All you wanted for your family was for us to be happy. And to stick together. As a little girl, after a fight with one of my siblings over who had the tv remote, who cut the Barbie’s hair, who stole the toy in the cereal box , you would remind me that family comes first. We don’t fight, we stick together. No matter what. So, here we are, together, for you.
If there was a single message, and there were plenty of great ones, that came through loud and clear, it was to never give up. I thank you for this. You liked to remind me of my innate strength (sometimes stubbornness) and my fuerza, which you believed would get me through tough times. But, you also wanted me to study hard, have a career, be independent….THEN get married and have kids. You loved to remind me of the time when Mark and I told you that we were pregnant. About how shocked you were, how worried you were for me. About a month ago, I had to remind you finally that we were in our late 20’s when we got pregnant, had been together for EIGHT years, I had two degrees and a career. But it didn’t matter. I think you just liked worrying for me. Knowing how hard raising a family could be for you and me, worrying whether I had enough fuerza. But, you don’t have to worry. I heard you then, and I hear you now.
You had an uncanny way of getting things done. I loved hearing the story of when you left Peru, came to the US for the first time, to raise 4 children, speaking barely any English, while my Dad worked long nights as a resident. You took us all to the park, to swim lessons, to karate lessons, to ballet lessons, to the market, to the mall….Whenever I shared with you how hard it was to juggle work and family, you would quickly remind me — but, hijita linda, I had four! You were under 5 feet tall but bore an immense physical and mental strength that I till this day admire. Thank you for staying strong all these years.
You would at times lament about leaving a career when you came to the US to raise a family. As if it was a kind of failure. But you were anything but that. You were an amazing mother. You loved your family immensely. We were your joys and you were our beautiful Mamá. You may have not gotten everything you wanted, but you built so much. A family and the countless memories we love and enjoy very much. But now I regret. What I had, my mamá, felt like it would last forever. Now that you’re gone, your embrace is the only thing in the world I want now. I want so badly to have you here. This feeling, this must have been what you meant when you said you missed me, as a baby, as your little girl. Longing for those times again. I will forever long having you here, forever long your phone call, your text message, your visits, your embrace. Because you built so much.
Though you didn’t like to share your feelings, there were plenty of priceless advice and reality checks. You loved starting your sentences with, I shouldn’t probably say this, but I will. Like the time I chopped off my hair and dyed it red. Or the time I pierced my nose myself. Or when we fought over my clothes, like the leather jacket or all the other things that you weren’t afraid to say you did not like. You had an amazing style and knew what clothes would look perfect on you and your girls. And my rebellions irked you. Like when we fought over you spoiling your grandkids too much. Or when you forced your way into the operating room to see my first’s delivery. I know you just loved seeing them happy. And they were so in love with their Nanny. You had silent strength, a look that said – Hijita Linda, please. But, I didn’t do these things to torture you. I knew what I wanted and what made me happy. But, I heard you, I listened. You always had great intuition. You knew good people and you kept them close. I remember when I first introduced you to Mark. You were so protective over us girls. No boyfriends, you would demand. But, the very next day after meeting Mark you woke me up and exclaimed I like Mark! So, my drive, my independence, my rebellions came from only one place. They came from you. And after some 35+ years, I think I finally have the gift of your intuition and of your style.
I loved watching you dance. You had natural rhythm and a love for movement. You would tell me how you used to dance ballet as a girl. When you danced, it was as if you were free of worry and stress. You looked so happy. Which is why I think you put me through every activity in the book. Ultimately, for me though, it came down to swimming. There were plenty of times that I begged to quit. I couldn’t take the three-hour practices. My stroke was butterfly and I was constantly sore. But you would tell me- Don’t Quit! I think you didn’t want me to regret my decision later down the road. I am so thankful I didn’t. Till this day, whenever I am stressed, I grab my swim bag. Actually, I think Mark grabs my swim bag and tells me to go for a swim, because he knows (like you) how therapeutic it is for me. I can workout for hours and not break a sweat in the water, come home feeling brand new. Thank you all the swim lessons, for giving me the gift of swimming, believing that I could swim nationally when I didn’t, teaching me to stay strong. Because I can still fly.
I’m sorry if I pulled away from you. All I can say is that you wanted so much for me to stay strong, be happy, be a good mom. I had to be on my own. It wasn’t because I didn’t love you. It was because I wanted to be that person. You had the innate ability to see the potential in people. You always knew who I was and could be. I just had to realize that too. Thank you for giving so much even when I pulled away. For never giving up on me.
Recently, I called you to thank you. I had just taken my daughter to her first long-course swim meet. And I thought of you. I wanted to let you know how grateful I was for all your sacrifices, your dedication and devotion. I wanted to let you know that our fuerza had been passed on. She jumped off those blocks, she swam, she finished. So try not to worry. She is your granddaughter. She was born fighting and will stay strong too.
I want to so badly have you here. And I want to believe you still are. The last few nights, I’ve dreamt of you. I run to hug and kiss you, to tell you not to go. You tell me that you won’t, that you would never leave. I know you won’t. Because your legacy lives on in me, in us, our children. We carry with us memories of Mamá, your stories and your fuerza. You are with us to experience the joys of being a mother, being an entrepreneur, falling in love, going back to school, traveling the world.
I want you to know how grateful I am for your unconditional love and time. If there was award for it, Mamá would have earned thousands throughout the years. I hope I make you proud. I will always be your Hijita Linda.