Ironic? This is the greeting you should be receiving at 9 am not 9 pm, right? However, aren’t we happy we survived this Monday? Honestly, I never really got this, the whole “Monday mornings suck” thing. In my opinion, all mornings suck. Only because I have a hard time getting up, which is why I’m usually running late. What? I’ve made my peace with it, so get over it.
I’m not really a morning person; although, others might think differently. These “others” are those that wake up at lunch time. You know who you are.
I’ve mentioned the getting up part; however, when I have something fun planned in the morning, I’m up! Usually before my alarm, which is why people think I’m a morning person. But no real conversations take place until I’ve had my morning coffee, anything I say before a drop of caffeinated goodness has entered my system cannot be taken seriously. You have been warned!
Let’s move on.
Today was a special day, a sad one, but still a special day. Today, May 19th is my Grandmother’s birthday. Not really quite sure how old she would have been because we could never find her birthday certificate, we are not even sure if there ever was an official certificate drawn up. She didn’t really care about age, all she knew is that there was an “hambruna” (famine) when she was born. We estimated her year of birth around 1913, but we are not sure.
See, my grandmother ran away from her home in Santa Rosa de Lima, El Salvador at age 13 (if not younger my mother says 10, but I think it was 13), and left to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She ran away because her brothers, one in particular would beat her on a constant. She would share some of the things he would do to her and I remember sitting across from her, holding back the tears. All the while wondering why in the world she would name her son after that SOB! Luckily, my uncle is nothing like this beast.
Back to my Abue, so in order for her to find some work and get an ID, she had to lie about her age. Hence, this is where the whole thing started.
Pretty amazing story right? She was an amazing woman. The entire day I kept remembering moments we lived together. The times we would fight and the times we would get along. The odd thing was that when no one was around, we never argued. We were synced in a way, it was pretty crazy. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t always fight, but we did have our arguments.
She was really old school, and extremely protective. I mean she was a lioness when it came to her children and grandchildren. My mother tells me stories of how, in their old neighborhood or “colonia” in El Salvador, which was a bad one. Everyone knew not to miss with Doña Virginia’s kids, as it was in our colonia when I lived out there. Everyone from the bus drivers to the guys hanging out in the corner knew who’s grandbaby I was.
I met my Grandmother for the first time in 1985, it was my first time visiting El Salvador. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was 5 years old. I was just happy to meet my siblings and my grandmother. But when I got there, I was scared of her. She was missing teeth and the Rheumatoid arthritis had done a number on her knees, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Plus, she could swear like the best of them (Now you Heffa’s know where I get it from!).
Oh yea, I think I forgot to mention that this was the first time they were finding out about me. My mother didn’t tell them she had a daughter in the United States…and…so…yea….I was the surprise! But my Abue, was happy, she was thrilled and loved me in that instant for all the other years she didn’t.
My mother left with my older brother, it was war time, boys where in danger. I didn’t know it then, but that’s why we were there, to get him out. I had to stay, and make sure they made it to the US okay. War was around me, one never forgets the sights and sounds of war; however, my Abue and my older sister Roxana kept it from affecting my reality as much as they could.
When it was time for me to go, Abue cried and even pleaded with my mother to let me stay. I don’t remember if I wanted to go or not, but I returned home.
This was the routine for many years to come: we arrive, she cries, we leave, she cries. My Abue cried a lot, she was strong and sentimental…SHIT! I just realized I’m like that too.
Back to her, I would love watching her, as she watched her novelas. She would get so into it, I mean she would yell at the television, telling the poor guy or girl off. She would laugh and cry. Classic Abue. But the best part was when she would doze off with the television on, we would always try to turn it off; however, every single time we hit the power switch, she would automatically wake up and yell at you, this is how it went:Abue: Porque me la apagaste? (why did you turn it off?) Me: Abuela, estaba dormida (Grandma, you were asleep) Abue: Noooo, nooo, no lo estaba! (Noooo, nooo, I was not!) Me: Abue, pero si estaba roncando. (Grams, you were snoring) Abue: No jodas, estaba descansando mis ojos!” (Like shit I was, I was resting my eyes!)
My Abue, is my hero. She’s just awesome. I mean she was just so strong, loving, and kind. My grandmother loved everyone, if she just met you, she would be so kind to you, you would think you’ve known each other for ages. All the kids in the neighborhood would greet her: “Buenos dias Abuela!” “Adios abuela” as they made their way to school. They also inquired about her when she was no longer at her spot by the door, this was around the time she got sick.
She was a fighter, she didn’t care much for status quo. She did things her way, and she was always about helping other people.
My grandmother, didn’t have an education, but God she was brilliant! She taught herself to read and write, she was a quick study, particularly at math. She had to be, when my mom and uncles were small, she had her own store. It wasn’t open long, she had to close it. She wasn’t making any money, not because she wasn’t business savvy, but because as my mom put it, she would give stuff away. She couldn’t help to see people hungry, especially kids. She would tell everyone “pay me back when you can” but the people in that neighborhood were so poor, they never could. But you see my grandmother didn’t care, she saw this as a blessing to be able to help people.
My grandmother was not high or middle class, they were poor. But my grandmother worked hard to make sure her kids were taken care of.
It’s funny how the more I think of her and the more I describe her, the more I realize how much we are alike. It’s not news, but it’s a confirmation. My mom always says I’m like her mother, she actually said my Abue told her “Esa niña es igual a mi” (That little girl is just like me.”) My mother said she didn’t pay her any mind, because as you can see from the photos, we are nothing alike-night and day. But I guess my grandmother saw something else, something that she could only identify, because it was a part of her.
When I moved to El Salvador, I was honored and blessed to get to know my grandmother better. We talked, she shared her stories, her joys, her moments of sadness, and we were just in the moment.
Every day at 5 pm, it was time for our cafe con pan, or atole. That’s when we would talk, it was just the both of us in the house. Her caregiver was in school and the sergeant (my second oldest sister and my legal guardian at the time) was at work.
These are the moments I will forever cherish. These are the moments that I hope to one day be able to share with my kids.
I hope to one day be able to share the stories of an amazing women who helped me find myself by just being herself. How she loved Pollo Campero, novelas, and the loteria. A woman who loved to dance tango, and who was passionate about the things and people she loved. Share the stories of how Abue was way beyond her time. Tell them how Abue was proposed to by one of the Wright Brothers, how her favorite US President was Kennedy, because he made sure the Salvadoran kids in school had milk. Share with them how Abue, was never unkind to anyone, no matter what creed, the color of your skin, level of education or class, she loved and cared for everyone across the board.
Show them pictures that I rescued from my mother before she tore them up because they show her in what some might consider a taboo pose, but I see as pure art.
I hope to one day be the woman that my Abuela was, she was small but mighty. A force to be reckoned with, she was truly amazing.
I’m honored to be her granddaughter, I’m honored to carry her name, and my heart radiates with pride when someone says I’m just like her. How I wish she could see me now, how I wish I could talk to her. How I wish I could see her face light up with pride as it would when she would talk about my two older sisters who had graduated from University. I wish I could see her fall asleep in front of the television, wish I could hear her sing her favorite Tango. How I wish she was still here too see how far I’ve come, me, the black sheep of the family. How I wish I could tell her how she helped me finally feel as a member of this family. I just hope she knew how special she was to me.
How I wish I would have been brave enough to make my life out there with you, so I could have been there till your last days.
I know you’re with me, every minute, hour, and every day of my life. I just wish I could hug you one last time.