The Strength of My Family

It was Saturday morning and my body was ready to rise. Not needing anything more than a gentle nudge from Daniel with the backlight of his iPhone in front of my eyes. “Call your mom,” he said as he showed me a text from my sister. It read, “Can you please have my sister call my mom thanks :).”

It must have happened I thought to myself. I got up with such ease it was scary. I usually drudge and drag out of bed. I grabbed my Hello Kitty cased iPhone and slipped quietly into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I called my mother but no one answered. So, I sat on the edge of the tub and waited.

A few seconds later she called me back. I picked up the phone. My mom hesitated to tell me but there it finally was, “your Uncle Danny passed this morning.”

“Hello, are you okay?” she said.

“I am fine, mom. How are you?”

The conversation continued. I thought I am never where I am supposed to be. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be around the hugs, cries, and laughter that always follows a death in our family. But, I wasn’t I was in the bathroom of the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. Far from being in the kitchen of my house or my Grandma’s living room.

As I get older, I realize being a woman in my family means your always JUST ok. Well, even if you’re not you have to be OK. The women in my family are the strength, the backbone, and the trunk of my family tree.

Thinking through this loss I can’t help but think of why all the men have died in my family. It started with Uncle Pachie, then Grandpa, then Uncle Tommy, then my Dad, and lastly, Uncle Danny. My mom still has her sisters- all 5 of them.

This loss made me angry and very aware of the way inequalities affect the quality of life for men of color. For my family, it has been the drug and alcohol abuse that has worn the men in my family thin. Worn down their hearts, their lungs, their kidneys, their livers, given them disease and pain. I constantly wonder where the emotional pain came from, when in our family did it start? and why did they need to use?

The women behind them have stayed strong, supporting them, caring for them, and continuously being the rock. These effects are the results of social inequities, lack of education, and a missing sense of empowerment. Lost opportunities, misdirected and blurred vision – the smoking mirror- Who taught us to hate ourselves? To numb the pain, to self medicate?

But, I also see the beauty in the pain. And I can’t help but to be proud. Proud to be in the family that continues to have a legacy of strong women. My father used to tell me, “Your mother is so strong.” I see it now. I see it, clearly the privilege, responsibility, and honor of being a woman. And not just any woman a strong woman. There is nothing else I could be. I didn’t have a choice. I was born into a family of strong women. Women that don’t just care for themselves but care for their husbands, father, children, grandchildren and community.

I have seen the pain and anguish on their faces. I know they cry in the stillness of the night. But I know the creator gives them strength. That Tonatzin herself looks down and blesses them. I am proud to be a woman, a chicana, because I know that strength runs through my veins. I know who I am and what I want to be. I know I am blessed.

RIP Uncle Danny.

from left to right: (back row) Auntie Yvonne, Auntie Cathy, Mom, Auntie Ruby (front) Uncle Danny and Grandma – Missing Auntie Pauline and Auntie Roberta

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