I’m back. After overwhelming demand, I am forced to cut my hiatus short. OK, well maybe the demand wasn’t exactly overwhelming. OK, maybe you wouldn’t even call it demand. But the important thing is that I’m back, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
But in all seriousness, I decided to hit the keyboard again because of loss in my family. My maternal grandmother passed away on Tuesday, January 24. She was 88 years old, and much like my father at the time of his passing, just a shadow of her former self. She was old and frail, and spent the last 4 months of her life in an assisted living facility. Like the rest of my family, I am very saddened by the loss, yet I am relieved to know she is finally at rest.
And although her last several years were spent struggling against dementia and senility, I will always remember her as the firecracker of a woman who was, and always will be, my Abuelita. I will always remember her witty sense of humor and her unselfish nature. From café’ con leche, to crackers smothered in butter, to six packs of malta, my grandmother always had something to provide for all of us. I will never forget how mischievous she was, playing pranks on her grandchildren and loving every minute of it. Not only was she the matriarch of my family in Miami, she was my second mother growing up. She was the one who would watch us whenever my parents needed to go somewhere. It was her house that would mend me to health when I was too sick to go to school. It was her smile and boundless love that spoiled me and created the dreamy memories of a very blessed childhood.
How I longed for Fridays as a child. For it was every Friday evening that we would all congregate at her house. By all I mean her 5 children and their spouses (my aunts, uncles and parents), and their children (my cousins, my brother and myself). As young children, Friday afternoons spilled into Friday evenings of hide-and-seek, races to the fourth street light, and trip over the parking lot wall to the mom-and-pop store to buy (and sometimes steal) baseball cards. The men of the family would sit and play dominoes all night while the women would spend the evenings at the grocery stores. I say stores because there was always savings to be found by going the ten extra blocks from Pantry Pride to Winn Dixie. “I’m not paying $2 extra for chicken!”
As young adults (and I use that phrase very loosely), it was usually a joy ride in someone’s car. Usually it was my cousin Greg, the leader of our rambunctious bunch, behind the wheel and the rest of us just trying to be cool. On other nights, grandma’s house was merely a pit stop for a shower and a change before a big school dance or Halloween party at the cool kid’s house.
No matter the situation or circumstance, my fondest memories of my childhood always go back to my grandmother’s house. And in many ways, my archetypal beliefs regarding family, tradition and love were formed from those many Fridays that were spent in the presence of family. Those experiences and events defined me and guided me through grade school, little league, high school and, eventually, to a life beyond the Miami city limits. Those memories will always be good. Those memories will always be safe. Those memories will always be home.
So as I think about her being reunited with my grandfather and the conversations she is having with her beloved husband, I think about how the sun shines a little bit brighter because of her presence in Heaven. I think about how truly grateful I am to have been born into a family like mine, and how fortunate I am to have been loved without limits by the little old lady that will always be my Abuelita.
Abuela, te quiero mucho y te estrano. Se que estas con el Senor y descansando en el cielo. Gracias por todo que usted me dio.