It’s 12:15AM. I should be sleeping, but I’m blogging. Remembering visits to my Grandparents in Brooklyn. They were so loving, receiving and sweet. Always smiling. My friends even liked them. So when my father would take us to visit, my cousins and/or friends would ask their parents for permission to take the drive with us from Queens. Sometimes, we would stop first at the Bodega near their building, picking up an Entenmanns butter loaf pound cake, candy and chips. I could see Grandpa at his window, feeding the squirrels that probably called him Grandpa too (in their own way), that was his ritual. They would actually eat the peanuts from his fingers. It was obvious that he alerted Grandma that we were approaching, because she would appear at the window seconds later. My heart melts while I write this.
The buzzer would ring, letting us in the building, and Grandma would be standing by the opened apartment door. We rush in with hugs and kisses for her, then Grandpa’s waiting for his. We talk for a little bit, I try to understand as much as I could, while they tried their best at speaking a full sentence in English. We’d snack on the junk food, eat good food if grandma cooked and even if she didn’t, it doesn’t take long before she puts the Cream of Wheat box to use. Man was it good! Now I smile while I write this.
After maybe an hour, I would go into their bedroom and connect the Nintendo game my uncle bought for them. Playing Super Mario Brother’s 3, while visiting Grandma and Grandpa, became my ritual. We would sing, play, daddy might play the congas and we’d laugh and have a great time. Sometimes Grandpa would even record us speaking, for no reason. Maybe he liked hearing our voices, and wanted to hear it even when we couldn’t be there? Every time we got ready to go home, they would pull out cash and hand everyone $1. Another ritual, from the time I was just able to hold a dollar in my hand, to my 20s. I can see us joking that our allowance from Grandma and Grandpa never increased. Grandpa was in his 90s, Grandma in her 80s, me in my early 20s…mature enough to know good things don’t last forever, but I still never expected this ritual to end.
The last two years of my Grandma’s life was spent in a nursing home. She started seeing things that weren’t there and her memory failed…soon her body did too. I would try to visit her every chance possible, saw her deteriorating and wish I was in a position to move her from there. I could see she wasn’t cared for the way I could…which is the way someone who loved her would, and her body was literally giving up. I would wipe her down, clean around her mouth which was evident she was left alone. I prayed for her to return to good health, but it wasn’t God’s plan. Grandpa was fine, but lonely. Stuck every night, in his little Brooklyn apartment and away from the woman he loved and lived with for decades. For two whole years!
One day I received a phone call. My father told me Grandpa was in the hospital, after a heart attack, so we went to visit him. He looked great and said he felt great and wanted to go home. Dr’s couldn’t allow that. I would never forget two things about that day. It’s sad to think of, but he always said he would die in a hospital. Before we left that day, he told my sister and I that he was tired. I just thought he meant he was ready for his company to leave, but my sister knew better. This man always smiled, so whenever he spoke, I couldn’t imagine him speaking of his death. Even after we said prayers and kissed him goodbye, I thought he would be going home the next day. My sister said she thought he was trying to say he’s “ready”. I didn’t think so, or maybe I just didn’t want to. Not my sweet, little, latin man. The next day, I got the call from my father saying Grandpa passed away. Two years after living separately from his beloved wife, Grandpa died of a broken heart.
His funeral was days later, and I wondered if my Grandma, who could no longer speak or move, could understand. No one told her what happened. But, I know she knew. Because a week after Grandpa’s death, Grandma left us too. My Aunt Petra says, Grandpa died first and then called her soul so they can finally be together again. I believe it. He was always protective of her, and was probably ready to go first, just to make sure everything was ok.
They lived together for decades, spent two years apart by no choice of their own, but managed to maintain a connection only God can explain. All the times Grandma had close calls with death; it wasn’t until Grandpa passed, that she decided it was time to go. I love them dearly and although I am filled with sadness knowing they’re not here, I no longer cry. I smile, because love like that is a blessing. I smile, because commitment like that is golden. In a world of divorce or people treating marriage as a business, it no longer feels sacred. So I am happy and honored to share my Grandparent’s love story.