By Helena Rodriguez
My Grandma Chaya died on Jan. 30. I drove two hours and prayed 50 hail Marys, a rosary that is, hoping to make it to Lubbock to see her before she breathed her last breath.
I wanted to be there. I deeply believed it mattered, regardless of the fact that she was not conscious and, at age 92, she didn’t remember me.
Before Grandma Chaya was placed in a nursing home a year before her death, I went with my parents to visit her in Lubbock. She asked my name. I smiled and said, “Helena!” Then Grandma hugged me and said, “What a beautiful name. My mother’s name was Helena, too.”
I made it to Lubbock in time to hold Grandma Chaya’s hand while it was still warm — lukewarm. When I arrived at her bedside, Mom was singing to her and Dad, my sisters, uncle and aunt were keeping a vigil. She was down to her last minutes of life.
I felt her wrinkles and the roughness of her hands, which worked hard all of her life, from picking cotton, to making tortillas and tamales. I recalled how full of life Grandma had been when she first came to Mi Casita Nursing Home. The staff couldn’t keep up with her.
I recalled too when Grandma Chaya went with my dad and sisters to see the Tejano music band, Los Palominos, play at the Curry County Fair about 10 or so years ago.
I remember asking Grandma, “How was the music?” She twisted her nose. Apparently, the accordion-fueled, pop infused Tex-Mex cumbias that I love were not fast enough for Grandma who preferred Norteño music.
She never slowed down until the end.
I then recalled my last goodbye to my Grandpa Chico in 1997. It was another goodbye that I almost missed too, had I left my parent’s house in Portales only a few minutes earlier on that day.
We don’t always get a chance to say goodbye to our loved ones, but for some fateful reason, I got to say goodbye to both my paternal grandparents. I cherish these last goodbyes.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena- Rodriguez@hotmail.com