The last time I was able to see both of my grandmothers, I was seven years old. My parents decided to take my sister and I to live in Mexico for a little less than a year in order for us to get to know who our other family was. I don't remember much about my father's mother except for the fact that she barely spoke Spanish. Instead she spoke Nahuatl. My mother's mom did speak Spanish and she is the one I quickly connected to as I saw a lot of my mom's characteristics in her. Loving, caring, but also tough when it was called for. (Mostly when I decided to act up and leave the house to go buy some papas at the corner store.)
I have been back to Mexico once after that, and by then I only had one grandmother to go back and hug. Both my grandfathers are still up and going but they are harder to speak to. (Considering I am a mamas' boy.)
My sister and I are lucky enough to have been able to meet our grandparents. Our younger bother, a sophomore in high school, has only heard their voice through the phone. While he wishes to meet them soon, airplane tickets have been out of the reach for several year.
When I was away for college, away from my parents, from the city and from the Spanish community that brought me up, there was always one thing that I envied of other students. During family weekend there would be hundreds of families on our small campus checking up on their kids and seeing where it was that my friends studied... and partied. My friends would always put on their cleanest clothes and make sure to look their sharpest. A lot of the time it was because they had their grandparents visit as well. Some of them have explained to me the role their grandmother or grandfather have had in their lives. Some have learned how to be more mature, learned how to make a specific food dish, love a specific sports team, and a few have idealized a grandparent for their profession to the point where they dedicated their college major to those who once changed their pampers when mom or dad was out of the house. I was never upset at their stories but I was aware that the relationship that my friends had with their grandparents was something I missed in my life.
I am sharing this not to have you feel sorry for me but rather to have you know that this is the story of millions of students who are first generation Americans. Our parents made the decision to leave their country to give us the right to be called American citizens even when they knew that they may never get to hug their own parents again. While some of you may see your grandmother or grandfather as just another set of adults in your life, remember that they are gifts. Somewhere down your own family history, a family member lived without a grandma and grandpa so that you didn't have to.
The next time you are with your grandparents remember to give them a kiss and hold them tight. Not because they may not be there tomorrow, but because they are there in front of you, at that very moment.
Abuela, abuelo, los amo con todo mi corazón y les prometo que nos veremos pronto.