The Spanglish Girl Diaries
Season Two Diary No. 14
I used to think the greatest love stories were those upon which fairy tales are based: Falling in love with a man who loves you so much he’d give his life for you; Someone to sweep you off your feet and save you. Romance.
But I now know better: there is a greater love …
As the plane took off, I did my best to keep it together. I wondered if this was it, the last time I’d fly home to see my mom.
Blanca called me this morning in tears. She asked me to come home immediately because my mother’s results came back and revealed the chemo did not work. The doctor gave her a lifespan of months, at best, a year.
I booked the first flight out of Chicago. I had just arrived home the night before from my trip to the island with Lupe, Adolfo and Cristiano. I hadn’t even had a chance to unpack.
As I looked out the plane window, I tried my best not to cry. There were passengers seated right next to me, so I didn’t have privacy.
The news that my mother’s illness was not treatable left me feeling emotionally wrecked. Since hearing the news, I felt sick and even developed a tremble. The truth is, until today, I remained hopeful: certain my mother would beat cancer. I never thought I’d be forced to say goodbye so soon.
Blanca picked me up at the airport and prepared me for what I was about to see. She warned, “Mom doesn’t look like she used to so don’t expect her too.”
I didn’t say a word. I watched Blanca as she drove. She looked tired, sad and afraid. I realized in that moment a week would not be enough. I’d need to stay longer, to give my sisters a break and help with my mother’s care.
We arrived to the house. When I walked into the room and saw my mother’s frail body and bald head lying on the bed, it took everything in me not to cry.
A knot formed in my throat as I held back tears. I turned to Blanca and our eyes met. She could see I was scared, so she approached my mother for me, and woke her, gently.
As soon as my mother’s eye’s opened, she spotted me and whispered, “Mija. Gracias a Dios que llegastes bien.”
I quickly neared her and hugged her. As we held each other, she reached for my forehead to make the sign of the cross, to give me her usual blessing.
It was at that moment I couldn’t hold in the pain any longer and I broke down. In between tears, I asked, “Who will give me my bendicion when you’re gone?”
My mother, as weak as she was, became the strong one. She rubbed the tears from my face and replied, “Even from heaven, I’ll be blessing you.”
I placed my head on her shoulder. Tears continued to fall and my nose began to run. She handed me a napkin and continued, “Do you remember that time we went camping and you got lost. You were like 5, I think. I was so scared you had been kidnapped or that you’d fallen and hurt yourself. Then, all by your little self, you found your way back. You were such a brave little girl. You still are. That’s why I know you will be ok without me.”
I did remember that camping trip. When I returned to the campsite, the rangers were there waiting with a search team. I had wondered off, following a butterfly, and eventually realized I was lost. But unafraid, I followed a path and eventually found my way back.
Even so, I was too naive and little then to even know I was in trouble. And as much as I wanted to believe my mother that I’d be ok, I knew I wouldn’t. Life for me would never be the same. To lose my mother would change me in a way I could not return from. Although I’d survive and bravely make my way through life, I’d never feel whole, again.
The next morning, my mother and I woke to Cecilia and Blanca’s laugher. It took me a second to remember where I was and why my sisters were here.
In the immediate seconds when I woke, before I could recall I was visiting my family, I made the mistake of asking out loud, “Cristiano?”
My mother, was quick to catch it and shouted, “Cristiano, who is that?” Her voice was so strong and her energy level so high, it startled us all.
Blanca, realizing what was to come, stated, “Oh God, here we go.”
Cecilia, also concerned my mother and I would end up in a fight and ruin the day, shouted, “Not today you two. No fighting, today.”
My mother, always the concerned protector of my virtue—even in bad health—was not deterred by my sisters warnings and to my horror asked,
“What happened to Adiel? Don’t think for a moment I forgot about him. So what, you broke up and now you’re with this Cristiano? Who is he? How did you meet him? Is he Mexican? Does he go to church?”
And there she was, my mommy! I was so happy to have her back, I didn’t even care she was upset or judgmental. Instead, I hugged her and told her everything she wanted to know. Of course—I had to soften the truth. She’d never agree to me dating a once cholo, and, as for Adiel, well, she didn’t need to know about that mess…
Blanca and Cecilia became so intrigued by my dating life, they took a seat on the bed with us and listened with excitement as I shared the details from my recent trip to the island and how romantic it was—As I went on and on about the candlelight dinner he planned, all I could think to myself was, who knew my dating life was the distraction they needed?
My mother, upon hearing Cristiano was Adolfo’s best friend, was now 100% on board.
Apparently, anyone her favorite nephew, Adolfo, set me up with, was a promising catch. Her reasons: Adolfo has a good job, treats Lupe and Marisol well and, of course, is her favorite nephew (aka the son she never had).
