I sat in the truck after a night sitting up with my grandmother. It was a simple overnight stint to ward off the pitch dark, no walker, seemingly at that moment mile journey to the restroom she insists on taking.
The whole night is for that one moment when I feel her rise up, unassisted, to make the journey she has made for the last 60 years in her little Adobe house. She refuses to quit taking it, despite the many falls and risks associated with it.
She never quits and everyone at the morning table tries to convince her that the portable potty we place next to the bed is an excellent alternative. We come up with ideas of pulleys and wiring to support her on the walk, knowing no amount of talk or convincing will make her stop...she is stubborn. A lucky Lucero trait I remind my father, perhaps it is this very trait we have to thank for him surviving a Vietnam landmine and me healing a brain tumor. My uncle chimes in...yeah and me...I'm still here.
We all laugh off the seriousness and try to not stare too long at the black eye my grandma has from a fall that she is going to the doctor today about. We all know she is fine...strong bones she has, my aunt declares.
We seat her in a wheelchair for the doctor journey and I can see the tiredness that has descended over her face. I am not sure if it is from the morning's activities, or from my shadowing her every move. I wonder what it is like to surrender the most private of moments to another person and compassion sets in.
I think to myself as we drive, if she really only knew how much we all love her, how it is not a matter of if someone will be here with her but whose turn it is and for how long we GET to be with her. We all know everyone would like to be here, working or states away...we pass on the love of a tribe.
From one single mother to all 7 of my living aunts and uncles, to their children and their children, we love this woman through these moments and it is this overwhelming feeling that causes me to reach over and touch her, tell her I love her, tell her we all love her. When I do, she turns her face to tell me she loves me too and tears are in her eyes.
Tell her the truth, spirit moves me..."Grandmother, I just want you to know something...I know that because you are a strong woman it is difficult to allow others to help you...so I want you to know...it's an honor to help you. It's an honor. Do you understand? You have taken such good care of all of us...its our turn to take care of you."
These words cause a small voice I barely recognize as my grandmother's to fill the truck cab..."All I know is that I can't do anything for myself anymore."
My heart catches and I quickly remember the words of wisdom she told me many times before I made journeys across the ocean or the world: "Remember, God first."
I repeat this lesson of hers and ask, "Do you still pray Grandma?" She nods the answer I knew she would give, "Yes." I ask, "Do you love your family?" Again, I knew the answer, "Yes."
"Then you are doing more than most because a person's worth isn't determined by what they do, it is determined by who you are...and you are a prayerful, loving woman. Isn't that worth something?"
She doesn't say anything but I see the glint in her eye return and a small smile come onto her lips. I breathe a huge sigh and let the truth of that sink in for myself. I wonder at how her own wisdom comforts her and continuously teaches me and I am happy.
To be sure there are moments when I remember California in the summer...the trip to India I came home early from to sit here...and I stop myself short of feeling as though I miss out and ask...what experiences do I want to have define me...and I know as surely as my own family would say...it is simple moments like these when we get to help each other feel just a little bit more than we believe our selves to be...and I give thanks that I am here...and I give thanks that I have had parents who taught me this at an early age so I have never missed a chance to share life with the ones I love.