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.