The Ones We Leave Behind

In June, it will be three years since my grandmother, my only grandmother passed away.

While on my way to the Smithsonian museums, a concert and a folkloric festival, I received a phone call from my Mom.  She was calling to let me know that my grandmother had passed.  Deep down inside I always knew it would be my mom calling to inform me she was gone.  At that moment, I didn’t know what to say or what to do.  I simply stopped right where I was, letting everything sink in.

That day, I simply kept going through the motions, finishing what I had originally set out to do.  I stayed until the concert ended and slowly made my way back home afterwards.  However, the fact that my grandmother was no longer on this earth started to sink in little by little.  I was not able to cry until two days later when I managed to look at her picture.  It all has been a process, three years ago I wouldn’t have been able to write about her publicly and it wasn’t until recently that I am able to do it and share this experience openly.

The hardest thing for me during this process was having to mourn her loss from a distance.  Being so far away from her, from the rest of my relatives in Mexico, made her absence in my life more pronounced.  I realized I wasn’t just grieving my grandmother’s passing, I was also grieving for the country I left behind when I moved away from San Luis Potosi all those years ago.  Her death made me realize I never gave myself time to properly grieve for the things and the people I left behind.

Back when I was little, before starting preschool, my grandmother used to take care of me while my mom was at work.  In those days, we lived in my grandma’s house from time to time. But no matter how far away from my grandmother my mom moved, I always managed to make my way back.  Whenever things wouldn’t go well with my mom, I always told myself I would just move back to my grandmother’s.  One time, I even left my mom’s house to go visit my grandmother and walked many miles, like an hour’s worth of walking, to get to her house.  Needless to say, when my mom found out where I was, she gave me quite a scolding.  But as a child I felt super confident and proud that, while being so young, I managed to safely make my way to my grandmother’s house.

In those days, my grandmother’s house was my safety blanket; the place to go to when things didn’t work out.

Everything changed after my mother, my sisters and I migrated to the U.S.  All of the sudden everything I knew was taken from me, including my grandmother’s house.  At that age, this was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

I’ll never forget when I had to say goodbye to my grandmother, how the car that we were driving in passed by her house and without stopping drove away.  The car continued it slow, sad pace as it made its way pass my neighborhood, by my new school where I had just begun to make a new group of friends, as well as by the private school where I used to fantasize about the boy I liked who went to that school and I just watched him from afar.

As we drove away I could see the railroad tracks running parallel to our car.  The railroad was the highlight and the street marker of the neighborhood where my grandmother’s house was.  I was afraid to look back because I felt if I did I would burst out crying.  Instead, I resolved to keep my eyes fixed forward.  I kept this up until I realized we were standing at a crossroad’s point, between four intersections.  To my right was the school I loved and I would miss with all of my friends.  To my left was the convenience store where people gathered around to take the public bus and find out the latest news.  Behind me was grandmother’s house, my childhood and my extended family everything I was leaving behind.  And in front was the place where the taxi was heading, the way to the central camionera or bus station which would eventually lead us to the other side, the new country where we would live, our new home.

As the taxi passed that crossroad I finally stole a quick look behind me.  That’s when it hit me, all of it at once: this was going to hurt… a lot! Leaving everything I knew and loved up to that point behind in search for something better was not going to be easy.  But what hurt me the most, I realized, would be breaking away from my grandmother’s safety blanket.

The hardest part for those of us who leave families and relatives behind in our native country in order to better our lives, is the day, the hour, the minute when we get the news that our grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, beloved friend or family member passed away.  The grieving process is different for those of us who have to hear the news from afar and we miss out having the opportunity to spend time right there next to them, watching them get older, sharing stories with them and most importantly letting our new generation of children grow next to the older generation.  We grow apart in a land far, far away…

For many centuries, families have migrated to this country, the United States, in hopes of better futures.  They want to live the American Dream, they watch other people do it and one day, they risk everything they have and believe wholeheartedly that it can become true for them as well.  However, not many of them realize what they will have to give up in order to make this dream happen.  Yes, it can happen for you too, the American Dream, but there is always something that you have to give up, always a price to pay.

When I was brought here, I was stranded somewhere in the gulf between a young girl and an older child; one who didn’t have a saying in how or what things should be done because parents make these kinds of decisions.  But I was old enough to experience what many immigrants in the U.S. have to go through in order to survive or better their lives, to lift themselves from the conditions they were born in.

I miss my grandmother some days more than others.  She is always in my thoughts; in the Mexican food that I prepare in her honor, when I garden I feel connected to her because she used to love gardening as well.  I am no longer sad and I’m grieving properly regarding her parting all thanks to God who comforts me.

The grieving process changes as time passes and it is true what I once read about losing someone you love; “you never really get over it, but you find a way to carry it with you.”

The Point of Convergence blog is dedicated to her memory and to the memory of the country I left behind in order to make a new one my home.  It is symbolic of the place, the crossroads, where I found myself once as a child looking back realizing what I was leaving behind.

May you rest in peace Abuelita,

Your Granddaughter

Lizzeth Montejano copyrighted 2018