COMMENTARY: The pandemic has me missing my abuela on Grandparents Day, but it won’t stop me from learning about her history

September 11, 2020 /

Sunday, Sept. 13, marks National Grandparents Day 2020 in the United States, and I would love to celebrate with my abuela just as I have done in the past. But this year, I can’t.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t been able to visit my abuela, Yolanda Gonzalez, as much as I want to.

It’s been especially tough because a month ago, my 65-year-old abuela contracted the virus while on the job as an essential worker. When she told us she had been feeling unwell, we encouraged her to get tested.

She’s a champion, and I really believe nothing can stop her. Her grace has always amazed me growing up. In honor of Grandparent’s Day, I wanted tell her story, as it is so special to me.

My mother’s mom — the youngest of six kids — grew up in Durango, Mexico, where she saw all the animals walk free, including cows, donkeys, and chickens. I was surprised to learn that she knows how to milk a cow, and her mom knew how to make cheese.

Although she has so many fond memories from her childhood, she said, “I don’t necessarily miss the past. I focus on the present. Right now, no one lives there anymore. I’m sad I missed the chances I had to go visit. I won’t get that time back.”

Her fondest childhood memory is her quinceanera. She remembers her older sister Maria buying her shoes for her party and making pozole.

I know understand why my abuela loves watching videos from my own quinceanera. My abuela helped plan my party.

I admire my abuela so much because growing up, she didn’t look up to any celebrities or artists. Instead, she looked up to the hard-working group of people that formed her community. It was not until she moved to Guadalajara that she was exposed to new things. She worked cleaning apartments there and enjoyed swimming at the local pool.

It was in Guadalajara when she first met my grandfather when she was 18. He was visiting, traveling to Narayit from LA. And now, 42 years later, they have been together ever since. I adore them.

Now, my abuela and abuelo live together in LA. They have created a beautiful home, with a beautiful garden and avocado tree. A neighborhood squirrel often climbs the tree, and my abuela has formed a special relationship with the small creature. She named it Kitty. My oldest sister drew her a painting of Kitty holding an avocado, which she know hangs in her kitchen.

My abuela is an amazing cook — arguably, the best. I always look forward to her signature breakfasts; however, it turns out she hated cooking growing up.

“I was lazy but I learned from my mom with my sisters” she said.

She remembers when they would all sit together to make tortillas. I was shocked because I am super passionate about cooking. I constantly plan themed dinner nights so my family and I can all cook together. We found
agreement on one thing: our love for chilaquiles. Mine could never compare to hers, though.

During these difficult times, staying in touch can be difficult. Many worry about keeping themselves and others safe. For many, it makes celebrating Grandparents Day this year harder. I also think it reminds us to not take for granted the special relationships we have with our family. I love my grandmother and miss her all the time. I appreciate all the small things she does and says.