A Mother's Story, from Out of the Shadows.
We moved into a little house next door to an older couple, and while they weren’t exactly unfriendly, we didn’t talk to one another like neighbors do. One day, we saw that an ambulance was in front of their house, and it seemed that the husband had suffered a mild heart attack and was being taken to the hospital. My son and I – he was only four at the time -- stopped by to check on the wife. As soon as she opened the door, my little boy reached out and hugged her legs. She looked surprised, but then smiled, hugged him back, and from then on our friendship grew.
My husband started mowing their lawn as a favor, and I would bring them food and clean the house for them. I would make special dishes, like Mexican sopa de pollo, things they had never tried before. I think they were a little uncomfortable at first eating at the same table with us. We didn’t speak much English, but it was enough to communicate.
They had two grown daughters who would come visit every now and then and sit in the living room for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.
After a few months, we were over there every day, and our little boy would immediately ask to go visit his “gramma” and “grampa.” They would babysit for us, and pick up our son from school sometimes. We celebrated birthdays together, holidays, the birth of our second son, and just ordinary days. We became family in a way that I think surprised all of us.
One winter Grampa got pneumonia, and we were at his bedside as if it were me or my husband there instead. I had to have surgery a few years ago, and due to complications I ended up hospitalized for 15 days. When I woke up, Gramma’s was the first face I saw, sitting next to my bed. It's a connection that's hard to explain. The love we had and have for each other is just like family.
As time went on, Grampa’s health declined and he had to be put into a nursing home because he needed more care than we could all give him. During one of our visits to the nursing home, he said to me and my husband, “If something happens to me, promise me you’ll take care of Gramma.” We assured him that he would get his strength back, that we all had so many other things to experience together. We found out the next day that he had passed away that night after we left.
The day that Grampa died, my younger son had to write a letter for an assignment at school. He wrote that his grandpa had died. People at the school contacted me because they thought that my dad had died. I explained that no, it wasn’t my biological dad, but my American dad.
At Grampa's memorial service, everyone from their church embraced us, consoled us, knowing that we were more than neighbors, that we were like their children, and that we were hurting as if he were our family. My husband and older son were pallbearers and carried his coffin.
It's been two years since Grampa died. It has been very hard for Granma. I still come by every day and visit for a little bit. My husband and sons and I visit Grampa's grave every 15 days, rain or shine. We change the flowers, visit with him, talk to him.
Lately, my husband and I have been talking about the possibility of moving a little closer to his job, which is almost an hour commute each way. But when I brought up the subject to Gramma she got very choked up and said, “Well, if you leave, you’re going to have to take me with you.”
I was 19 years old when I got to this country, and my dream was to be able to go to college, but I had to find work right away. That was 17 years ago. My dream now is that my sons can get an education, even though I was never able to. I want them to be in a better position educationally than we are. If not, then what was it all for? I hold out hope that someday the government will embrace us the same way Gramma and Grampa did.