So today I'm feeling a little inspired. I want to share a little story that is more truth than fiction. Let's see how that works out?
(Just warning you that it's long. And probably boring. I don't know. You've been warned.)
When I was little, my abuelita* died.I was too young to remember her, but I always felt like she was with me somehow. All my life, my family has been telling me these little things: She used to sit just like you. You have her curly hair. She loved you so much, she used to take care of you all the time. And on and on and on.
I always knew that her death was unexpected. I knew that my family took it hard, although how hard was my guess because I wasn't around. One of my favorite stories that I've heard over the years goes something like this:
When my abuelita was alive, we used to have a special knock. Whenever I wanted to go in her room, I would knock and she would know it was me. After she died, though, I stopped doing that knock. I was too little to really understand what was going on, but somehow I recognized that she wasn't there anymore.
A few years ago, my cousin came to California to visit us. This was either shortly before or shortly after she got married. She was in the living room, talking to my parents. I was lurking in the hallway, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to make my presence known. I decided on the latter. As they were talking, the subject of my abuelita came up. They were talking about the last few months of her life. This was when I learned that my abuelita had had Alzheimer's. To this day, I don't know too many details. I don't know how bad it got. I don't know how hard it was. I know it was Alzheimer's and I suppose it happened quickly - months instead of years. I don't know which one is preferable.
I feel like I'm leaving something out, but this is basically the extent of my knowledge of my abuelita, give or take some details I'm not willing to share, for personal reasons, obviously. But the fact of the matter is that she was a great person. She was a great-grandmother when she died, her great-granddaughter all of two and a half years old back then, but a great-granddaughter nonetheless. But it was me, her youngest granddaughter, who got the attention for the most part. And it was my sister who's birth she had predicted, 4 years before she was actually born, and long after my abuelita had died.
Maybe it's selfish of me, to think of her as mine. By far, I had the least amount of time with her (excluding those who were born after, since they had no time with her at all). But I can't help it.
I wonder sometimes what it'd be like if she were still around. I wonder if she'd have to taken to my sister and forgotten about me. Another selfish thought, but it's a valid point. I am not close at all to my grandma who is still living. It's probably a shame, but for whatever reason, I feel like I'm not missing out on anything. My grandma is closer to my cousin than to me or my sister. And that is fine with me. Maybe it's because I'm under the illusion that, if my abuelita were still here, maybe I'd be close to her. Sometimes my older cousin talks about how close she and abuelita were. And I can't help but wonder if I'd have had that, too.
All this aside. Every now and then, I visit my abuelito** and we always manage to get onto one of two topics: Ecuador (where my dad's family is from) or my abuelita.
A few weeks ago, around the new year, my family and I made one of these visits. When my abuelito greeted me, he did not hesitate in saying that he had two surprises for me. One: a tape of my 7th birthday, which we then watched from beginning to end, marveling at how small everyone was. The second? Well, I have to admit, I couldn't wrap my head around it. He was really excited about it, but insisted on giving it to me after the video.
Giving it to me? What was it?
Now, I'm a reader, and a writer. Probably more by temperament than anything else. Sound like something we've all read about, right? A family member dies and leaves something behind. It could be anything. I wasn't expecting anything particularly fancy. I wasn't expecting much of anything at all. It could anything. So I ooh-ed and ahh-ed with my family. I watched, I did, because damn, we really were small back then. But in the back of my mind, I wondered.
When the movie finally finished, my abuelito went into his room and came out excitedly, with a little pouch in his hands. (I swear there is no sight more dear to me than my abuelito when he's excited.)
He holds it for a bit, as he explains that my abuelita left this for me when she died. He's had it all this time and he had no idea what was inside the pouch. But he insisted it was for me, for when I was older. And I guess he had deemed that I was old enough. With such a statement, maybe I thought it was a ring?
It wasn't a ring, though. No, it was something much more to my liking, although I'll admit I was surprised at first.
It was a pair of earrings.
I got my ears pierced when I was just a few weeks old. I used to wear earrings every day for years, until Robinson's May went out of business and I lost the only store that carried those earrings (I would always lose the back and have to get a new pair) and I lost the last back of the last pair I had. Since then, I've worn earrings off and on. And lately, I haven't been wearing earrings at all. To the point where I'm in danger of my holes closing. So when I saw the earrings, I was shocked, to say the least. I was on the verge of tears. This woman, who had only known me as a baby, cared enough to leave behind these earrings. And even though I don't wear them as much anymore, that hit me. I don't know how I kept the tears in then. And I don't know how I'm keeping them in now.
So even though I don't remember her. Even though I don't know her. I feel like I do, somehow. I feel like maybe she's closer than I think. And maybe one day I can thank her. But until then, I'm grateful for every day I have with my abuelito.
*Spanish term used to describe a beloved grandmother
**Spanish term used to describe a beloved grandfather