The Distance in All These Years of Living

In all the years I’ve been alive
I’ve never looked in anyone’s eyes
and said Grandma or Grandpa,
Lola or Lolo.
My mother’s parents died
before I was born—
bad hearts, bad debts—
and my father’s were
a continent and an ocean away.
Unless his job was taking him on a trip,
he couldn’t go there and
they couldn’t come here.
We lived through winters
wearing thick coats in heavy snow.
Sometimes warm music from the islands
played on the stereo in the living room
when outside everything was cold.
I’d look at black and white photographs
with creased corners and that
was all I ever got to see and
almost all I ever got to know.
My father’s dad died,
and then his mom,
and the only place
my father could go to be still
was to the next room
where he looked steadily and silently
toward the floor,
knowing that
distance is a force
that must be reckoned with.

-Jose Padua

The photograph of (left to right) Tony Padua, Jose Padua, and Cosme Padua was taken on “S” Street near Dupont Circle in Washington DC in 1963 or ’64.


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