Thank you for being here and welcome to Risen Savior. Yvette, the girls and I attend the 9:30 Mass here every Sunday. During the past two years, we got in the habit of stopping by the nursing home after church to visit with Grandma Rise.
Grandma loved seeing people, and she especially loved seeing Carin and Isabella – even though she probably saw them during the week when then would go with their Papi to take her dinner or clean clothes.
Grandma was never in her room. If she wasn’t in the common area, we would usually find her in the dining room, drinking a cup of coffee with friends, or oftentimes, fast asleep. Grandma always knew we had just come from church, and the first thing she would say is how beautiful the girls looked. She never failed to complement their outfits – Carin was always fashionable, and she loved Bella’s bright dresses.
Natillas and bizcochitos – The only thing Grandma appreciated more than company was if you took her a meal with chile or her preferred snack at the time. Anything but the bland chicken that she swore was served at every meal.
You could never go wrong with bizcochitos, and my Dad always made sure she had a stash in her drawer. She hid the cookies, because the nurses would check her blood-sugar level. She would call my Dad to tell him the staff would be calling.
She also loved natillas. My mother-in-law, Neyda, made her some once, and Grandma always talked about that. I made her some another time, and when we took them to her, we found Grandma in her room with her hands in her drawer grabbing bizcochitos. She thought she was in trouble…she had crumbs all over her blouse and her pants…she was literally caught with her hands in the cookie jar.
Bag of Cheetos – Grandma also went through a phase where she was addicted to Cheetos and Goldfish crackers. She was so outgoing and made friend easily. During her Cheetos phase, she and a friend would sneak each other snacks or food that they weren’t supposed to eat. Sadly, just before her friend passed away, the friend asked her daughter to be sure to give Grandma Rise a bag of Cheetos and a few of her belongings, if she died. The daughter followed through with the request, and Grandma was touched by the gesture.
My wife, Yvette, told me this week that I really got close with Grandma during the past two years, and she asked me if this is the closest I have been with her. The answer is yes.
I hate to admit it, but I was always a little afraid of Las Vegas because of my experiences with loss and death as a child. I was only 11 years old – near the age of my daughters – when Grandpa Carlos died. Grandpa Tony and Grandma Emily died around that time, as well, and I remember how grief-stricken Grandma Rise was.
Now that I’m older, and looking back, I still can’t imagine what Grandma went through. And I regret that it took Grandma’s sudden move to Albuquerque for me to get closer to her.
I tend to believe that things happen for a reason. And I’m happy that we made the connection that we did. It’s never too late.
It’s also ironic that Grandma moved to Albuquerque not long after I started researching my family history. Grandma Rise was my last grandparent still live, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to her about her memories, and share many of the records that I found.
The dog and tripe – Probably my favorite story that Grandma liked to tell us, over and over, was about the time Grandpa Carlos was cleaning some tripe that he bought at the meat market for 50-cents. Grandma said it was cheap, but difficult to clean. Every little while Grandpa would go into the house and take a sip of beer. But just as he was about to finish, Grandma spotted a dog outside, as it grabbed the tripe and took off with it. Grandpa went chasing after it – calling it a name I can’t repeat here in church.
Dad the little dickens – Another story Grandma liked to repeat was about my Dad when he was a child. They were helping Grandma Emily paint at her house, when my Dad stuck his foot inside the paint bucket. She said Grandma Emily was so upset. As Grandma Rise and my Dad walked from the house, Grandpa Tony drove up and asked what happened. According to Grandma Rise, Grandpa Tony took pity on my Dad and everything was fine. But every time Grandma told us the story, she ended it by saying: “What a little dickens, your Dad.”
I could go on and on about the stories that Grandma shared with us. But I’ll end with this one. Grandma once told me that her own mother, Emilia, went straight to heaven because she cared for and raised so many children – especially the foster children who welcomed into the family. I have no doubt Grandma Emily is in Heaven. And I have doubt that Grandma Rise is also going straight to heaven. I’m going to miss her.