Two years ago we spent Christmas in Colombia with my father’s side of the family. It was unspoken, but we all understood that this would be the last time we would see my great grandfather, Luis Alberto. His health had been declining steadily, and dementia clouded his mind. I never knew the man he once was, but the man I did know was sweet and gentle.

During that visit I asked my great grandmother, Ana Fidelia, to tell me how she met him. They both grew up in the same small village. Her father was harsh and oppressive. He would calculate just how long it should take her to do something, whether it was getting back from school or the market. If she took too long there would be a punishment waiting for her at home. What first attracted her to my great grandfather was his family. They were always smiling and laughing, and she like to be around them. They married young and were never apart since, living through dangerous times of civil unrest. “We’ve been together so long,” she said. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him.”

her father, my great grandmother, and my great grandfather 

The next summer my great grandfather passed away. I felt such deep loss. He and my great grandmother are my roots. They connect me to a greater past and heritage. Now I wish for a chance to see my great grandmother at least once more, though I dread that goodbye. I want to see her, touch her, smell her, kiss her, and hear her voice. She’s a part of my past, but she’s also a woman I want to be. As I’ve gotten older, I’m told more and more often how similar we are. I want her to know how proud I am to be like her.

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