We always tried to make my little sister Mia jealous. She hated sharing him with anyone. My grandpa would hug me in front of her and we’d laugh. Sometimes she would be mad and push me away. Other times she cried for attention.

We all miss him and the jokes he made, like calling my little sister “trouble” because she is a troublemaker.

I feel like a part of me won’t ever be the same again.

I know he may no longer be present physically but I know he is watching down on me and my family. All my hard work will be for him because I want to make him proud.