I buried my grandmother last Monday. The night she passed away, the skies opened up, the first rainstorm in over a week, with thunder and massive streaks of lighting tearing up the black sky. It seems fitting now – my grandmother always loved a good show.
She was 82 and my last living grandparent. She was born Olga Lugo Acosta in a small town on the southern part of Puerto Rico called Yauco, which to this day is renowned throughout the island for both its cafetales (coffee plantations), it’s multi-colored houses that run up the side of the hills and a mess of interconnected family that would require a diagram, glossary and Rosetta stone to decipher. I can only speak from my own experiences with my grandmother, but given the turnout at her wake and her funeral, I can safely assume that she was as kind and generous with her love with me as she was with countless others and that I will not be the only one who will be reflecting on her impact on his life.
My grandmother could be stubborn lady. As long as I can remember, she had been diabetic, taking daily insulin shots with a dexterity only gained through years of necessity. Instead of resigning herself to the health issues old age brought, she faced them head on every day, heading to the doctor’s office on what seemed to be a daily basis. She made friends with the nurses and doctors in the medical offices she frequented and she always took the time to give her saludos and find out how their respective sons or daughters were doing in school.
That was the thing about my grandmother – while she was stubborn about certain things like her health or her insistence on sneaking a little cake or dancing when she really shouldn’t have, she was the epitome of what I imagine a grandmother could and should be. She had an uncanny way of connecting with anyone, usually with her disarming smile, her welcoming laugh or through a reassuring grip on your arm. If you knew her long enough, you weren’t just another person to talk to, you became another member of the family, another child of hers she readily loved – or lectured if the situation called for it. Just ask her next door neighbor, who now goes by Brother Jerry or Cady, my wife, which she unfailingly asked about every time I called. Family was everything to her, so it was no mystery that everyone she knew became family. For me, as her only grandchild for many years until my younger cousin came along, I must have received the full measure of her enormous heart because my earliest memories of her all involve her taking care of me – of her making delicious rice & beans or her award winning pumpkin flan.
She was far too young to be taken. Eighty-two hardly seems like enough time for someone who still had so much left to do. Last year she went to Spain for three weeks with my parents. Her pictures from that trip were incredible and would make even the most seasoned traveler envious. When she got back, she started talking about the next trip she wanted to take – Las Vegas. That’s the kind of lady she was, always ready for the next big thing. She was always talking about how she wanted to buy herself the biggest truck she could find and I’m sure that if we had let her, she would have bought a Hummer and found a way to drive it all the way to the Mandalay Bay Hotel. If I still have half the verve and lust for adventure my grandmother had when I reach 82, I would consider myself lucky.
I will miss her laugh. I will miss her hugs. I will miss how easy it was to talk to her about anything and everything. I will miss how proud she was of me. I will miss how much she loved everybody and made them feel like family.
I will miss my grandmother, and I will not be alone in missing her.