It has been a month or so since I last posted. But, there are some of you who follow me and converse with me via Facebook…and you already know why this sabbatical is on the horizon. And why it’s needed.
On May 17, 2015 (exactly a month after my return from Puerto Rico) my grandmother passed away at the age of 77-years-old. Except, she wasn’t just a grandmother, she was the matriarch. Our leader at the helm. A woman that provided some of the only unconditional love that several of my family members had ever experienced, although they existed in this world living with two parents. And because my mother worked 12-hour shifts, four days a week, I spent this time with my grandmother from the age of 1 – 14. She was my second parent; filling in the blanks of a father’s role.
While my earliest memory is of my mother…almost every memory involving food is with my grandmother. She taught me to cook. From our walks through the neighborhood on our way to Kmart; this is where she’d point out (and eat) persimmons, walnuts, plums and grapes in the ghost gardens. But, also she pointed out how the senses were important. She once plucked some leaves of spearmint from a fence, pinched it with her fingers and told me to lean in and enhale the aroma. She taught me honesty; she’d push the shopping cart home from Kmart with me sitting underneath, eventually I got too heavy for this and she replied, “Aye gorda, you too heavy. I can’t push you anymore.” And my response was, “Just today, or forever?” My idea was that I was probably too heavy a few years before this, but she pushed my heavy ass as long as she could, because she loved me so much. She’d often joyfully allow me to snuggle in the contours of her body, “Mi niña, mi gorda,” she’d reply. Let’s not mention that I was well into my twenties and still doing this.
It’s not entirely surprising that the responsibility of the arrangements of her funeral, apartment, logistics had fallen onto the shoulders of my organized oldest cousin and my mother, the executor of the estate. But, since I’m an only child of a single parent home, the burdens that rest on my mother’s shoulder
often inevitably…fall onto mine. And so they did. We set out to plan the funeral arrangements hypersonically; rummaging through the house for insurance claims numbers, medical equipment companies, crowd controlling my grandma’s friends who all appeared to offer condolences and to place orders on what items they wanted, picking out a dress, packing things in her apartment up before the end of the month…boom…BOOM…BOOM! It felt like it never stopped. Let’s not forget we had to come up with money for some of the arrangements that left my oldest cousin dipping into her savings, me wiping out my savings and my mother taking out a bank loan.
Where my mom didn’t want to make decisions (she refused to look at caskets), my cousin stepped in. Where my cousin had finally exerted herself, my mom finally stepped in. My poor cousin felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, and who could blame her?! And I tried to be…I don’t know. There? In the end it was just my mother and myself cleaning out my grandma’s apartment. Everyone had already gone back to their lives and we were left to place my grandma’s belongings into cardboard boxes.
I had forgotten how large our family actually is because we never see each other. It was nice that there were so many people to mourn my nana. She had seven children, 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
I’m a childless only child of a single parent…who will be there to mourn me? I’m scared shitless. I have been looking around at all the photos my mom took from my grandma’s that she’ll eventually pass on to me. But, what will happen to those photos once I’m gone? Are they gonna show up in the thrift store or end up in the dump? I know we all go out into that cold and gentle goodnight alone…but, I’ll have to be alone even before that darkness overtakes me.
No one in my family will ever know unconditional love again. The kind of love that’s provided to you without judgment and without strings attached. I’m lost without this love. I don’t know who I am or where I’m going. Maybe we don’t have a purpose in life, maybe the only thing we can do is try to enjoy it to the fullest while we’re still here.
And I guess I feel like the sabbatical might help with that.
May 5, 1938 – May 17, 2015