I found out on Saturday that my Tia Thelma (“Aunt” in Spanish) passed away. She is actually my great aunt, my mother’s aunt, but was very very close to me my whole life because my Grandma died when I was a baby so she filled that role for me, for all of us.
The sadness comes in waves. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I am mad at myself for sitting in her room the day before she died, watching “The Faculty” while she and my mom talked. I am mad at myself for not singing when she asked me to on Christmas in that lunch room we were in. I was like, Tia there all these people around us! I should have just sung. For the last time. I know I shouldn’t dwell on that stuff. I know peace will come with time.
We had a special Thanksgiving. We always have holiday dinners at my house in San Francisco and all my relatives come over. Tia stopped coming a couple years ago. Mom told me it’s because her eye sight wasn’t so great these days and it was a lot of work for her to get ready and get picked up and spend time with so many people. When I saw her at her home I said, Tia come to Thanksgiving! All you have to do is sit there and eat. That’s all. She decided to come! My cousin James came with me to pick her up and I did her makeup and combed her hair. She told me that when I was a tiny girl I would say, “Sit down Tia, I’m going to do your makeup.” and back then my skills were questionable so I’d make her look like a clown. As James and I helped her down the stairs to the car, it made me realize how fragile she was. We’d come full circle. So many years had passed. Everyone was so happy to have her there on Thanksgiving. It was so nice.
I went home to LA the next day and a couple days later my Mom called me and told me Tia had had a heart attack. It wasn’t good and I needed to get on a plane. By the time I was in SF she was in heart surgery. They didn’t know if she’d wake up, didn’t know how it would go… She did wake up. They were very hopeful. They said the surgery had gone great. She needed to go to a rehab facility for a couple weeks to get back to walking and all that. We were all relieved. I was back to LA. When I returned home for Christmas, she was in her rehab facility. She did NOT like it and who could blame her? Lots of elderly people, no privacy, bland food. She wanted to go home to her little house. I was with her the day before she died. She said her chest hurt. I hugged her and I said, “Tia, next time I see you, you’ll be feeling much better. I’ll come back in a few weeks.” She said, “Yes, next time you see me, I’ll be feeling much better.” She passed away the next day from another heart attack after I had just gotten home to LA.
I went to the computer and there was the MP3 player my Mom had given me for Tia. I was in the process of downloading a bunch of her favorite classical music for her to listen to. She’ll never get to listen to her music.
Death is a very weird thing. It is my instinct to be alone. To deal with it privately. I know that I need to be here with my family. It’s all so sad. It’s sad because I didn’t want her in pain and in that rehab center she hated. I’m sad because I loved her so much and I just hope she knew. I’m sad because she’ll never get to see me get married or meet my kids or live my wildest dreams. I’m sad because my family is so sad.
Tia loved me so much. When I was a little girl, she would give me anything I wanted! I used to feel like a princess at her house. I would cry when I left her because I felt so sad that she was all alone. I know that she’s not all alone now. She has her parents and her sisters and most of all, her best friend, my abuelita. I just hope that as she watches the rest of my life unfold, that she’s proud of me.