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My Diddia

In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion.

My grandmother had taught me that there was no such thing as coincidence. There are millions of people in this world, she had told me, and the spirits will see that most of them, you never have to meet. But there are one or two that you are tied to, and spirits will cross you back and forth, threading so many knots until they catch and you finally get it right. My Cuban grandmother was the only grandmother I ever met who smoked cigars. My grandmother had a love which found in me so totally its complement, its goal, its constant lodestar, that the genius of great men, all the genius that might ever have existed from the beginning of the world, would have been less precious to my grandmother than a single one of my defects.

We believed in our grandmother’s cooking more fervently than we believed in God. Her culinary prowess was one of our family’s primal stories, like the cunning of the grandfather I never met, or the single fight of my parents’ marriage. We clung to those stories and depended on them to define us. We were the family that chose its battles wisely, and used wit to get out of binds, and loved the food of our matriarch. Courage and strength moves like the steadfast waves of the ocean. Ebbs and flows, highs and lows, loud and soft, firm and vulnerable, passing encouragement from one generation to the next.

My maternal grandmother was not a philosopher, and she used to say that words have no bones, but they can break bones. She knew what we all know: a word can cause more pain, more damage than the sharpest knife. As far as she was concerned, saying something and doing something were exactly the same. You make all your mistakes with your own children so by the time your grandchildren arrive, you know how to get it right. Plus, once you turn fifty, you kind of stop giving a shit what others think. When she smiles, the lines in her face become epic narratives that trace the stories of generations that no book can replace. I want to love like my grandmother, who loved life and family like Joseph loved Mary. Someone so imperfect, so human, brave enough to love someone who already knows God.

Your grandma is a magician. Remember that time when you fell off your bicycle and she lifted you up onto the kitchen counter? She cleaned your bloody knees, washed the tears and snot off your face, told you funny stories and tickled your stomach until you giggled so hard it made you hiccup. The tears, the blood, the pain, your mum’s closed bedroom door all vanished, as if your grandma had waved a wand sim sala bim! Hard to keep your smile off your face now, no? She did such things. Still does. A trickster, she is. Always full of pranks and laughter. Like now, looking so wrinkled and pale in her bed, not responding. Bet she opens her eyes any moment now with that mischievous grin of hers, pleased she fooled you. You’ll both double over in laughing fits. Any moment now.

This was typical of Didia. She always found her grand children too thin. That gave her an excuse to pile up the food on our plates and to treat us to homemade sweets almost every day too. Doris, as I have seen in looking back, was the decider of my fate. She shaped my life, without of course knowing what my life would be. She taught me many things that I was going to need to know, without either us knowing I would need to know them. She made the connections that made my life…. If it hadn’t been for her, what would my life have been? I don’t know. I know it surely would have been different. And it is only by looking back, as an older man myself, that I can see how much she loved me and can pay her out of my heart the love I owed her.

My grandmother’s last act on earth was a call for forgiveness, love, and tolerance. I could do worse than become my own grandma, or anyone of the strong women who raised us. Our strengths emerged from theirs; we build on their heritage and transform their resilience and competence into our own. To the loyal and to the blood-lovers, in the good families and in the fiery dynasties, life is family and family is life. It is the same people who give advice and their vices to live well who turn out to be the ones who give resource and reason to live long.

Happy Birthday Mrs Watson Love Always Your GrandSun

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