“This Mother’s Day” by Christine Hernandez

I took my wedding ring off on Mother’s Day

I waited until the last minute to find the resolve to do it.  Unsure of whether it would matter or if keeping it on would set off a series of questions.  My grandmother doesn’t know that I’ve been wearing it for nearly five months.  I don’t think she’ll ever know.

I wish that I could be with her more often.  I know that as time passes her memory will fade.  I used to think that she was forgetful until we saw that it was more.  In three years the transformation from the woman I knew to the woman sitting in a wheelchair has been so drastic that it almost doesn’t feel real. 

My grandmother, like many grandmothers, inspired me for so long.  I learned the value of an education from her.  Growing up, she first started her education at a segregated Mexican American public school in Orange County, CA. Her educators viewed her, like many other Mexican American children, as inferior.  After Mendez v. Westminster School District, she moved into an integrated school.  Her White classmates were mean to her and her experience finishing school was rough – but she did it.  That persistence to get the education that she deserved was instilled in me.

There are two things that I owe to my grandmother.  First, I know the value of an education.  I know that without value of it and the drive to get an education, that I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I am the first in my household to go to college.  I was the first to leave the California bubble and go on to graduate school on the East Coast.  My family didn’t understand what I was doing and or what I was studying.  My grandmother?  She provided the emotional support I needed to take a chance and get an education that I would have never dreamed of.  It is because of her that I gained the strength to leave for school.  It is because of her that I had the courage to finish.

She’ll never see me walk across the stage when I eventually get my doctorate but I know that she’ll be there with me.

It’s a difficult thing to realize that at a certain point, time stands still for her.  There’s no moving forward of the timeline.  She’ll never know the events of my life that had happened after last May.  She’ll never know that I started the most amazing job.  She’ll never see the photos of my husband, who she absolutely loves, and I at our wedding. For me, and I’m sure for many others, it’s hard to lose that relationship.  I spent so much time with my grandparents growing up.  I spent every afternoon at my grandparents’ houses.  It can be hard to see her and know that she’s not the same person I had spent all my time with.

The second thing that I owe to my grandmother is my passion.  That passion and spirit is what keeps me going when life gets difficult.  It’s what gives me courage and allows me to be bold.  My grandmother has a fire that has burned bright.  I know that she’s still here when I see the sparks.  As we left her on Mother’s Day, we began to say our drawn out goodbyes.  She finally murmured, “Well what are you doing then? Get out of here.”  To an outsider it might sound like something else but I knew that she was with us in her room at that moment.  She was alive and present.

After we left her, I put my ring back on.  It felt good to breathe in and be in the present.  There are many other families like ours – families who see their loved ones lose their lives slowly to Alzheimer’s.  It’s a long goodbye that is incredibly difficult to watch.  Although it hurts to see her in this condition, I know that this day was about celebrating the love that we have for the outstanding women in our life.  Where would I be without my grandmother? I don’t know.  But I am forever grateful that I had such a role model in my life.

Christine Hernandez is the Manager of College and University Relationships at the American Association of University Women. You can follow her on Twitter @Hernandezc2c 

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