|My Nana as a young girl, a young woman and as a young wife.|
My little brown Nana from East L.A turned 86 years young last July.
As I think back on this lovely woman, scenes from my childhood flow through my mind.
Riding shotgun in her blue Pinto as she drove to the bank in Lincoln Heights. I would stare at the Chicano Time Trip mural by Los Dos Streetscapers (Paul Botello and Wayne Healy) on the walls of the East West Bank the entire time.
|Image source: Flickr / Marisa Osollo Montellano|
All of those summers and weekends and holidays in East L.A definitely shaped who I am as an artist, that I know for sure.
My Nana is woven into those early memories. My father’s mother has been nothing but loving and sweet to me. I am her first grandchild. When my parents divorced back in 1981, my Nana’s home in El Sereno became a safe haven for my little brother, sister and I. No matter where my father moved to and who he lived with, she always opened up her home to us and made us feel welcome.
She cooked delicious food for us (her menudo is the best). She made us comfy beds to lay in at night. She let us play in the yard while she tended to her roses in the backyard. She took us with her around town while she ran errands. She always spoiled us at Christmas. She let me sit at her feet while she watched The Young and the Restless, All my Children and General Hospital and chain-smoked unfiltered Pall Malls. She loved my mother, even though my father was no longer married to her. That meant so much to me.
When I turned 20 and I wanted to transfer to college in L.A., she opened up her home to me once again. She loved me and accepted me as I was…rebellious, sarcastic, “free-thinking”, combat boot wearing, pot smoking, painter, artist Chicana clad in black from head to toe. Some nights I would tumble in the door after a long night at a concert or a nightclub to find her peacefully crocheting a blanket or playing solitare. She never asked me what I was up to, or scolded me, or judged me — she was always her sweet and loving self and she was happy I was home safe.
The years have passed and we’ve both grown older. When I became a mama, she used to call me all the time and ask me how my babies were doing. Now her memory isn’t as strong. Sometimes she remembers who I am, but most of the time she doesn’t. It’s bittersweet but I know she has a lifetime of love and memories of me locked inside her heart and that is enough.
She recently took a nasty fall in her bathroom and broke her femur. She is such a dainty little thing, so fragile and light.
|Nana is so fancy with her pink mani.|
Together with my brother and sister, we went to visit her in the hospital. As we walked down the hall, I thought, it has begun. We’re now at that age where we’ll rally together as siblings to see our grandparents and our parents grow old and need care-taking.
My Nana was tired but in good spirits. She was happy to see us, too. She knew who my brother and sister were but not me.
|My Nana and my brother Eric, her first grandson.|
I don’t know how long I will have my Nana but her love for me, her gentleness and kindness will always be with me. Life is so fleeting. I understand this now.
I really wanted to get a photograph of my Nana’s hands because they speak volumes. For so many years they were full, powerful and strong. Now they are tiny, soft and etched with many, many years of love and life.
I’m so grateful for them. I’m so grateful for her. The impact my Nana has had on my life is immeasurable. For so many years she held my hands in hers, filling that void in my heart that my parent’s divorce left. Now it was my turn to hold hers.
Love you, Nana.