How to Grow Old

by Andrea Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in issue 6 of Huizache (Fall 2016)

Grandma’s prepa­ra­tions for her death began in 1975, some years before I was born. Grand­pa Roland had just died of a heart attack while golf­ing in Grif­fith Park, and she made funer­al arrange­ments at Mira­bal Mor­tu­ary near her house in Lin­coln Heights—not only for Grand­pa, but also for her­self. She ordered her cas­ket, a limo for the pro­ces­sion, and two plots at Res­ur­rec­tion Ceme­tery in Mon­te­bel­lo, where so many Lati­no Catholics in Los Ange­les bury their loved ones. All that was left to do was to arrange her Mass. Once Grand­pa was in the ground, Grand­ma await­ed her turn. Her name was already on the tombstone.


In a nor­mal year, Grandma’s house pul­sat­ed with life on Christ­mas Eve. Her four grown children—Romaine, Greg, Al, Dad—and their fam­i­lies filled every seat, the grand­chil­dren and great grand­chil­dren usu­al­ly inhab­it­ing the floor. But this was no nor­mal year. It had been only six weeks since Uncle Al died, and Christ­mas had almost been called off.

I was sev­en years old, and Alex, the baby of my three younger sib­lings had just turned one. We were young, but we under­stood that a pall had fall­en upon over house since Uncle All died and that Christ­mas would be sub­dued this year. Still, my sis­ters and I could not stop the excite­ment that bub­bled up inside of us when we saw Grandma’s Christ­mas tree from the street, sparkling through the slid­ing glass door of her bal­cony with a hodge­podge of orna­ments and lights that dat­ed back to the ’70s. We bound­ed up the stairs, resist­ing the urge to lunge for the tree once the door opened. Grand­ma met us wear­ing an apron and a wan smile. “Mer­ry Christ­mas!” she said, her sil­ver tooth mir­ror­ing the col­ored lights.

To read the full piece, pur­chase issue 6 of Huizache magazine.