How do you say thank you to someone who you’re not sure can hear you? I know she can’t read this, cause she can’t read English. Whenever I’ve said thank you, she just simply looks at me blankly, trying to figure out who I am. My grandmother is 95 years old and has been battling Alzheimer’s for the past 3 years.
In the Beginning
She came to the United States from the Azore island of Sao Miguel back when JFK was running the country. She worked for a company called Nobregas making curtains, later becoming a tailor for a department store. She came here on the request of my mom who moved to the states two years prior. My grandmother owned a small farm in her hometown, selling milk, bread, cheese, and bananas, to feed her family.
Her husband died at the age of 45, never setting foot in the United States. My grandmother never remarried, nor had so much as a boyfriend. When I was a teenager I told my grandmother “you know a marriage is till death do us part, right?” she looked at me and said, “I’m not dead yet.”
The woman gave birth to ten kids eight of which survived, five boys, three girls, the oldest of which was my mother. She was the oldest of five, outliving all of them, grandmother to 22 kids, and great grandmother to countless others. She lived during the military dictatorship of Antonio Salazar, a world war, Richard Nixon, and finally decided to give up with Donald Trump in office.
Shortly after I was born, I was put in an incubation bubble or enclosure whatever they call those things, my grandmother slept bedside every day until the day I left. My grandmother every day since the day I was born took care of me from morning till 7pm until I was 15. My mom worked two jobs, and my father worked long hours so I was told to go to my grandmothers until they arrived. When I turned six years old I would ride the subway with her to doctors appointments, interpreting what the doctor would say cause the woman in all her years living the States never learned a word of English. I would look at the doctor and say “I don’t what a colonoscopy is.” After being described it, I would translate to my grandmother “they want to look in your ass.”
The last three years she’s been laid up in a nursing home north of the city. I visit her on-off visiting hours so that I don’t run into the family. My aunts, uncles, and cousins are all angry that the house my grandmother owned a street parallel to where my parents bought there home, is now owned by me, originally given to my mom, and now passed on to me. I find it hard to see her in the condition that she’s in, my entire life she’s been an example of strength, resilience, and perseverance. This isn’t how it should end for someone like her.
Happy Mothers Day!
This mothers day I’m avoiding the nursing home, as everyone now rushes to be by her side nurses have stopped giving her meds, she isn’t eating at all, and her organs have stopped functioning and yet she still seems to fight on. With all these issues swirling around our society about gender and how women can’t do this or that, I’d love to show them my grandmother, a woman who came from nothing and became something, and even when her body fails her, she has exhibited more strength than any man I’ve ever met.
Grandma, I’m sorry to see what happened to your health, you’re amazing in every way, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to have raised me. I’m not sad, or unhappy, you are the matriarch of all that we are here, you will always be remembered for all the amazing things that you have done. Happy Mothers Day! I love you!