“Familia primero y mas que nada,” my grandmother used to tell me long ago. I can barely remember her saying it myself, and only recollect it because my father says the same all the time. I was a young boy of eight then and could not truly comprehend what it meant, so instead I lived my life naively day to day, enduring the typical things an eight-year-old endures; bullies, cooties, stupid sisters, et al. Despite these things I always knew my family would be together forever until the end of time, so at least I had that one constant in my life.
And then she had a stroke.
My grandmother had serious heart problems then, and everyone was expecting the worst sooner or later. Everyone except me, of course. I was still too young to understand the concept of death and what happens when people “go.” That, and I did not want to understand it. I was too happy with the way things were, and to even consider something like death could ever affect me was absurd and out of the question.
It happened anyways, and was I in shock. “What just happened?” I asked myself. Three days prior, I was sitting on the carpet floor in my grandmothers bedroom watching David the Gnome on Nickelodeon, and now I’m sitting in a Mount Sinai Hospital waiting room, wondering when my parents will be bringing me to her to say my “goodbyes.”
They came out, called me over, and I followed.
My family all stood by her bedside. Teary-eyed and staring at her, we hoped she would wake up and just be better again so we could leave this miserable hospital and forget we were ever here. It was here though, where for the first time, I began to understand what my grandmother kept saying whenever I would fight with my sister, or disobeyed what my mother or father would ask me to do, or even dared to go against her requests. She believed that family was the only thing one could really trust, and put its’ importance above all other things first and foremost.
I understand this now, and share her same beliefs. I believe in my parents, despite their recurring arguments about the pettiest of things. I believe in my sisters, despite our even more petty disagreements and fights. I believe now and until my dying breath in “Familia primero y mas que nada” because it is what my grandmother taught me without saying a single word is the most important thing in this world.
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