I write for immortality. In times of grief and loss, I write for the immortality of the one whom we have lost. Today I write for a good friend and woman who called me granddaughter from the moment we met.
Where to begin? With her kindness to all living creatures? With her patience for mankind? With her faith? With her generosity to neighbors? With her great cooking and propensity for hospitality, not in a “Bring out the fine china” sort of way, in a “You will always feel welcomed and warmed in my home” sort of way.
I suppose the place to begin is where so much begins: with Marcus. This woman is, was, Marcus’ Abuela. Well, technically, his bisabuela – his great grandmother.
There was only one time in all the years I knew her that she got short with me. (I mean this in a colloquial way, as she was always short in stature. A small, mighty, woman raised in a country 6000 miles away from where we sat that day.) I was pregnant and not very good at it, I didn’t want to eat, and she said, “You may not want to eat, but you carry my great-grandson, and he needs to eat. You eat!” I ate.
Abuela never waivered in her love for Marcus. She never doubted he could and would learn, work, and create. She gave her love to him in a way that imparted her own strength of being to him. She was so very proud of him. I want to explain this pride in fancy words, but they are out of reach. Her pride came not from what he could do, not for how he looked, or didn’t, or said, or didn’t, she was proud of who he was. Period. She always loved Marcus wholly for who he was. She never expected him (or me) to prove him worthy. She loved him.
She accepted him. She believed in him and his life and his value. In any place, small town or grand city, she would be proud to introduce him, proud to hold his hand, proud of him as her great-grandson. Ironically, for me, this kind of love pushes me. It makes me want to be worthy. For Marcus, I don’t know…He reacted as he always does to love, he returned it.
The language barrier between them was doublewide – with Marcus’ language not always clear and her English as a second language – they pretty much spoke in hugs. She squeezed him tightly and said, “Te amo, Marcus” and he hugged back, not quite so tightly as she got older and more fragile and said, “I love you, too, Abuela.”
She was the bravest woman I have ever known. She immigrated to the USA when she was 54 years old, did not yet know the language but worked hard, made friends, and learned English. She and her husband came to America because, among other reasons, their first grandchild would be born here. They left behind a world they knew and came to a small town in Middle-America because…family. She lived long, longer than she expected that’s for certain. Her husband died over twenty years ago. She often reminded me that Abuelo, too, loved Marcus very much. I knew this though, from the secret language between Spanish and English that he and I shared during the short time we knew one another.
There is so much more to say about Abuela, about all of what she taught and gave to me. She called me family, always. Marcus held a place in her heart that no one could ever take, replace, or budge. She chose to give her love and her faith and her life freely and bravely and generously to many. She lived her life giving and teaching; she belonged to everything that is good. Marcus and I will miss her.
Several years ago Marcus and I got to see the musical In the Heights on Broadway in New York City. It is one of my all-time favorites. This story had an Abuela as well. She was very much like our Abuela, in that she gave of herself, and she gave beyond herself, and her faith lifted her and those around her. Here is a copy of the song “Alabanza” from that soundtrack. It’s beauty and emotion are what we feel today. Sing with us.