I needed information about her to fill out an important document. I couldn't remember, nor could any of my siblings, the exact date she became an American citizen. I couldn't recall the exact year when we had the party, with all the little American flags strewn about the house. Anyone else I could've asked is dead, I told my older sister, who was wracking her brain trying to narrow down the year for me. Our grandmother. Our two beloved aunts. Gone.
I wish I could ring you, Mami, on that ridiculously old and overused black cell phone. You'd know. You'd laugh your infectious laugh, and talk about that day and why you finally decided to become a citizen. You'd marvel at the reason why I need the information. You'd tell me how proud you are of us, making choices that aren't easy but are nonetheless right.
I miss you, Mami. Your two oldest grandsons turned 14 and 13 this week. They're funny and handsome and smart and good to their mamas. I wish so much you could have called Nicholas today. I still remember he was the last grandchild you gave a birthday call to -- just two months and change before you died. We all called him from Diana's house, and you made a point of talking to him alone, even though you were exhausted. And I knew then. You weren't long for this life, but dammit you were going to suck it up and wish your grandson a happy 12th birthday!
Grief is like carrying a stone-filled pack. Every day you get rid of one, and your burden becomes lighter. There's an infinite number of stones, though, and you feel them, even when there are fewer and fewer weighing you down. It's heavy, and at first it's debilitating. But the truth is that even just one pebble can overwhelm you, stop you mid-thought, mid-step and leave you a crumbled mess on the floor.
All I can do is keep walking. All I know is that deep down, I never want to stop feeling it in some way.