You died two years ago today. All of us thought you would want to hold on until Louis and I got down to Florida that Saturday, but that Thursday morning you had had enough of the pain and staring in Diana's direction, you quietly bid us all farewell one last time.
Today I remember when you told me that you felt naked without earrings. I thought it was bizarre, and slightly vain, but today I'll wear earrings -- the ones you lent me on my wedding day -- in your memory. I'm not sure platinum and diamond earrings go with what I'm wearing this morning, but later tonight we're going to dinner and a play, and in any case, I wanted to honor you today.
You would have turned 69 ten days ago, and on the 22nd I imagined what a fun year this would have been for you. You would have joked about your friends being 70 already and how "young" you looked for 69, because you always, always looked younger than you were -- a trait only Louis seems to have inherited, despite all of his grey hair.
Speaking of grey hair, I started coloring mine in earnest this year after hearing your voice in my ear about my premature grey (thanks to Papi's genes) making me look older, even if my face does not. I still think it's unfair that Louis and Jorge get to grey gracefully while Diana and I spend a not insignificant amount on dye jobs every couple of months. But seeing as double standards never bothered you much, I think you'd be pleased.
I still don't wear make-up every single day, but your granddaughter insists I at least put on lipgloss. Yes, my nearly six-year-old is invested in whether I put on lipgloss, I imagine, because she hopes I'll let her put some on too after I'm done. She's so much like you that I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the similarities. She's my fierce little beauty -- so opinionated and funny and sweet but also infuriating and ridiculously fascinated with beauty and fashion. She refuses to wear trousers, even jeans, unless I force her to because of the weather. And then she must carefully select every other part of her outfit. Who is this child? I sometimes wonder, and then I answer myself -- she just like you.
My firstborn is still a gentle, caring boy with a loud voice and a magnetic personality. I remember the when he told you, at barely four years old, that she wanted to be a doctor when he grew up so he could take care of you and make you better. I told a friend that story recently, and she said it was the sweetest thing she'd ever heard. I miss the smile he could bring to your face and how happy he would be to see you. He still talks about how "great" you were and how much he misses you. He even took a photo of you into his third-grade class as part of his "me bag" that contained artifacts about his life. He's sensitive, like I was, and when I'm sad, he comes over, hugs me, and says "I miss Abuela too, Mama." He always knows.
And then there's the baby. He is such a mellow and kind toddler. It's impossible to be at upset at him. He is so devoted to all of us, and we all feel so blessed that he was born against all the odds. He's the apple of our eye, making each of us a better parent or sibling. We adore him, and we know you would have too. I pass your pictures and say, "That's Abuela, she was my Mami" and lately he has begun to say, "Your Mami, Mommy" when I point at your face.
And those are just my three. You wouldn't believe how big and beautiful and talented the older grandkids all are, or how hilariously entertaining little Bella is. Whenever one of the kids does something noteworthy, Diana and I commiserate at how proud you would have been, how happy you always were with your grandbabies.
Missing you can be an inconvenient burden, I'll admit. I'll see a grandmother ushering around her grandchildren in a mall, and I'll all of a sudden feel overwhelmed, paralyzed with grief. I could barely stand to be at my mother-in-law's 70th birthday dinner this past March, because I was so angry and hurt you'd never see yours. The unfairness of it all struck me like a hot arrow, poisoning me with those unpleasant twin feelings of jealousy and sorrow. I'm jealous of my husband, who has two septuagenarian, healthy parents, when I have none. I'm sad that my mother-in-law gets to enjoy the children, when you no longer can't.
But I also feel remarkably lucky. Not everyone has such a close relationship with their mother. You knew all four of us, you could see into our hearts, see what made us special, see who we really were, when so many others put on acts to please their parents. You were real to us too. You weren't some saintly, flawless martyr. You had your flaws and they made you human. I learned from your failures as much as I learned from your strengths. I marvel at your ability to have meaningful, life-long friendships, and I pray I can be as good of a sister, friend, and mother as you were to the very end.
I miss you every day, but that's a good thing, right? It means you're a part of me, no matter how long it's been since you died.