March 27, 2018 – I was woken up by my girlfriend Leslie at about 2:30 AM. Leslie told me that my mom had been trying to call me and that I needed to call her ASAP. I instantly felt a lump in my throat the size of a basketball – why else is anybody calling you at 2:30 AM other than to deliver bad news? So, I picked up my phone, dialed my mom’s number, she picked up and for a few seconds it was quiet. That was until she let out a scream like I’ve never heard before. My beloved Grandma had passed away at the tender age of 70.
I honestly can’t remember what happened next, or for the following few hours. Everything was hazy – my mind was racing trying to figure out what to do next. I wish I had the brush to paint a clearer picture of what I was thinking, but I don’t. All I do know is that I laid in bed and cried myself to sleep that night while Leslie tried her best to console me.
I made a quick appearance at work the next morning before Leslie and I made the 6-hour commute from Los Angeles to Phoenix where she lived. It gave me time to clear my mind and make sense of what just happened. I realized that you don’t think about how much a person has taught you or influenced you in some way until you must.
As a kid I can remember countless times I sat there and watched the Mexican soccer national team with my Grandma. That’s where my interest for the sport sparked from, it was also the first organized sport I played as a kid. Watching games with her were the best. I can still hear her now, “Correle mas recio, pendejo! Pégale con huevos!” Which in English translates to, “Run motherfucker! Kick it with some balls!” As a kid that sounds crazy coming from your Grandma, you know what I mean? That’s why I liked being around her. That’s who she was – raw and unfiltered. Grandma always fired from the hip. Always kept it one hundred, as the young folks would say. That’s the thing I respected the most about her. It’s the trait that I took from her.
Not only was Grandma a soccer fan, naw son, Grandma was well versed across the board. Boxing, football, basketball, soccer, and let me not forget, she was one of the coldest spade players to ever walk this earth. Her and my Tio Guero would call each other, “Partners.” Every time the family got together you would catch Grandma and my Tio up until 4-5 in the morning busting up everyone who dared to sit across the table from them. She would then take a quick nap before she woke up to help get the morning menudo ready for the family.
She had more energy than the rest of the family put together. I guess you have to when you have to keep up with 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. My cousin Briseida made a tribute video for her funeral and I was in awe of the places she had seen. She had been up and down Mexico and the United States, and I know she left a part of her spirit in each place, which makes me happy. She had this aura about her – she always made you feel safe and secure. Her smile lit up any room and I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most.
The last thing she ever told me was how excited she was to come visit me in LA. She told me how proud she was and to, “Sígale echando muchas ganas.” In English that means, “Keep giving it your all.” Those words will forever ring in my ear.
I’m sad that she never got to meet any of my children. I think about what I would say to her if I knew the last time we spoke would be our last conversation.
Typing that out made me sad and I refuse to end this tribute to her on that note. So, let me tell you the story that personifies exactly who she was and makes me feel good inside.
April 13, 2016 – I was at home with Leslie getting ready to watch Kobe Bryant’s last game. We had just gotten home from the store and my phone starts to ring. Can you guess who it was? You guessed it, it was Grandma. She called to tell me she was watching the pre-game coverage of the game. She told me she planned her day around watching the game because she knew how much that day would mean to me, and she wanted to know what she was talking about when she asked me about it. Kobe is my favorite player, has been since I saw him as a kid in the mid 90’s. The Lakers are a big reason why I’ve always wanted to live in LA. She remembered all those little details about not just me, but everyone else who was important to her. I remember hanging up the phone that day trying not to tear up a bit because Leslie and I had just started dating. I couldn’t cry in front of her a few weeks in, feel me? But, I couldn’t help and let a tear slip as I told her what she said, and gave her the full context explanation as to why that moment meant a lot to me. Me crying actually made Leslie hug and kiss me. She said she liked the fact that I had a sensitive side. My grandma helped me catch brownie points with Leslie and she didn’t even have to try.
Yeah, that’s how I’ll always remember my Grandma. A great person with an even greater heart who made everyone’s life that she entered better.
A wise man once told me that some good things come to an end. It’s called life. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because they happened.
So, I’ll keep my head up for you. I know you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I love you, Grandma.