Today would’ve been my grandmother’s 100th Birthday.
It IS my grandmother’s 100th birthday.
She died seven years ago, and I don’t have many things of hers anymore, save for some old photographs and lots of memories. But I did inherit this bracelet — a piece of silver stamped with scenes from Don Quixote.
My grandmother was Spanish; Cuban; a dark-haired, anxious, peculiar woman. She always dressed for dinner and she loved music and to dance. She was tiny and beautiful. And she held her body in the same way in which I typically hold mine — there are old photos of her at family events where she’s standing in the pose in which I am always candidly caught. Except she’s holding a camera in the way in which I’m typically holding my phone.
And she was a Knower — she typically knew things well before they ever happened.
So it was no suprise that I woke up in Holland this morning, amongst the windmills, wearing the bracelet with the scene of Don Quixote tilting at his peculiar foe.
A Knower, indeed.
I miss her, often, in strange ways. And I remember when her father had lived to be 100, and I always had just assumed she’d live to see her own hundredth birthday. It had never occurred to me that she wouldn’t, until I was sitting in the middle of a wedding in San Luis Obispo, and it was clear that the end was neigh, and my mother and I had to leave California the next day to go to Florida.
It wasn’t really real, until we were sitting in the room, with the nurses standing sentinel at the door like the boxers or German shepherds of my mother’s youth, and the priest arrived to give some modified Last Rites — which were more for our benefit than for hers.
And then it was over.
And I still miss her anxious proclamations, and the way she would wear lipstick, and her insistence upon dressing for dinner, and the strange and magical way her American voice got old, but towards the end, when she began to respond to questions in Spanish more often, her Castillian voice sounded decades younger.
I always feel bad for the kids who never had grandparents. I had the privilege and pleasure of basking in that ferocious, unconditional, unforgettable love. And the thing about love is that it is always there, you don’t forget it once you’ve known it. Even after you can’t dial it up or write it a letter any more, you still have it and know it and experience it.
What I am saying is that it endures. For more than 100 years.