I remember….walking with you to Safeway & Longs Drugs store. We would often take your wiry shopping cart and head out along Park Blvd. We would pass our church, St Leanders, and sometimes stop in to light a candle for those you had lost. Being so young, I never thought I would later in life light candles for both you and mom. Surely you didn’t think you would light a candle for your daughter….
Did we talk along the way? I don’t remember conversations, i just remember me and you and our journeys together. It was like our time, our ritual.
I loved going into Longs Drugs with you. Those stores are now few and far between. Here, in Atlanta, we have stores called CVS and Walgreens. (In fact, Walgreen just bought Longs, so their name might be completely gone by now…sadly). Anyways, I just remember being in that store and going through the candy isle, the card isle, the shampoo isle…something about it was oh so comforting. If it was near the holiday time, you would pick up two of your holiday staple treats; a good sized can of Almond Roca and a tin of butter cookies. Ahhh….yum! Still, two of my favorite treats to have at ANY time.
You walked EVERYWHERE or took the bus, the BART. Eventually, you revealed that you didn’t know how to drive…never got your drivers license. You walked to your jobs…those where you cleaned and took care of women who were older than you. Sometimes you had to stay for the weekend and I would visit with you and help clean. I looked forward to it not only for the money you would share, but because it was something different to do and I got to see someone else’s house and how they lived. Since these were people who could not do a lot for themselves, I got the sense that their death was not too far away…and often times the odor of near death would hover in the air. Still. I didn’t mind being there with you. You always seemed to enjoy your job and your connection to those you took care of. Who knew that in a few short years you would be taking care of me…
After being released from the hospital, I went to live with you, yet still had to be in a hospital bed. There it was, front and center, in the living room. Where else would we put it? There was no more room! We had lots of time to spend together now! I was supposed to have a school tutor since I was missing the beginning of my 7th grade school year, but many days, you and I called in “sick” for me. Hee Heee. I loved that. What did we do instead? Well, we watched Soap Operas, of course. Our favorite shows; All My Children and General Hospital. You would make me one of my favorite things to eat: a cheese quesadilla in a corn tortilla. Gooey cheese would explode on one end as i bit the other side. YUM.
Hard to remember what else we did all day while I was laid up in that bed for a month or so! I’m now in my 39th year so my memory is failing a little… There were days I remember you cooking up a storm. You would spend all day making a big pot of beans, spanish rice, tamales, enchiladas…I would help you “clean” the beans. Do you remember that, grams? Um….still have yet to have a single Tamale as good as yours!
You were a Folgers drinker. As loyal and as addicted as I am to Peets, you were to Folgers. Every morning, you would boil the water for your coffee and then put it into your little cup with a saucer. Who uses saucers? You would add a little milk, no sugar. Then you might look at some of your religious books you received in the mail or pay bills or just sit. Always at the kitchen table. I don’t think you ever sat anywhere else while sipping your coffee. Me? At my home desk, sitting on the carpet, the sofa.
Oh my gosh. You were a pack rat. You had all these piles of magazines and little books all over the place. I hate to say, THIS, I inherited from you. I am STILL trying to rid myself of this! I have boxes of newspaper articles from years ago…all sports related. Why do i keep them? I have piles of running magazines both in view and in boxes. Why? why? why? Well, if i tried to throw away any of your Sunset or Readers Digest mags, you would scold me and tell me even though you don’t look at them every day, there is something in them you might want to go back and read sometime. And there lies the answer. Damn you.
I’m happy to report that unlike you, I do not have a dresser top filled with bottles of lotions, perfumes, gobs of lipsticks, rouge, and anything else cosmetic related. Why did you have all that shit? I don’t think I EVER saw you wearing makeup! Looking at your dresser made me crazy but also made me laugh. Even now!
You liked your beer. Olympia (no longer in existence), Coors. You liked your brandy. E&J. And sometimes, you liked your whiskey. Kesslers. Did you ever drink Margaritas? I’m sorry we never got to have a drink together. I would have liked that. Often times when you were into your whiskey you would start semi-dancing and babble on about god knows what….you would keep saying, “That’s a baba”. Cracked us all up. Never found out what that meant. You would never say…although now i think it was just something you made up you crazy lady.
As time passed, you aged. Before my eyes and between the distances of where we lived, you moved much slower, seldom walked and even seldom talked, I think. All I wanted was for you to stick around long enough to see me graduate from college. Do you remember me asking…er…TELLING you to stick around. “Grams…I’m gonna graduate soon. You gotta be there and you gotta dress sharp, ok.”
You were there. You saw me receive my college degree with high marks. I wanted you to be proud, grams. I doubt you had any idea what I was studying or received my degree in, but you knew I finished. I was so happy you made it to the ceremony. Thank you!
A month or so later, I came to visit you in your little apartment in Oakland. I was nervous. excited. nervous to tell you my news, but excited about my news. “Grams, I’m gonna be moving to Atlanta.” You said, “That’s it then. I’ll never see you again.” Well, you were wrong. You did see me again!
A few months later, I returned for my first visit and went to your door. It was unlocked and the TV was blaring. I walked in, walked in front of you sitting on the sofa. You smiled, gasped, and put your hand over your eyes….I was sooo happy to see you too, grams!
My next visit was also unexpected. On an late night in early September 2000, I got that call. Liz called and said, “grandma died.” I packed my bags and got on a plane to see you. Liz had told me you died in your sleep. I wondered what happened. I’ve come to my own conclusion that you were just done. Done with a very hard life. You were alone and so many of those close to you had already passed. Your life was a tough one. A life filled with failed marriages, kids who were in prison, a daughter who died and left you holding the bag with 4 grandkids, sisters and brothers who were junkies (even in their old age). I think you were just done. Even so, it was sad to lose you and heart-wrenching to plan your funeral service and finally, to bury you. At the cemetery, they opened mom’s grave because that is where you were to be buried also. What a strange sight that was to see. Her coffin in another box. Long gone. You were the one who bought the double plot. Did you have one of your “esp” moments and you just knew?
I’m sorry time didn’t accelerate quicker for me and slower for you. So many things I wanted to do with you; go to Las Vegas, take you on a cruise, take you to so many places you never got to see.
I’m sorry you didn’t get to see me run. You would be clapping so loud, grams. BUT, you’d also probably be one of those folks who tell me running isn’t good for my knees, etc…and WE WOULD FIGHT ABOUT IT! HA!
I’m sorry you didn’t have the chance to see me in my professional life, my career. You’d probably be surprised at my chosen profession, but you would be proud and that’s all that matters. You knew. You knew I would not go by the wayside and do nothing with my life. Thank god! You seldom said it, but damn, I know you loved me. That was just your way. I get it now.
You were Mercedes on the record books, Mercy, to friends, and Tita to your brothers and sisters…Tita, spanish for small one.
To me, you were Grams. Always.
I love you, Grams. Happy Birthday.