I learned today that my grandma has been diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. There are no words to describe my tears and the numbness in my heart other than shock. My mother's family is very matriarchal. A petite woman of barely 5 feet and a mother to 10 daughters, she raised those daughters with an iron fist and a firm belief in the strong will of a woman, her independence from man, and an undeniable work ethic found in 10 hour shifts at a laundry. Perhaps her will was too strong; I see in my own mother her inability to convey emotion and it is in her own familiar scowl that I see my grandmother. Perhaps her will was too strong, for she never complained that her stomach was causing excruciating pain, and the only reason the family found out about her trips to the doctor was because she worried no one would be around to feed my mentally handicapped uncle. "She must be a Molina woman" is what we all muttered under our breaths when we found out that Grandma had been seeing the doctor. The thought of her health being under serious threat didn't cross my mind; she's Grandma. She is strong. She is the rock that my family is built upon. She is youthful. She is undeniably invincible and yet somehow inconceivably human.
I feel that out of my cousins, my sister and I are the most fortunate in our experiences with Grandma. Growing up just a few streets away allowed for Sunday visits after church and large bowls of Menudo. Her bed became a second home for Natalie and I; in Preschool and into Elementary school Mom would drop us off in the mornings before work and Grandma would proceed to take us to school. I can close my eyes and still remember her dark house, dimly lit from the morning sunrise that seeped in through crooked blinds. I would sit on the floor in between her legs and she would brush my long hair into a trenza. When I got older and entered adolescence, she would often mock my "Valley girl" accent and copy my hand gestures. "Está como su madre" she would laugh.
Perhaps I am most fortunate that this past year was spent in trips to Los Angeles. I was able to reconnect with my family the shift in distance that life had caused. My mom's family is so different from the way it was when I was younger. I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating moving back to Los Angeles so I could give my younger cousins what my older cousins gave me: the greatest appreciation for family and all its essence. I am not naive to death and the realities of life are familiar; she is so deserving of the Unknown. I just never imagined a life without my grandma.