It’s been rather quiet around here and I wanted to explain why. Four weeks ago, we were notified that my grandmother was ill and probably wouldn’t see the end of the year. I prayed and hoped for a miracle, but someone upstairs wanted her to spend Christmas and ring in the New Year with them.
On Thursday, December 4th, my grandmother, Elena, died. She was born in 1927 to a family of well to do farmers. During the Great Depression, her family did not experience the hardship and hunger that many families did and in fact many neighbors often came to her father where they would barter work for food. My grandmother often told the story of her family knowing Mexican Revolutionary General, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Rumor has it; he would often seek refuge at her family’s farm where he once hung one of his men after the man put the moves on one of my grandmother’s sisters. Pancho’s reasoning is often quoted as, “You don’t disrespect a friend who is helping us.” I have no idea if any of the story is true, but it’s a fun one to tell. My grandmother’s family was well off as one can be especially in the southwest. When she married my grandfather and went to live at his house, she had the money to have electricity and running water installed.
My love for Beach Party movies comes from my grandmother. I spent countless days in her care after school where I would watch Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello on the beach and have fun by dancing and singing away. There’s a joke amongst family members that my love for men in business suits (heck 3 piece is the way to go!) and angsty romances comes from the many hours of watching soap operas with her. As a young girl, I could tell you about all about Nicki, Jack, and Victor from The Young & the Restless. Heck, I remember seeing the very first episode of The Bold and the Beautiful at her house and with her. I saw The Wizard of Oz, Rudolph, How the Grinch Stole Christmas at her house. I even remember being oh four or so when I saw Gone With the Wind with her. It was her favorite film and that’s one thing we shared-we both love the film. My first Elizabeth Taylor film was National Velvet and at her house where I went on to see What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Psycho, and many others. The first Spanish soap I recall at her house was Cuna de Lobos (Den of Wolves) where we all watched intently. I remember watching Dallas, Knots Landing, Dynasty, Threes Company, M*A*S*H, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, and others in her company.
(My cousin Nahum pushing me while I ride my Strawberry Shortcake bike in my grandmother’s living room.)
I can’t remember a Halloween not spent at my grandmother’s (my dad always insisted her neighborhood was safer). Christmas time was special because we would always spend Christmas Eve at their house where we would arrive early and it was all hands on deck for helping make tamales. Kids would be given the masa to spread on the corn husks and it didn’t matter if we didn’t do a good job because the adults would fix it while my grandma poured the filling and wrapped the husks. To this day, no one has managed to make tamales like her. There are a lot of great stories featuring my grandma. One of them is about the time she had to go to the bathroom and it was super late at night and no rest areas around. My grandpa pulled over thinking they’d be okay and she was mid-squat and naked from the bottom down when a long haul trucker passed them with his highbeams on and got an eye full. LOL!
(My grandmother in the middle (with the glasses) and a baby me camping.)
She loved roses, puzzles, and lemon meringue pie. She was the center of our family. When I was little and would get in trouble with my father, I’d call her and tell her then she would ask to speak to my dad who would explain what I did. I always thought if I told on him, it would make the punishment less since his mother would punish him. She often made me cookies and I spent countless hours “helping” her polish her silver (how I covet the silver tea serving set). She loved jewelry! In fact, I remember she had these huge carat rings and she would let me try them on. My favorite was the ruby and she promised I’d get it one day, but a few of her rings went missing. I was 14 when she bought me a tennis bracelet because she felt a girl should have one. I still have it and she always envisioned it to be my signature piece, but sadly I don’t wear it because I think it’s unfair that I got one and my sister didn’t.
(My grandfather and grandmother in San Francisco a few years ago.)
I always thought she’d live forever and outlive us all. Now that the unthinkable has happened, I know life won’t ever be the same. She was a religious woman; she was once a devoted Catholic and then became a Pentecostal. She taught me how to give grace before eating, what prayers to say at night (which I still say), and how to be tolerant of other religions. When my cousin Nahum came out, she was the first to accept him openly (though truth be told we always knew. I mean how many male cousins would happy play barbies with their female cousin?). The fact she was a religious woman comforts me.
(Me trying to hide from the camera at a family member’s wedding event. My grandmother is in the polka dot dress.)
She was our Queen and even though the final years of her life, she had dementia, she was lucid the last three weeks. My father spent them with her and she chose to leave this world when he was out because she wanted her boys to leave her for it. She got to celebrate her birthday a week before her death as well as celebrates my grandfather’s. In the end, it was a peaceful passing and I’m glad.