Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo

I don't recall hearing about "Cinco de Mayo" as I was growing up,  It wasn't until I was an adult and viewed it as an excuse to have a margarita or two that it took on any significance for me.  And even then, it was sort of just another day to meet up with friends and enjoy Mexican food and drink (in honor of the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla - which Mexico doesn't even really celebrate, though I'm sure they appreciate us doing so for them?!)  I have a handful of fun, silly Cinco memories which needn't be repeated. I have a fond memory of Riley's first Cinco - itty-bitty, not yet two months old, bundled in her pumpkin seat, hanging outside at Vista Grande with her Dad and me and a dear group of friends we don't get to see so much anymore.  

Cinco de Mayo took on a different meaning for me 10 years ago: It was the day my Grandmother went to be with God. Which somehow seemed appropriate, as she loved her trips to Mexico AND loved a reason to celebrate.  I believe she was ready to go.  We'd celebrated her 100th birthday two months earlier. She'd lived a long, full life, and I believe she was at peace. But in a lot of ways, I'm still not ready for her to go. Or I wish she could come back and visit every once in awhile.  I've written previously about questions I'd ask her if she did: 

From 2011 - Questions I'd Ask My Grandmother

Tomorrow would have been my Grandmother’s 105th birthday.  I know we were so lucky to have her through her 100th – I got to grow up, go to school, get my college and law degrees, get married, have a child, all with her in my life.  Best of all, Riley got to spend time with her Great Grandma and get to know her before she left us.  And I think – no, I know – she was ready to go when she did.  So, it’s selfish of me to think like this, I suppose.  But, so often these days, I’m struck with the realization that I need her now more than ever.  

I won’t say I took my Grandmother for granted.  I can’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t see her for the amazing, strong, beautiful spirit she was.  Grandma just had this…presence.  An almost regal bearing, though not a cold one.  But I do regret not taking the time to sit and really talk with her before she went -- not just about the little things, but the big things, too:  life, love, loss.

I didn’t realize I’d someday find myself on a path quite similar to hers.  I never really stopped and thought about how she came to travel that path herself.  What it meant to her.  What it might have cost her.  I never asked her either.  And I don’t even know if she’d have been able or willing to tell me.  But I sure do wish I would have.

It will, no doubt, seem strange to some that I’ve felt her, here with me, at times since she passed on.  Always, there is the idea of her.  But on a couple of occasions, I’ve actually felt her with me, even heard her voice and felt her hand on my shoulder.  Those weren’t scary moments, at all.  A little strange, but more comforting than anything else.  Sometimes, I wish she’d come back and sit with me for awhile.  And then, maybe, I could ask her:

Was it hard to be so strong?  Where did you look to for that strength? What sustained you?

Did you envision your life turning out the way it did?  What would you have done differently if you could?  How did you maintain your focus on what you had, instead of what you didn’t? 

When your heart was broken, what helped heal it?  When you wrote, what inspired you?  When you cried, what brought the laughter back? 

Was it scary, being a single mother?  Did you ever worry you were letting Mom down?  If you were failing her by not providing her with a traditional family?  

How did you manage to run a farm and a post office?  (I realize the town was small, and you had some help with the farm, but I can barely manage a tiny house and a decent-sized yard.)  How did you know what you needed to do?  Where did you find the time to do it all?

How did you learn to live alone without being lonely?  To be independent without becoming isolated? 

What would you tell me if you were here now?  What wisdom would you share with me to help me find my way?   

Most of all, do you have any idea how amazing you are?  What a blessing you’ve been in my life?  

I love you, Grandma.  

I'd have even more questions for her now - like what she thinks about craft beer; and this crazy election we're having. I'd love for her to meet David - I'm certain she'd be quite fond of him (and remark to me about what a handsome fellow he is.) I know she'd adore his Emma and Holly. And I'd love for her to see the smart, beautiful, thoughtful and brave young woman Riley is becoming.  I'd love to challenge her to another round of Canasta even though I know she'd win. Mostly, I'd love to sit outside in the evening with her and listen to the cicadas - or maybe the tree frogs if we were here instead of at her farm. 

I drove by it last week.  I had to be in St. Joseph for work, and planned on stopping off in Dearborn on my way back home since I'd be right there.  I wanted to drive out past her farm, and then back toward town; to stop off at the cemetery and place some flowers on her grave - I can't believe it's been 10 years since I was there. The timing worked out well - I finished my work in St. Joe at 2:30, and headed to a local florist. But then a weather alert popped up on my phone: "Tornado Watch: Buchanan County." The sky to the west of me had turned that ugly shade of cobalt blue muddled with swamp green. The radar app on my phone showed an angry red crescent of nastiness moving east-south-east toward me.  I hesitated, then nixed the florist and got right back on 29 headed south, trying to convince myself I still had time for a quick visit - maybe. But Mother Nature refused to slow her roll. As I drew close to the Dearborn exit, I knew - at best, I could hope to race by the cemetery and, if I was lucky, have just enough time to locate her grave and say a quick hello before the storm unleashed its fury. And that didn't seem like such a good idea. Especially since I wasn't sure where I could take shelter from there. So I kept going. I looked up at the Dearborn water tower as I passed, and whispered, "I'm sorry, Grandma," through tears, even though I'm quite certain my Grandmother would have chewed me a new one had I not done exactly that. It just - made me miss her so very much at that moment; made me sad.  

So, I called my Mom to let her know I wasn't going to be able to stop - and to assure her I was ahead of the storm, though the dang thing nipped at my heels most of the way back to Columbia. And I suggested perhaps she and I might plan a visit very soon.  She said she'd like that.  And so would I. Miss you, Grandma.

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