In Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn - the two places my grandmother called home - it is already June 1, her 100th birthday. My grandmother, Celina Pacheco, isn't with us anymore. She died in 1991, after an ugly, but thankfully short, decline into dementia. If you knew Celina, you knew that dementia was the worst thing that could happen to such a brilliant mind. She was a thinker. A keeper of memories. A storehouse of history. She was the greatest storyteller I have ever met, and I've known some pretty amazing storytellers. She had a quick wit, a sharp tongue, an infectious laugh, and a big, generous heart....especially when it came to children.
Celina had 9 children - all of them planned, all of them spaced out in two year intervals, and she mourned the loss of a tenth child who didn't make it to term. She loved motherhood, and she adored grandmotherhood. Children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, she raised children almost until the day she died. She was good at it. No, she was fucking GREAT at it. If it's true that anyone is born with a natural calling, my grandmother was born to care for babies, nurture young children, and guide tweens and teens into adulthood.
If some genie were to appear and ask me to choose between a million dollars and one wish, I'd take the one wish. My wish would be one more day with my grandmother as I remember her, when she was at her best. Drinking coffee, riding the subways of NYC all over the five boroughs to visit childhood friends, scratching my back, telling wonderful stories about her admittedly bratty childhood, arguing with my grandfather - who she'd known since childhood, and who she adored, always. And, if I had that day, I'd tell Celina the things I never got around to telling her when she was alive: That, if there's any little thing about me that's like her, it must be the best thing about me. That I consider it an honor to have been loved, nurtured, and raised by a woman with such Mana. That it makes me sad my nieces and nephews never knew her. That not a day has gone by since 1991 when I haven't thought about her. That I never knew I could miss anyone as much as I still miss her.
Happy Birthday, Celina.