She did not retire, nor would she ever be able to. She spent the twilight of her life the same way she spent the rest; working hard. She worked in the fields picking cotton as a girl. As a woman, she was a band promoter, a seller of jewelry, and even a line worker at GM. As a boy I watched her organize the Mexicans of our city to elect a man she thought would bring us help. There was nothing she couldn’t do.
I have always said that I hated Christmas, and I meant it. But there was a time before all that. There was a time that Christmas was full of all the expectation a little boy heart could muster. I remember Grandma rolling out matching red bikes from her bedroom. They shined like the sun. I remember the year of the Snoopy toy bin that Tony and I could both fit in. I remember the Nintendo she bought after the first was stolen. She made it wonderful.
When my own life fell into ruin, and I was too ashamed to face my mother, my church, and even God Himself, it was to her door I ran. And she let me in. Now, my grandma had an opinion about everything and everyone. The older she got, the more free and the less seasoned her words became. I waited for her to say the hard things. I was a college dropout who was overweight and depressed. And I was living on her land rent free. She had every right to get into my business. But she never did. Not a once. She gave me the space and time to heal. She even began lighting candles for me at church every week. I would come in to find her reading her huge family Bible, and she would talk to me of what she read, and ask me what I thought about it.
That house… it was the closest thing to home I had ever known. We would move place to place, city to city, but the house in Pleasanton always remained. It was a constant. And when she moved down there to make the house her home, I was sad to have her so far away, but so glad that the house was still ours.
The months I spent there in Texas were quiet. We would go Pizza Hut every Tuesday for some special they were running. We would have breakfast together. She would turn on Tejano music in the kitchen, and pull me up from my chair to dance. I am a terrible dancer, but she carried me along.
She loved me. She kissed my cheek and called me mijo. My children called her abuelita, and they cried when she breathed her last. She opened her life to me when I was down, and when the time came for me to stand back up, she sent me north with only blessing. She poured into me and asked me for nothing in return.
I love my Grandma. She was a great woman. And I will miss her so much.