My grandmother and I had a very special relationship. She’s been gone thirty years, yet there isn’t one day that I don’t remember her in some way. Sometimes, it’s a recipe, or how to do a chore, or a saying, but she is right there, next to me.
She lived with us since before my birth until she passed away in her eighties. As a child I resented having a third parent, but somewhere in my late teens, we became friends, almost like comadres. She would share details of her life to me and I would learn from the many sacrifices she endured.
Her father died when she was twelve and almost overnight, she, her mother, and siblings went from being well off to being dirt poor. My grandmother ended up working for the woman who used to be their laundress. She married young but my grandfather was no better off than she was, so my grandmother worked as a live-in maid and my grandfather worked as a laborer, doing odd jobs and going off for months to do migrant work in the northern states.
He rarely sent home money to help house and feed their children, so the burden landed on my grandmother. Sadly, he was an alcoholic, so even when he made good money, it never made it home to my grandmother and their family.
My grandmother told me that my mother and her other children learned to hide what little money they had in the house because my grandfather would spend all the money he earned on alcohol, then he would come home to steal whatever money they might have. My mother, her older sister, and their three younger brothers often went hungry, so as soon as they could work, they did odd jobs to earn some. They would hide most of it in a tin can that they buried in the ground while they kept some out where my grandfather could find it.
My mother’s siblings grew up. The three brothers joined the service and moved away. My mother married and soon after her sister did too. My mother invited my grandmother to come live with us when I was a baby, and my grandfather would come visit us occasionally. He would stay for a while, only long enough to squeeze money off my grandmother and my mother. My mother would refuse him but my grandmother would give him some. Having learned from her children, my grandmother knew to hide her money and only show him the amount she could afford to lose to him.
Toward the end of her life, I asked my grandmother if she regretted anything. I thought I knew what she would say, but instead she said, no.
She said that at any time, we have a choice to change our lives. If we don’t, then we cannot “regret” our choices. We accept our lives for what they are and move on. She advised me to live my life with no regrets. She said if I didn’t like my life (at the time, I was struggling with my first marriage), and I had given it my all but it still wasn’t what I wanted, then I needed to change my life.
At the end, I should look back and have no regrets. I miss that old lady every single day of my life.