“Maybe she’s putting the microphone too close to her mouth?” my mom wondered as my cousin was trying to figure out the screen mirroring volume from her phone to our TV. But my mom knew what her sister was saying. She wrote that letter that was being read by my aunt during my grandma’s first death anniversary in her grave. In Ensenada. Across the border. Where my mother cannot go.
For the past year, my mother has been mourning her mother’s death. But I wonder if she’s been mourning her before she actually died. My grandma’s health had begun to wane for the last couple of years. In blurry video calls, my grandma barely remembered her own daughter’s name. After every video call, I could see my mother’s sadness turn into resignation. She couldn’t just get on a car and drive the 3.5 hours it takes from Long Beach to Ensenada without fear of not being able to come back to the U.S. Specially right now when she’s doing caretaking of her own with my sister, who has to go to dialysis three days a week. Every video call was a preparation for that last goodbye.
This is not the kind of life I dreamed for my mother in her early 60s. But here we are. I try to help with sister caretaking as much as I can when I’m not working.
But it’s taking its toll. And on my grandma’s one year anniversary, the toll is bigger.
As much as I tried to console her when she had to experience her mother’s funeral through a zoom call last year, there were not enough hugs and pats in the back to make up for the way she had to say goodbye to her mother.
A human being should never have to say goodbye to a loved one through a zoom call.
There was a part of me that felt less alone to know that so many people had to see other parents do that with elder parents in 2020. But now that the borders are open for people with the correct paperwork, my mom still couldn’t go back and honor her mother in the anniversary of her death. This has always been the way that undocumented people had to say their last goodbyes to a loved one back home.
Except now you can see the pain in TV screen. It’s bizarre this intersection of technology and mourning.
For the rest of that Sunday, all we could do is drink coffee–my grandma’s favorite thing to do as a family on Sundays–and remind each other of the moments we had with Nana Olivia. The good ones, the funny ones, and the ones that continue to live in my mother’s heart through that last letter she wrote to her mother.