Why am I crying? Washing my eyes, weeping as if I was going to make the ocean overflow with my tears. Is it because I didn’t call her, because I let her down or because in these actions I feel like a looser by letting people I love down? Is it selfish to think so? If there is one person that knew me well, it was her… My stoic grandma. She was tired but in fact, I think she felt fulfilled at the end by me getting married, my brothers engaged and my uncle, getting inducted into the French Academy. I would have loved for my kids to get to know her. We always see at least 4 generations in my family and I was lucky enough for my eyes to be graced in this way. At least she knew she had great grandchildren from my cousin’s side. But we didn’t have the chance to take these family pictures as we were supposed to this coming summer. My insides are wrecked. Wrecked because I wanted to be there, next to her as she passed. In my head her voice is on repeat, it’s been ten days: “Allo Tetelle” she would say. That’s how she called me.
Often, we tend to put aside family so we can pursue the lifestyle we want. I haven’t seen her in ten years. Sometimes we’d speak and always we would have great conversations filled with laughter. Sometimes I would call her to scold her for not wanting to eat. She was ninety years old. A petite woman with the strength of a hulk. She did everything on her own until her passing, never was she sick or complaining. Complaining is for the weak she habitually said. In her mind, she was thirty. Often she would tell me “I am thirty years old in my head but my body is telling me otherwise. I think that I inherited that virtue of hers: never to complain but to take matters into my own hands instead. Fixing what needs to be fixed, and creating the life I want. This 4’11 woman always knew what she wanted and always made sure it became reality. After all, I was named after her, it’s no secret that we commonly receive some traits of character from whom we’ve been named after.
When I spoke to my mother on Sunday night, two days before her passing, she told me that grandma wasn’t well and that she refused to eat. I thought, another one of my grandmother’s tricks to get me to call her. She could have called me herself but it was our ritual. Something I knew too well from the fifteen years I had been out the family house. My grandmother was strong and never was she sick. I had nothing to worry about. I told myself I’ll call her during the week, when I’d have time. Is that so? No time for someone that raised me, that needed me, that was expecting for me to dial her number. I’ll never forgive myself. On Wednesday, when I finally thought that it was a convenient day for me to call her, my brother beat me to it and texted me that she was in the hospital. I knew well that he meant that she was gone, as it is my family trick not to destabilize someone in the moment. I wish I could take that day back. I wish I hadn’t been that selfish the days before. I wish I’d not let a few hiccups at work distract me from what matters: family, especially my grandma. I wish I had time for our stupid conversations about cruises, men, G-string underwear and the forty-years-old boyfriend that she wanted just to alarm me; it always worked. She had a way to manipulate words and that’s what made her practical jokes credible. The only way to know was to be in front of her as her nose twitched when she was trying to keep a straight face. I’ll never forget these moments and our burst of laughter after I was relieved to learn that she was again messing with my categories. She had an incomparable sense of humor. My life was upside down on that morning. A part of me died too. I must overcome the fact that she is no longer on earth with me and cherish all the notions she taught me. Such as life is too short to worry about things. She always told me that if I wasn’t happy about how things were going, to fix them and that if I couldn’t fix them to let them go because they will be fixed by themselves. I was an anxious child and wanted things to be done as we spoke.
My grandma never cried even when something hurt her. You would never know if you didn’t know her well. I also got that from her. Everything she owned was for others. I remember as a child she would fix plates for everyone that passed through our house. The mailman, the shoe shine guy, the fruit vendor; everyone without exception until there was no more food left in the kitchen and that’s when she would remember that she hadn’t eaten yet.
I should have made that phone call, maybe it would have been different. Never put for later a simple text or call to a loved one to tell them that you love them or to talk about stupid stuff. Life is too short, and tomorrow is not promised.