Death By Isolation

He was a hard working man, the kind of person who awoke before sunrise to feed his animals, the kind of farmer who tended his fields until his hands bruised, and the kind of father that didn’t rest until there was food on the table. He lived in a world very different from ours, a time where people traveled on horseback, and all work was done by hooves, where water was fetched from rivers, and all messages were sent by foot. It was a rough life, and raising and supporting 14 children was a stressful and never-ending job.

I remember paying a visit to my grandpa at least once every year when my family and I visited Mexico. He lived about 10 minutes from the town, on a small farm diverse with animals,—goats, sheep, chickens, cows, mules, and horses—which provided my grandpa with the food, business, and company he needed. He lived in the same house he had built a long time ago with the help of his oldest sons (including my father), and for several years it was the home for his expanding family. As each one of his children reached the right age, they left the confinements of the farm to start their new lives and careers elsewhere, and the house which was once full of chaos and life went vacant. For reasons I was never told, my grandparents separated shortly after their last child moved out; my grandma moved into the town, and my grandpa stayed on the farm, alone.

I never understood why my grandpa conformed to living such a solitary life when he had plenty of friends and family. His house was much too large for a single person, and his struggles were much too hard to surpass alone, but that didn’t matter; he roasted his own coffee, he killed his own deer, he fetched water from his own well, and he cropped his own fields. My dad said he was a solitary man and that he enjoyed being alone, but I’m sure his isolation wasn’t completely intended.

I never realized how lonely he was until he died. It was December 25th, 2009, around 10AM when they announced him dead, but my father was not notified until around 10PM later that night. It was definitely the worst news he had ever received; and it was definitely the worst Christmas present I had ever gotten. Despair and sorrow hung in the air like memories and thoughts hung in my mind; the sudden drive back to Petaluma from my aunt’s house in Merced was short and silent.

My grandpa died in a car accident. His vehicle flipped over after losing control on a turn he had made a hundred times in the past. The weight of his truck crushed his body. They say he died on impact; I hope they are right.

He was 73 years old, a father of 14 children, and a grandfather of many more. He worked hard for the benefit of others, and asked for nothing more than their gratitude in return. It’s a shame how such a loving man could live such a lonely life. That Christmas night when I heard the news I couldn’t help but to ask myself: Why wasn’t grandpa spending Christmas with the family? That night I realized that grandpa didn’t die because of the car accident, but instead because of his loneliness.