If you examine the sociology of family, there are many aspects to consider. There are the cultural, race, religion, and at its basic structure, lineage: mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, etc. My focus is the legacy of family and its ever-changing paradigm. Fortunately, I have a very diverse family tree and I couldn’t be more grateful. What’s remarkable is that it took me so long to realize just how important my heritage is. Now it’s about my children’s ever growing tree that worries me. How much information can I pass down to them? For me, it’s not about something I can point to on a page I created in my scrapbook, it’s about submerging myself in the culture that shapes who I am, who they are. It’s more than just the names listed strategically in various slots on the colorful acid-free paper. It’s the story behind those names.
Just last Monday, my Grandmother passed away - her name is Viola Elida Salazar. My memories of her go very deep into the crevices of my mind, but the most recent would be just over ten years ago when I sat with her for a couple of hours to discuss the family tree. I hold that conversation dear to my heart because it was before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A disease her father, my great-grandfather suffered from. We spoke of not only names, but also their stories. I got to hear about my great-uncle who loved his family dearly and how he tragically died in an accident on the way to hospital to meet my mom when she was born. I diligently took notes on the many family members and their place on that old tree.
My thoughts of my childhood are filled with family and like many families, they sometimes become unraveled and seem to lose their importance in our daily lives. That is until someone passes away, whether it’s naturally or unexpectedly tragic. In fact, you can’t even say, “We knew it could happen any day.” That plays no part on your preparedness for the death of someone, you are never quite ready. Families get together, celebrating her life, sharing stories they have of her, and expressing how much they miss her laugh. Those are the best stories to hold on to.
I didn’t get to go to my Grandmother’s funeral for really just two reasons, financial and school. Now, I am left sitting here with immense regret. This isn’t to say I could have found a way to pay for the $1,000 ticket to travel, or taken advantage of whatever grievance policy the university has in place. It is to say that by not going, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to say goodbye to my grandmother for the last time, to see my parents, my sister, and brother who live in Texas, and to reunite with all those family members who got lost along the way because of time and circumstance. More importantly, I missed out on sharing the stories about my Grandmother, about their memories of her, and about their memories of when we were all young.
I look forward to visitiing Texas more than ever now, it’s only a matter of time. I miss my family and the many get-togethers they have. And the best part is I get to share it with my children.
Donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association in Houston
My photo adventures in Florida