In many ways she's with us now more than she was during her last few years topside when her mind was truly gone. The wounded who preach of love never dying have a leg to stand on, though it can be misconstrued. It changes, you see. It has to. The departed aren't present to give themselves back, but love is meant to be selfless. We carry the lessons and laughs that they brought us. We wear their hardships as stripes on our skin. We throw back our shoulders when words hit our ears that give us the cue to carry the name.
And that is how my grandma still lives: through the words.
She spoke only Spanish, at least for the record. Ninety-two years is a long conversation. Her lexicon was that of a small island farm girl from Puerto Rico, peppered with wit she dragged in from the streets of New York like gravel that sticks to the bottom of soles. There's a list I have of her phrases; aphorisms from a wiser generation. None of them are dated. Most of them are funny. Some of them don't translate. All of them are true. I won't write them out in their native tongue for you to butcher. That would be disservice. That would be irreverent. Here's a prime example of the type of lines she carved: "He who doesn't want broth, you give three cups to." Her third-grade education made more sense than much of college. I had my share of cups there, though not enough was broth.
We revel in her words still--certain rolling R's and salty lady syllables. Even her cough is something that we mimic when with the closest family: "eh-heh, eh-hao." We know who that is. We miss her all the same, though in different ways. My mother called this morning, mentioned weekend chores. Her condo is a mess, she claimed, though only by her standards. I let my grandma's word for "mess" fall into the phone and the two of us remembered how she'd go off on some tangent. We could smell her small apartment, rice on the stove and dark meats laced with garlic in the oven. We could see her tiny apron adorned with handstiched flowers. This four-foot-nothing giant who loved without limits taught her children well. Be not "zeroes to the left", as she used to term the worthless. That sounds like a title. When it's time to print I'll use it.
There's a lot to say for language. There's a list of those I've loved. One can only hope that the actions match the words.
"The Body" by Stephen King.