Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, Honored guests
Since I am uncomfortable speaking about myself, I thought I’d tell you about something and someone very important to me: my family, and in particular, my grandmother.
My maternal great-grandparents were Mexican immigrants.
My great-grandfather was a member of the crews that built the roads along the
I don’t know if my great-grandmother ever knew about that other family, but the upshot of it is that she was left alone much of the time, raising several children. She ran a boarding house a few blocks from the ocean, in
My grandfather, Gregorio Hermosillo, was also a Mexican immigrant. Unfortunately, I don’t know where he, or any of my great-grandparents came from originally, so my family history begins in Ventura, where I was born, raised, and loved until 1999, when I moved to Monrovia, and five years later, to Upland.
That family history begins with my grandmother telling me that her mother did not approve of my grandfather. Which meant they were not allowed to “see” each other, and heaven forbid they actually be allowed to speak.
Somehow, though, they came to an agreement. Gramma would be looking out the window, or doing some chore in the front yard, and Grampa would walk down the other side of the street and tip his hat to her. That was it. That was the whole of their courtship, until after my great-grandmother passed away.
When she did, they eloped. It took them three tries, because my responsible grandmother kept deciding she had to stay home and take care of her younger brother. The third time though, they succeeded, and settled down together. They had one daughter, my Mother, Lupe, and were married many, many years, until my grandfathers death on
Since my parents had divorced when I was three months old, and my mother was raising three children on her own, shortly after my grandfathers death, Gramma moved in with us to help with my older brother Patrick, my sister Trina, and myself.
She worked as a house-keeper at the local hospital, leaving the house early in the morning, then coming home in the afternoon, taking care of us kids, and always had dinner on the table by the time my mom came home from work. Each Wednesday night, she would leave after dinner to go clean a small beauty shop, Sometimes she would take me with her, and to this day, the smell of Pine-Sol reminds me of her.
My fondest memory of her though, is snuggling with her in her recliner, ,as she read to me. Later, after I had learned, I would read to her.
She wasn’t perfect, I won’t pretend that she was. She had a temper and could easily loose her patience with us. But she was a strong, determined, loving woman who was there when we needed her.
She had raised my mother, myself and my siblings, and was even closely involved in the early childhood of my nephew, Edison, and my niece Kaelie-Ann. I am so glad they got to know her, even for a short while.
In the late 90’s, my grandmother began to become easily confused. She’d get lost when she went out to do the simplest errands. We were very lucky. Twice, nice strangers brought her and her car home to us. The second time, we took away her car keys.
I don’t remember exactly when she was diagnosed with Alzheimmer’s, but she had all the classic symptoms. She didn’t really know us anymore. She thought she was our maid. She would come to us and tell us she was done with her work and ask us to drive her home to the boarding house. When we wouldn’t drive her, she’d get combative and accuse us of holding her hostage. She “had’ to go, or she wouldn’t see the boy she liked walking down the street.
I have to admit it was more than I could handle, watching my grandmother deteriorate like that.
At 27, it was past time for me to move out on my own, and my grandmother’s condition, combined with a friends offer to rent a room from her, prompted me to move.
I’ve always felt I was running away.
A year or so later, after my grandmother fell and hurt herself, my mother, who had limited mobility due to a stroke, decided she could no longer care for her, and arranged to have my grandmother live in a home.
Living 90 miles away, I could only visit occasionally, and when I did, it HURT. She wasn’t there anymore, not really. Not her mind, and not her heart, just her body. My grand-mother, the wonderful woman who guided me through childhood, was gone.
I take comfort from the idea that though she wasn’t therewith us when we visited her, she WAS back in front of the boarding house she grew up in, watching for the man she loved to walk past and tip his hat.
My Gramma passed away in December of 2005. I miss her so much. She was an amazing woman, and without her, I would be less.