My grandmother’s hands

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.

Our hands.

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.

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My grandmother’s hands

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There are 10 comments

  1. Lisa Serrano Diaz

    This is a beautiful post. I just lost my Reyna/Grandmother this April & it has been much to get adjusted to. She & I were very close. Lots of love to you & family.

  2. Mari Corona

    Wonderful share! My grandma is 91 she has days she doesn’t know who I am, they are sad but I try to focus on the times she does remember me . Great we have them in our lives still, cherish every moment for sure. A post full of love thanks again for sharing:)

  3. gameofthronesfan

    This reminds me so much of Nana. She raised her family in East LA, and moved out of state when my dad’s job moved him. She too still loves my mom even though my parents divorced over 30 yrs ago. She fell in August, and fractured her hip. It has killed me to see her downhill spiral since then. Like you, after she fell I thought it has begun. This is what sucks about getting older, our loved ones get older too.

  4. The Mrs./The Mom

    This was a really beautiful post. She is very beautiful. I don’t have any of my grandmas anymore, continue to cherish the moments that you and your children have with her!

  5. Elissa L.

    We just went through a fall and femur break with my Nana. I often have that same “we are here” frame of mind. I am trying my best to not think that way but to enjoy the rest of the time we have.

    1. Denise Cortes

      It’s an okay thought to have–it’s reality. It just makes you realize you have to be intentional about the time you have left. Hope your Nana feels better soon. ((hugs))

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