it was twelve years ago today the last time i saw my grandmother alive. i was just visiting from north carolina, and i had come to say goodbye. standing at the foot of her death bed i saw in horror just what cancer can do to a person...to my mama.
i spent the day with her, i painted her finger nails, she showed me how God had given her the gift of leaving her hands intact. in truth they were still just as lovely as i remembered. smooth skin, thick long nails, not an age
spot to be seen. somewhat remarkable on a woman of 74 years. she was still seeing the bright side as she lay there starving to death from the disease that had eaten her esophagus and stomach. she was one of those people
you hear about, one of the ones everyone loves. selfless, loving and caring almost beyond belief. she believed in God and that he had a reason to make her suffer so much. they called the pastor and my family gathered around her as he prayed. her dying wish was for us to all go to church
and for my uncles to stop fighting. no one listened.
as i said goodbye i hugged her so hard she
gasped with pain. i have never forgiven myself for that.
i got a call from my mother later that night. mama was dead. i didn't cry.
the next day was the fourth of july. i remember walking through downtown phoenix in a stooper staring at all the happy people eating cotton candy and ice cream. i laid on my back and gazed up at the fireworks as though i had
never seen anything so obscene in my life. no one could understand why i hadn't cried yet. my mother was upset. i was numb.
when i got home and prepared for bed i went through a couple of my old things. i found the head of a doll she had made me when i was a little girl. the face was constructed from white pantyhose stuffed with cotton balls.
the hair was brown pantyhose braided to look like pig tails.
the face was painstakingly drawn on with ink pens.
a sweet innocent face.
at that momment i knew that i would never learn anything from her again. i would never her her soft words of encouragement. hear her call me her "little rianita" i would never get to hug her and listen to her stories, paint over the flowers she drew, help her make empanadas and egg plant pie, that i would never be able to see her again.
i cried myself to sleep.
i wouldn't go to her cremation. but i did go to the memorial.
my aunt elena and my mother and i sang a three part harmony acapella of "jesus loves me" that was one of her favorites. i didn't believe it anymore.
12 years later i still miss her so much i feel as though razor blades are cutting my insides and i want to sob and scream. but i remember a dream i had when i was about 17.
in it i was driving my old car and my grandmother was sitting in the passenger seat with her hand out the window playing with the wind and testing the air with her finger tips. she reached back in and untied the scarf she always wore around her neck to hide her wrinkles, put her hand out the window and let the wind carry the scarf away. when i asked
her what she was doing she smiled and said "i don't need these where i am"
it kills me more than anything that i never got a chance to know her as an adult. but if there is a god i thank him for the 15 years i was allowed to learn from her beauty and her strength. she taught me almost every lovely thing i know and she showed me the beauty in life.
i love you mamma.