If you understand my pain then you are among the lucky ones who have had someone so special in your life that their absence causes such a deep-rooted and painful spot in your soul! That's what my grandparents were to me! They were two amazing people who gave me unconditional love...always...no matter what I did or didn't do!
One was my Grandma-my father's mother. She lived four hours south of us. When we went to visit her she would wait up-no matter how late- and she would have homemade flour tortillas and a beautiful dinner waiting for us. I got to sleep with her and we would talk ALL night about everyone and everything! The next day her house would be crowded with countless cousins and aunts and uncles all eating Grandma's delicious food that she made with love from her soul. She always sat on her porch and watched people pass by. Nearly everyone in her town knew who she was and so most of the passersby had at least a wave for my Grandma! She spoke in English and in Spanish fluently, but when she said my cousin Nicole's name it sounded like Nickel. I loved that and so did "Nickel".
She was a mother of eight and therefore, a hard-worker! For most of her life she was a single mom. She buried two spouses and two sons before she left this Earth! She lived alone and maintained a clean home while working a full-time job at "la packing-house" as she referred to it, where she packed oranges that had just been picked from the nearby groves. When we visited we always had fresh fruit to eat and freshly squeezed orange juice!
She was strong and fearlessly independent! When she wanted to visit us or her other two sons and their families who lived near us, Grandma would take the Greyhound bus and phone my dad to tell him that she was in town. We would rush to pick her up and I carried her very old, but sturdy luggage to the car. Hmmm...old, but sturdy...I had never noticed that parallel prior to this moment! She was a woman of modest means, but she loved to go to Reno, Nevada to gamble. She would set aside a gambling allowance and when someone in the family was heading that way they'd take Grandma along. She gambled what she had saved and no more!
With the change she won she would start to save two little sandwich baggies filled with coins- one for my brother and one for me! We were her youngest grandchildren and everyone knows that I was her favorite! I am not afraid to say it! There aren't many things I am sure of in this world, but being Granmda's girl was a certainty for me! She introduced me to Country Time Lemonade, bologna in a tortilla, walking anywhere you wanted to go if you didn't have a car at the moment, and RC Cola straight from a glass bottle and recycling the bottles when we were done!
My Grandma died suddenly! I was going to p.e. class my sophmore year in high school. I got an urgent message to go meet my mom in the office. I immediately knew something was wrong when I saw her face! That four hour drive to her hospital bedside was the worst drive I have ever endured! Every so often I'd catch the reflection of my dad's worried and distant look in the rear view mirror and I'd shrink back down in my seat and silently cry. That drive we were all quiet and I knew each of us was praying in our own way.
The nurses were not going to let my brother and me in to see my Grandma because we were underage. Thankfully, my tough aunt/Godmother, also a nurse in another hospital, strongly persuaded the nurses to let us in. At that moment I was so happy to go in, but shortly after I realized why my aunt fought so hard for us and why the nurses bent the rules.
Three days later I kissed my Grandma goodbye for the final time and watched my dad through the doorway as he remained by Grandma's side as she passed away! It was Thanksgiving Day and in Grandma's fridge was a turkey and on her counter were most of the items needed for a Thanksgiving Day feast.
Grandma died with 20-something grandchildren and 37- or so great-grandchildren. The numbers have only multiplied over the years and I even named my first-born with part of Grandma's name. I wish she could have known my children and my husband! She would have loved them! I do believe she watches over me and I dream about her sometimes, but I miss her immensely nonetheless! I love you so much, Grandma!
My Grandpa- my mom's dad- was my Wello (short for Abuelo). He was AWESOME! That word, along with amazing, is used far too often in my opinion, but my Wello was! He could fix anything...a broken piece of jewelry, an appliance, a car, someone's self-esteem! He was loved by everyone he met. He was the one person who held me when I sobbed uncontrollably at my Grandma's funeral. He bought me my first pair of diamond earrings when I turned 5 and again when I turned 16. He dressed impeccably. Everyone admired his taste. He loved to dress well. He adored navy blue suits and accentuated his style with tie-tac and cuff links.
He, too, was a hard worker and father of six daughters and one son. When they were little, my mom told me stories, that he would line up their shoes and polish them before they went out anywhere. He never liked scuffed shoes. He also taught his grandsons to never start undressing when they are at a dance- wedding, quinceanera, party, etc. He'd say that it said a lot about a man who started to undress immediately at a reception. You know, the guys who undo their ties, unbutton and untuck their shirt, and remove their suit coat or tuxedo jacket. When my brother went to prom Wello let him borrow his diamond tie-tac and cuff-link set.
He worked in the school district most of his life as a custodian and was at one time the only hispanic in the entire school district! He fought racism and poverty in his life, but he had the most love and acceptance for people than anyone I have ever known! He was wise and brilliant! He taught me that those who listen are often smarter and wiser than those who are always speaking- even if they speak as though they are the most intelligent people on this Earth! He served in the Navy and loved this country with a passion! No matter what ailed him, he took the privilege to vote as such and always made sure he cast his vote! He always wore an American flag pin and that's something my kids remember about him!
My Wello could dance like no other! Forget So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars, my Wello could've danced circles around them! At parties he'd glide my Abuela around the floor as all the women watched adoringly. The other little girls and I would sit in the corner as I proudly claimed, "That's MY Wello!" "Aaahhh!" the other little girls always swooned!
My Wello died 5 years ago, so he got to meet my kids and my husband, but it still wasn't enough time! My oldest was just crying about him two days ago! Still to this day, when I encounter someone from the school district that knew my Wello they will come up to me and ask if I am his granddaughter. They feel the need to tell me everytime I see them just how much my Grandfather meant to them! "It was an honor to know him," they always say. Indeed, it was!
I can't stop missing my grandparents lately and it hurts, but this post isn't meant to be a downer! About a decade before my Grandpa died I felt that I wanted to write a book about his life. I asked him if I could interview him and he agreed. I spoke to him privately in his room and I was surprised at how much he revealed. I loved him all the more for it!
Take a lesson from me and if you still have a wonderful grandparent or any special person in your life...photograph them often, ask them questions about their life, and really get to know them! Appreciate them now- in this moment!
This post is obviously dedicated to two of the most wonderful people I didn't have enough time with- Grandma and Wello! They can never be duplicated, but having known them has made me a better person and a passionate human being!
To my readers, may you experience this kind of love with at least one person in your lifetime and may you mean this much to someone else!
Wishing you all dreams to fulfill and the inspiration needed to do so!
Give it a listen: The music that inspired this blog was "El Nino Perdido" performed by Mariachi Nuevo Tecatlitlan, "Volver Volver" by Vicente Fernandez, "Angel of Mine" by Monica, "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel, and "I Will Remember You" by Amy Grant.