Tuesday, October 31, 2006

El dolor es la cosa que lastima

The most painful day of my life was the day my grandmother died.

I was 10 when I first moved in with her along with my siblings. Little did I know that I would live there for the next 5 years of my life. 5 years is a long time for a little girl. It's forever. Five years of being stuck inside the house, only going out for school, mass or approved trips. Five years of living in one room with 2 brothers and a sister. Five years of only being allowed to watch cartoons, or Shirly Temple or musicals-turned-movies. Five years of not being allowed to talk on the phone, unless it was important or our parents. Five years is a long time ago.

She was my first female figure. She was strict, but she was just and fair. She was there. Shw was always there. She kept me on the ground, but never stopped me from being me. She gave me confidence. That house was my life. Following her was my life. She never stopped me from wanting to leave. I use to sit and just talk while she sat in her corner of the house playing solitaire. Talking about wanting to live in America. Telling her stories of my grandparents here. She would just listen. And often she would tell me maybe it was my other grandparents turn with me, then maybe I can come here. SHe use to have Hola magazine sent to her by my cousin or aunts, and I use to point to the Prince of Spain and tell her that I was gonna marry him someday and be in Hola. She never thought it ridiculous, and always said yes I probably will. I use to make her handmade cards and write my message in Spanish (with the help of the dictionary in school). She use to scold me, but she never got mad at me. She was aware of everything that happened in that household. She was 91 years old when we moved in. Her mind was sharper than mine now. She sent us to the doctor at the smallest sign of anything. She never took anything we said lightly. She handled us like a competent manager. The very first objective person I met in my life when it came to discipline. And that trait would forever make its mark on me for the rest of my life. She had aged so gracefully, so beautifully.

And then I left. And I got lost. And she would call, and I would not be home most of the time. Or I couldn't talk long cause I was rushing off to meet my friends. She probably didn't approve of how I was now living. So young at 15 and so far-away from her discipline. But she never scolded me when I wasn't under her roof anymore. Instead she would call a couple times a week and ask how I was doing, a message for my parents or updates on my siblings who were still with her. I was having the time of my life. Finally I could see and talk to friends anytime I want, I could go places, I could watch t.v. anytime I want, I didn't have to pray the rosary everynight, I could wear whatever I wanted. Yes, suddenly at 15 I was free.

In my senior year in highschool my grandfather died. I was in Oroquieta before lunchtime, leaving Cagayan at dawn, an hour after I got the call. They had not taken the body yet when I arrived, and I was so exhausted I just lied down beside him and rested. When they finally came to take him away, I went to see my grandmother in her room and lied down beside her. She was in bad mood because she was mad that he went and died before she did. I was too tired.

I wasn't even a week back in school after the burial that I got the call. I recieved the phone call in schools' guard house, and got the news that my grandmother had passed away.

My heart was so painful. I couldn't see. I got dizzy. But there were no tears. The tears didn't come till it was time to say goodbye to her in church and watching the caskett being put in. I cried. And I cried. The kind of crying that borders on a scream. I didn't know a life withour her there. The very first person who treated me like a person and not a child. The person who knew how to handle my tantrums without being physical. The person who could calm me down with her firm voice. The person who would explain why you are being scolded at or why you couldn't watch certain things.

And now I think of her. I wonder what she would have taught me in being a woman. Would she really be against everything I have become? Would she not approve? She knew me so well, she wouldn't be surprised. And I would probably be back in the seat across her and tell her stories of my dreams. And tell her that some of them have come true. But the best ones are still reserved just for her to imagine. And when all that is done, she can let me kneel in front of the Sagrado Corazon and scold me.

To my abuelita, gracias por tomar el cuidado de nosotros, por la disciplina, por el alimento, por los rezos y por amarnos. Mi corazón todavía duele, pero sé su justo porque lo estás abrazando firmemente. Te amo.

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