(delivered June 26, 2002)
My great grandfather, my Guelo, Eduardo Ansiso, died on Saturday morning at a Weslaco nursing home. He was 92. Much to our regret, he did not die at home, as would have been his choice. Toward the end of his life, he barely got around. But having a Great Grandfather, Grandfather, father and friend die at 92 is worth noting. Many of the people who were born around the same time died two or three decades ago.
I will remember my great grandfather through my own eyes and the eyes of his sons and daughters, my mom and dad -- his grandchildren. I guess I am lucky because my grandmother lived next door to my great grandfather. When I was born, my Guelo was already over 60.
For all my life we did not visit one without visiting the other. Guelo was a kind man. Many times he would say something funny, but sometimes his humor went over my head. But my mom and dad always caught the joke. His sense of humor, and his wit, were hallmarks of his life.
I heard that his brother last night was telling stories about Guelo that were very funny and often cutting. I guess a sense of humor is an Ansiso trait because those of you who know my Tio Yo-Yo or my Uncle Pepe know how funny they can be.
My uncle, or better yet my great uncle or maybe no-so-great uncle Hernan (Don't worry -- he told me I could say that) talks about the times he would tell Guelo that he wanted to bring Tia Mary back to him and Guelo would say, "No! You wanted her, you get to keep her!" No refund. That was funny to everyone except Tia Mary.
Papa Chito used to play cards with the family when my mom was younger. He liked chalupa and bingo, but he loved poker. He took poker playing seriously and enjoyed bluffing. Sometimes he'd win. I understand he bluffed a lot.
One thing I always noticed and everyone who knew him agrees about is that Guelo was a hard working man. He enjoyed work and he worked hard. None of us will probably ever match his work or physical strength. He had brute strength and was skilled with his hands. He was very proud of the work he did in the forming and cement construction at DFW airport.
He was there when that airport was nothing more than pasture land. How he got around on limited English in Dallas, only God knows. He survived, I guess on horse sense, smarts and wits. Tio Yo-Yo told a story about the work in Dallas. In one of those hot, windy days in North Texas, trying to get a line with a string with a mouth full of dust is hard to do. So Guelo tells his boss man, Shorty, "Dammit, Shorty! Cuando too mucho wind I no can see the string!"
Early in his life, he helped deliver mail from Brownsville to El Zacatal and ranches along the military highway. This was done in wagons and probably with mules.
Since Saturday, my family is reconnecting with its roots. As stories are being told one quality that is remembered is the lack of envy or jealousy in Papa Chito's life. No one can think of an evil word spoken by him about another person. He just wasn't that way.
Guelo was a good man, a hard working man, and a man with a great sense of humor. Perhaps he lived so long because he knew how to laugh.
I drove in from Austin last night at around 1:30 a.m. I came over 1st Street and saw his house, beige with the maroon trim. Three was a wreath at the front door. I swung around the corner and that was when it hit me. I couldn't imagine Guelo not being there at the house. He was there all my life and I thought he would be there forever.
Guelo, we love you, we miss you, we will remember you and we will laugh more because of you.