My grandma was not the grandma type. I think she didn’t take the classes about particular grandma behaviors and definitely missed the course about Grandmother Nurture 101. No, grandma didn’t fit any of the stereotypes for a grandma.
None of her grandchildren EVER called her grandma, not even in Spanish. She was too tough for that. No matter how old she was or how she reminded me of a raisin with legs and arms, we never dared to call her grandma. We preferred to call her “Ñen” and where that came from has its own stories. My mother claims it came to be because her first name is Carmen and one of her children couldn’t pronounce it correctly. An aunt says it’s because that was her nickname as a child. Either way, no one was ever heard calling her grandma, or grammy, or gramma.
When I once fell into a cactus and ended up with a thousand needles in my arm, I went crying to grandma. I ran up to her, the tears cleaning the dirt from my face, and burst into telling her all that had happened to me. I thought for sure that as most adults tended to do that she would comfort me and then remove the pain and then give me some treat afterwards as a way to elevate herself into showing that she was the kind of adult who could care for kids. I got none of that. NO comfort, NO getting rid of the pain, NO treat. Grandma looked up from her work of cracking walnuts, gazed at me for a second, huffed, cracked another walnut and muttered to me, “Why didn’t you make the sign of the cross when you were running around?” I was dumbfounded. WHAT? Didn’t she see I was in a world of hurt? HEEEEELLLLOOOO, tons of tiny needles in my arm!! I must have stood there for a while because I thought for sure she would do something, but she kept cracking walnuts and didn’t bother to look at me. I had to lick my own wound that day. And I never sought grandma out again.
When grandpa died, I somehow won the lucky seat of being next to her at the funeral. I took my seat beside her and crossed my legs. Then began the painful thinking of trying to string words to say to her on this occasion. What should I ask? What was there to say to this woman at this moment? Uhhhh, we’re all going to miss grandpa? He had a great life? HA! No one was going to miss him and he hadn’t had a great life. I wrung my hands, uncrossed my legs, then crossed them again. I wanted to look to see who was sitting behind me, as I could feel eyes on my back as if the whole of everyone there was waiting for me to say something to this woman next to me. Finally, I turned to her and my breath caught. There in the seat next to me, sat a tiny woman. She looked so frail, so fragile that I almost didn’t recognize her. I felt so awful for having sat next to her for so long and not said a thing. I gulped a massive ball of guilt and began stammering, “I, I, ummm,…” She looked up at me, large brown eyes seeing into me. She smiled and lifted up a wrinkled brown hand. I thought she was going to hug me and leaned in closer. She pointed her brown leathery finger and asked, “Do those pointy boots hurt your feet?” BUT of course! Even in a moment like this, she was still strong as a horse. She wasn’t going to talk about hurt or missing grandpa, HELL, she thought my boots were hurting me!
She was not a woman to give hugs or kind words or make cookies. She didn’t smell like a grandma, she didn’t have soft flowy gray hair, and she didn’t spend her day in the kitchen. Nonetheless, she was my grandma.