I feel tired — bone tired. It’s not so much a physical but an emotional exhaustion. I wish I could rest.
I was my maternal grandmother’s favorite. Sometimes it was cruel, but she made it clear to everyone that I was her heart. Every time she saw me, it was all hugs and presents: secretly handed folded crisp bills, a toy, a bicycle. My grandmother worked her fingers to the bone in the garment industry, exploited by heartless men who paid her by the piece. She would bring bags of work home and cut lace by the miles. She always had something for me, even if she didn’t have for the rest of the grandchildren. I was her fair-haired boy.
My paternal grandmother died of heartache long before I was born when my father was a mere boy, but his sister, my aunt, was a surrogate grandmother to me. And here too, I was her favorite.
Both women knew pain. They knew the pain of arthritis, of hands and joints broken down by years of hard, relentless work. My aunt was a washerwoman, whose hands were stripped of skin from the harsh chemicals of her trade. Both women knew pain, both worked hard, were poor, but they always seemed to have enough for me. It was only when I grew older I realized the tremendous sacrifice a bicycle or a brand new pair of shoes meant to them. They gave and never asked for anything in return, except perhaps that I be a good boy and do well in school.
And man, did I break their hearts — countless times. But their love was without condition and so their favorite I remained until they passed on. I like to believe that the reverberations of their love still carries me to this day. I read the following one day and thought it was appropriate…
Song of the Self: The Grandmother
Surrounded by my shields, am
Surrounded by my children, am
I am the void.
I am the womb of remembrance.
I am the flowering darkness.
I am the flower, first flesh.
Utter darkness I inhabit —
There, I watch creation unfold —
There, I know we begin and end —
Again. In this darkness, I am
Turning, turning toward a birth:
My own — a newborn grandmother
Am I, suckling light. Rainbow
Serpent covers me, head to foot,
In endless circles — covers me,
That I may live forever, in this
Form or another. The skin she
Leaves behind glitters with
The question, with the answer,
With the promise:
“Do you remember yourself?”
“I am always woman.”
“Flesh is flower, forever.”
I enter darkness, to enter birth,
To wear the Rainbow, to hear her
Hissing loudly, clearly, in my
Inner ear: love.
I am spiraling, I am spinning,
I am singing this Grandmother’s Song.
I am remembering forever, where we
— Alma Luz Villanueva
* * *
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…