I sat beside her on the staircase, hour after hour, day after day, as she spoke on the phone with her friends and her sisters. I colored in a book, or just listened to the bubbling creek of her voice washing over me.


I didn’t understand every word my grandmother said, but I knew the important ones: amor, morió, mi hijo. With hjio, son, her voice would choke up and she would start crying. I would lean against her, trying to comfort her with my body. I would look up into her eyes and she would wipe the tears from under her glasses, and smile at me. Her son had died, at an age that would break a mother’s spirit.


Sometimes she would become so upset that she would start rapidly breathing and clutching at her chest. I knew where she kept her nitroglycerin pills and would encourage her to take one. In fact, I remember once when the pills didn’t do their job, and she had to be rushed to the hospital; I think maybe I was only 5 years old. I had already learned the lesson that grief would try to kill you.

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