I was just happy she was happy. If me having a love interest cheered her up, then I was more than happy to play along. Besides, things were really looking promising: Cristiano had already text me to make sure I arrived to Vegas, safely. And had already offered to pick me up at the airport and take me to breakfast when I returned…
I ended up extending my trip to three weeks. But even so, the days flew by.
My mother and I spent much of the first week enjoying the outdoors. We went on picnics, gardened and went on evening drives to scenic lookout points to watch the sun set.
The second week we attended the county fair and rodeo. I had not been for years and was excited to see old friends from high school.
As I strolled my mother around the fairgrounds in her wheelchair, taking her to see the exhibits she loved most, like the quilts, 4H animals and craft stands, we reminisced about all the years we’d come as a family.
My mother, herself, had not missed a fair since childhood and she had made sure me and my sisters never did, either, as kids. I found it beautiful how life comes full circle. Where she once strolled me around in a stroller, I now pushed her around in her wheelchair, stopping to buy her cotton candy, taking her for a ride on the farris wheel and posing for silly staged old west photos. It was as if no time had passed and yet so much had changed.
The final night of my visit home, we finally spent the day doing the things we had avoided. My mother had asked me last week to help her sort through her most loved items. She wanted to write notes to the people she’d be gifting them too.
My mother reached for her jewelry box and handed me a pearl jewelry set. She explained, “I want Cecilia to have this on her wedding day.”
I whipped my head around, completely caught off guard. I had to ask, just to be certain, “Our Cecilia?”
My mother got the jist of where I was going with that statement and replied, “Yes, your sister Cecilia. You wait and see, she is going to find a nice little geek like her who loves sci-fi and cats and they are going to have little geek kids. Mark my words, you’ll see.”
I highly doubted this would be the case. Cecilia was more of a feminist than even I was. She also made no apologies for being single. On several occasions she even declared that she’d never get married.
My mother was in no mood to hear what I thought and ordered me to start writing. Realizing it was cruel of me to dim her hopes, I said no more and wrote exactly as she asked.
Next she handed me a box. When I opened it, I almost lost my breath: It was a beautiful baby set of blue and pink crocheted baby items: a hat, booties and blanket.
She stated with warmth and love, “Those are for Blanca when she has her babies.”
I felt tears form in my eyes, but thankfully, managed not to break down entirely. In between sniffles and a cracking voice, I asked my mother what she wanted me to write. She replied, her voice equally breaking,
“Dear Blanca, I’m so happy for you. You are going to be a wonderful mother. Just know that on those days when you need me most, I’m near, watching over you and my new grandchildren. I’m in your heart, I’m in your memories and I’m always with you. Love your mother.”
It was too much, if sadness could kill, I’d be dead. Somehow I made it through the rest of the items. My mother gave my aunts quilts, my cousins her tea sets and her friends knickknacks.
When we were done, I couldn’t help but notice there was nothing for me.
My mother, knowing me well, read my mind and the look of sadness on my face and stated, “I already had Blanca write your letter and wrap your gift. You’ll get it when you graduate law school.”
That she had bought me something for my graduation and not for marriage surprised me and filled me with a feeling of fulfilment I could not explain. I moved close to her and hugged her while jokingly stating, “I thought you forgot me.”
She patted my hand and assured me she could never forget about me, her “pride and joy.” That I was her pride and joy was news to me. I always considered myself the black sheep: divorced, running around wild, traveling, dating and skipping church.
I asked, mainly out of curiosity, why a gift for law school and not for a wedding or babies. Her response was beautiful. She explained, “Because I know your dreams are bigger and braver than that.” She then added, to be clear, “But that doesn’t mean I’m giving you my blessing to give up on love, you better never give up on the idea that someone could love you. He’s out there, you hear me?”
It then hit me, that I already had love. I’d had it my whole life.
I shared this with her and stated, “I’m sure he is. But even if I don’t find him, I’m not worried. I already know love.”
Confused, my mother asked, “With who?”
I looked at her and replied, “You Mami. You are, and will always be, the love of my life.”
This was the truth. Here I had a mother who loved me so much, she gave her life to raising me and making sure I made it. Her love was so unconditional, she loved me for who I was, the good and the bad. And no matter how difficult I was, she never gave up on me.
I realized in this moment that all of those years, all the times we didn’t agree and fought, all the time I spent resenting her because she was too hard on me, too judgmental, it was all her just trying to save me, care for me and to keep me from harm. Her love for me was a love so strong, it not only made me the person I am today, but it would cary me for the rest of my life through the good and the bad. Whenever things get hard, I’ll look back and remember all my mother did for me and how she never gave up, and this will keep me going. Knowing that my life is an extension of hers and my triumph a legacy of the sacrifices she made to give me all that she could.
You know they say that there are loves that change you, that make you better, well in my case, that was my mother’s love. And for the rest of my life, until the day I die, I’ll cherish the memories I shared with her. This, I now realized, is true love and the real love story of my life.
My only regret was not having realized it sooner…
Next diary to be posted April 21st.