International Women’s Day: Grandma Tina

For International Women’s Day, I honor my Grandma Tina. Below is the eulogy I read at her funeral. Rest in peace Grandma.


Grandma

Yesterday I sat down with Grandpa so that we could chat and remember Grandma. I had never heard their story: where they met; how he courted her; all of the what’s, why’s, and where’s. He told me that they met when she was about 15-years-old near the Gilroy garlic fields. She was walking with her cousins along Bolsa Road. That was the first time Grandpa had ever laid eyes on Grandma, and he knew immediately that something drew him to her. Later, this time in Hollister, he saw her while she was babysitting. Then he would see her again, and again, and again; each time too long from the last. I would have never guessed that it was amongst the apricot fields of Cupertino that their love would blossom. It was there that she, finally, shot her magic eyes at him and hooked him for life.

* * * * * *

The image of Grandma shooting any kind of lovey-dovey eyes at anyone, even Grandpa, makes me a bit uncomfortable. I guess that’s because of how I will always remember her. When someone passes on, we reflect on their lives and what they mean to us. Some people reminisce about a particular time, others are reminded of that person’s perfume or their jewelry or maybe even their laugh. And then there’s those who knew the person so well that they have difficulty elaborating how much they dearly miss their loved one. As I reflect on what it was that made Grandma Tina so unique, I could only think of one word: caring.

People often seek the guidance of their God or holy figure, or sometimes even celebrities, to find an example of how to live their lives. I’m lucky because I didn’t have to seek far to find my example. Grandma Tina was the only person I have ever known that truly embodied what it means to be a caring human being. In a world fraught with hate, anger, lust, depression, laziness, and apathy, she always rose above and provided everyone who knew her with as much care as a person could have.

Grandma Tina was hospitable, a trait that is unfortunately falling by the wayside. Hospitality used to be a sign of a good home, a beacon for weary travelers looking for a welcome place to rest their aching feet and fill their hungry stomachs. If there’s one thing we all could attest to, it’s that you never went hungry at Grandma’s house. She always had food ready to go at all hours of the day. No matter who you were or what your problem was, you could always go to Grandma Tina for help, and even if she didn’t know the answer, she’d give you cariños and you’d feel better.

* * * * * *

Before Grandma was filling the bellies of her family though, she was filling the local dance halls with her dance moves every weekend back in the ‘50s. Grandpa describes this era of their lives like a long, beautiful dream. If they weren’t dancing the night away, they were cruising out to Santa Cruz, strolling the Boardwalk, loving each other by the sea. They’d drive from there all the way to Watsonville and back. Sometimes they would go to the drive-in, back when it was $1 per car, because it was one of the cheapest places to have a date. Even in her younger years, Grandma didn’t care about money or material wealth. She just wanted to be with her lover. They lived day-to-day doing what they wanted to do with no care in the world. They were inseparable. Everything they did was done together. It was the perfect bond, a companionship that sprouted in the garlic fields of Gilroy and bloomed into a marriage that would last a lifetime.

* * * * * *

As I continued to reflect on all of my memories of Grandma I realized that she sometimes cared too much, often at the expense of herself. I have never known a more selfless person, a person so willing to sacrifice all she had for others. I have to confess: I took advantage of this when I was a child. Everytime I’d go over her house I would get something: good food, sweets, toys, games, etc. I don’t know if my parents even know this, but she’d even let me stay home from school sometimes if I begged her enough. And to top it off, she’d take me to Denny’s or iHop to celebrate my day of freedom. Later in life I stopped asking her for things. That didn’t stop her. She then would slip money in my hand out of Grandpa’s sight just before I went home. She would do this all the way through last year.

Grandma was the quiet matriarch of the family; she was a woman strong in mind, body and soul. Whether she knew it or not, she left a legacy of care that not many others can say they come close to. And so as I continue to reflect on her life, I realize that I have subconsciously lived my life in accordance to Grandma’s. Everything I do I try to do with as much care and love as she did. It’s my way of honoring her life that symbolized all the good in the world. If I can be half as caring as Grandma, I will have done this world a great deed. In the end, that’s what I think she would have wanted.

* * * * * *

Midway during our conversation yesterday Grandpa said he didn’t know how to proceed or what to talk about next. I asked him to go back to that beautiful time when he and Grandma were living a dream. He thought about it for a bit. It was then I saw a glimmer in his eyes. He remembered the day when the meaning of music had changed for him. A song titled “Over The Mountains, Across The Sea” by Johnnie & Joe was one of those songs. I found it and played it for him. He was right back with Grandma again—16-years-old and in love. After the song was over, I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to say. He said that all-in-all, Grandma was a good woman whom everyone liked. People from all over called to offer condolences. I agree with you Grandpa, she was a wonderful woman, and I’m grateful to have known and loved her for the time that I did.

Finally

She was always there, so close.

I never trusted the looks she gave me,

the feelings, thoughts, visions in my mind.

 

I saw her with others,

making them happy.

I wanted the same,

but I seemed so

different from them.

I couldn’t offer her

what they could.

 

Come As You Are, her favorite song.

I would pass by her house, that familiar riff,

tears streaming down my face.

She caught me peeking, smiled, waved.

I ran. Why not me, why not me.

 

I saw her with others,

making them miserable.

I didn’t want that at all.

One even committed

the ultimate sin.

Why would I want that?

Why did I need that?

 

She saved me from the world, from myself.

I guess that’s the trick to loving a girl like her.

You have to take the good with the bad,

you have to realize that she isn’t perfect,

but that’s what makes her perfect for this world.

 

I saw her with others,

doing what she did.

No right, no wrong,

just living.

Do you want that?

I made the move.

 

There was so much to learn at first.

I had become adept at being inept.

False insecurities and false facades

are what she helped me tear down first.

This will not do, she would say, smiling

all the way. I learned to trust in someone

that I never would have trusted before.

 

So in love, so in love!

The promises, the future,

it’s ours for the taking.

Never look back,

she tells me, so I don’t.

Not even a peek.

 

She now talks about crazy things that I never

would have thought I would be involved with.

The craziest is bringing another person

into our new coveted circle. I hole up, but she

reminds me of before. Why not? she says.

I’ll think about it, but let’s just keep

the honeymoon going for a bit longer please.

 

Finally in love!

Finally in love!

Finally in love!

Finally in love!

Finally in love!

 

Life has purpose, existence. A reason to live.

What else could be more important?

I wake up to see her beautiful face beside mine.

I wake up to a world with her in it, all the better now.

I wake up to her for the first time every time.

I woke up before it was too late.

 

God, do I love my life?

God do I love my Life!