My grandfather filled the position of my father.

August 23 was my grandfather’s birthday. He would be ninety five this year. He passed away on April 3, 2013.

My (maternal) grandfather was the most important person in my life. Having an absentee/sexist biological father, he stepped up to the plate and was the father my father could never be.

He was the one who loved me unconditionally. He was the one who supported me in all of my endeavors. He was the person who taught me the value of hard work, the importance of family, the definition of love. My grandfather was my hero. He still is.

I so often speak about being a Latina, because even in my Hispanic father’s absence, it has been a tremendous part of my life, and my story. I look Hispanic, I write in Spanish, sometimes I even speak Spanish. If there was a “gaydar” for Hispanics, your “Latina-dar” would pick up my signal from miles away. I am a short, feisty, Latina. There’s no doubt about that.

One thing that always surprised me as I grew up was how my family would tell me how much I look like my Irish grandfather’s mother, Mary. I couldn’t understand it.

She had passed long before I came around, so I never got the opportunity to see her or meet her. I am the darkest one in my family. Though family resemblances are strong, I still kind of stick out (as much as a 5’1” woman can stick out).

My mother, brother, uncle, and grandparents look white. Their hair is lighter, their features are more Anglo. Me? I look like a short Hispanic woman. And yet everyone around me says that I look like her.

She was short (both sides of my family are very short). She apparently had dark hair. Supposedly her features were small and round, as mine are. I believe she was also buxom, which I am as well.

It’s weird thinking than Irish woman looks so much like a Latina, and vice versa. But apparently we do. And I am honored.

I’m honored because if you were to ask my grandfather about his mother, he’d become slightly misty-eyed. He would tell you of her strength raising her sons by herself, as his father died at a young age.

He would go into detail about how she worked two or even three jobs at a time to support her family and keep food on the table. She helped them all to get their first jobs so that they could succeed.

He did succeed, thanks to her. She even needed to bury one who died when he was only 17; she maintained her courage throughout it all. She was his hero. My grandfather loved his mother deeply. Always the good man, he paid it back to her, and then some.

When I was in that hospital room watching him slip away in his sleep last year, I did not see a ninety three year old man laying in that bed. I saw Mary’s son – her little boy; I knew that she was watching him and was ready to welcome him back home with open arms.

I could see her: a woman that I reflect, holding him tightly. Keeping him safe, the way he used to for me. Even though we never met, we are family and we are connected through a man that we both love and adore greatly.

I can never deny my Hispanic roots. I cannot deny my Irish roots, either. For that, I am grateful.