This is my Nana
This is my Nana in 1977:
Her house is tiny with only one large room for a bed and sofa and desk and TV. There is a tiny little bathroom and a tiny little kitchen and everything is perfect. This tiny house is on the property of an elderly couple who live in an adjacent, not-so-tiny house. My Nana cares for them and helps around their home. There is a swing set in the yard and the walls of her house are pink. Sometimes when we visit we go to the beach.
Once I spend the night and she makes red Jell-O mixed with Cool Whip. I am five. I know this because it is one of the only entries in my little-girl diary from that year. I sleep in her big bed and feel important. That same visit I go with her to the bigger house next door. The bathroom has small pastel soaps that smell of roses.
This is my Nana in 1983:
She makes tortillas on the hot comal
. She flips them with her red acrylic fingernails. No spatula needed. I get the first one, as is the custom. “It’s hot, mi hijita
,” she says as I wrap it in paper towel and sit at the big oak table to watch her finish.
This is my Nana in 1990:
She lives with us now. Her health is bad because of respiratory issues and advanced osteoporosis. She has her own room, and I sit with her and watch One Life to Live
and Phil Donahue
. I love her fiercely. I tell myself that I’m her favorite grandchild. She has a small crystal figurine of the Virgin Mary on her dresser that I love to hold and admire. One day, for no reason in particular, she gives me a turquoise necklace, bracelet, and ring from the back of her dresser drawer. “They aren´t worth much, honey, but you can have them.”
This is my Nana on July 4, 1992:
I ask her to make rice pudding for me. Her back is achy today and she is very tired, but with the help of a little Ben-Gay and a strong grip on the hand rail she makes her way down to the kitchen. She does it because she loves me and I am home for the summer and she cannot tell me no. After supper she labors back up the stairs to her room. Before we leave for a party, I check on her. She needs nothing, she says, so we go.
We return late. As soon as we step out of the car, a large white owl descends from our roof and lets out a shocking cry. We stand for one brief, stunned second before my mother looks at me and screams, “MOM!”
I open the door and fly up the stairs. She is face down on the bedroom floor. Her hands clutch the metal frame of her twin bed. The TV is on, a game show. I attempt to move her, but she is still and cold. Her hand is so stiff around the frame that I cannot move her fingers. I call 911 while my mom and sister cry in the other room. My dad and I greet the ambulance and medics when they arrive. I show them upstairs, but it is clear after just a few minutes that nothing can be done.
This is my Nana 2014:
A warm tortilla in paper towel.
The eye-sting of Ben-Gay.
The Virgin Mary.
The color pink.
New Mexico turquoise.
The scent of roses.