Grandma Della always said, with death comes a reckoning. She was big into living within boundaries and maintaining harmony with the greater universe. Latin women from her generation believed what the Pope said and generally didn’t have a clue about new age teachings. I don’t think she knew about the Yin and Yang of things. Mostly I’ve come to believe she figured out balance through life lessons. God and the Pope have nothing to do with reality. Rather they are part of the bigger picture, and like everything else unexplainable, are part of the checks and balances. She didn’t express it this way, but it was clear in her words when I fussing with outcomes I hadn’t predicted. I often wonder if Buddha, maybe even God, had her on direct dial.
“Bren, stop fighting the outcome. You had to know it was coming, girl. Make a bad choice and bad will come. Make a good choice and the heavens will smile down on you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Grandma D, I didn’t make a bad choice. I am manipulating the variables. Heaven has nothing to do with what’s going on in my world. I am insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I am…”
“You’re wrong Hijita, you are significant. You carry the same voice, have the same chances, pay the same dues, and put your Levis on just like the rest of us. You’re responsible and accountable for your choices and actions. It’s the way of life. ”
“No one up in your heavens has a clue I am around. I control my destiny as I control what is coming. My life, my canvas, my destiny, my outcome is mine to determine.”
She’d laugh at me and return her attention to the raw tortilla dough sitting on the yellow Formica counter in front of her. With the rolling pin and the might of her forearms she’d roll up, down, lift and turn over the dough, repeating the motions until the dough took shape. Once it was thin and circular like a salad plate she’d lift the edge with her fingertips, peel the dough off the floured counter, and play patty cakes with the masa until it resolved into a perfectly shaped tortilla.
At whatever age I was in any one of the seven hundred ninety-two plus conversations she and I had about my cavalier attitude towards life over the years, I’d repel her words at their utterance. What I thought I knew she didn’t is beyond me. Now when I need her guidance I have to turn my head towards the heavens. Back when she was feeding me warm tortillas filled with fire roasted green chilies, the wisdom of her words would slip through me, and my consciousness without so much as a tickle as it passed into me. She’d passively impart valuable wisdom I’d need at some future date in my yet un-lived young life. Without consideration of the time she’d accumulated or regard for the nexus of my circumstances to hers, I’d spit her street corner philosophies back out as if I’d eaten lox a week beyond its sell-by-date. I was never aware her knowledge—given freely and for my well being—clung and held on for the sake of my dear life.
I hadn’t a clue I was wired like Della until she died. I’ve come to realize everything she taught me is right where I need it when I need it. I have the mystical instinct to reach inward and pluck it out when an occasion arises. If I am confused, floundering, or lost in grief and uncertain about what comes next, I react as if being guided by some unknown force, like a Jedi sort of power. Despite my youthful ignorance, my budding Jedi-self hoarded her words, gleaned and stored all her teachings as she imparted them.
Now all I have are memories of her and the scripture according to Della on life and living, which I pass along to my kids whether they want to hear it or not. Of course, they give me the same sort of look I gave her, but I don’t stop because one day they will need the mystical, innate, Jedi power required to weather life’s turbulence.
What was the most valuable lesson you were gifted from a mentor? And have you passed it along?