Love for one’s family is one of the most important attributes in a Hispanic home. Many things in our lives take priority, from the jobs we embrace to the education we have, but love for our family holds precedence. The Hispanic family tends to be very child-oriented, giving all children much warmth, freedom, nurturing and support.
My maternal grandfather was born in March of 1941 in a place called Ester, Texas. He was one of ten children and spent his early childhood picking cotton and produce or plowing fields alongside his siblings and parents. In 1953, my grandfather and his family moved to Michigan for the more promising work the state offered. They worked hard to learn English, to fit in, and to overcome adversity. Regardless of what happened, they had each other and an abundant amount of love.
On August 2, 1959, my grandfather married my grandmother. In the years that followed, they had five children together. Their home was always full of love. My mom was the oldest, and she had me in 1979. I was the first grandchild, and my Mexican grandfather quickly became my best friend. We were inseparable! He taught me how to sing, how to make music through various instruments and how to love others. From a very young age, I would often join my grandfather on stage at church, and we would share our love of music with anyone willing to listen.
My grandfather’s love has carried me from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. He has accompanied me through my celebrations, my achievements, my loss and my sadness. He is one of those people who will drop anything to be there for someone he loves, and he has done that for people my entire life. He has taught me many things, but love has been his greatest lesson.
In 1990 when I was only nine years old, I had the misfortune of being hit by a car riding my bicycle. I broke different bones on the right side of my body and had a lengthy hospital stay. My grandfather would come to see me every single day. He brought me things to do, rubbed my head and sang to me; he was against dancing, but he danced for me. He made that terribly scary time better for me just by being there and loving me.
A few years later, he was trying to help a neighbor of ours on the farm when the neighbor made a hurtful remark to my grandfather about the color of his skin. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I could feel my face filling with redness and warmth. I looked up at my grandfather with tears in my eyes, and he just smiled at me. He never said a negative word back to this neighbor, he just continued to help, and we left. I do not remember the exact details of that day or why we were there; I just remember we did not go back. Many years later, this particular neighbor was dying of cancer. This neighbor did not receive many visitors and primarily kept to himself. My grandfather went to his home, held his hand, and prayed with him. This is a story that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. To have so much love in your heart for others that you are willing to forgive like that makes me tear up all over again as I type this.
I could tell many memories and stories that would showcase the love in my grandfather’s heart, and I am just one person in his life that he shows this incredible love to. To date, my grandparents have five children, 12 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren. Our family continues to grow, and our grandparents continue to tell us they have much room left in their hearts to love.
In the Hispanic culture, and especially in my grandparents’ home, children are celebrated and loved. I never cramped their style, never ruined their plans, and always felt like I was wanted. Joyce Allston says, “Grandparents, like heroes, are as necessary to a child’s growth as vitamins.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. My grandfather is my hero, my best friend, and my mentor in matters of the heart. Mother Teresa said it best: “If you want to bring happiness to the world, go home and love your family.” That is exactly what generations of my Mexican family have been doing, and that is exactly the type of love I plan to show my own grandchildren someday.