Dear Grandpop Cruz,

I’m writing to let you know I’m proud to be your grandson. You already knew that, but it’s worth reiterating. There are so many reasons to be proud of you. I’m proud of your service to our country during World War II. You were a true sailor, always sharing your love of the sea. With your exceptional cooking skills, you taught me how to embrace our Filipino heritage. Most of all, you showed me the meaning of family. You and Grandma, married for 73 years, created such a beautiful and loving family. You set an example for all your children and grandchildren to strive for.

When I think of you, I think about all the fun times we had on School House Lane. It was such a treat whenever we got to visit you and Grandma for birthdays, holidays, or any occasion. All of the cousins running up and down the stairs of that big old house in Germantown. There was always something delicious cooking in the kitchen. A feast you and Grandma were happy to share with your seven children and all of their children. So much laughter and love was born out of those moments. Of course, I can’t think of those times without hearing you say your catch phrase, “We’re really living now!”

When I was younger I didn’t fully understand what those words meant. You’d say those words, with wide eyes, and all the other adults would let out some deep belly laughs accompanied by ear-to-ear smiles. I’d say to myself, what’s so funny?, thinking I’d missed the joke. Now, with a few more years under my belt, I think I have a better grasp on what you mean. In all that you’d seen and done in your life it was in those moments, surrounded by family, that you felt most alive. I hope one day I’m lucky enough to provide a space where my children, and their children, can gather to create lasting positive memories. If I am so lucky, I’ll be sure to announce, “We’re really living now!” so everyone can hear it, and remember it.