La abuelita y la nieta (The Grandmother and The Granddaughter)

Los pollitos dicen

Pio Pio Pio

Cuando tienen hambre

Cuando tienen frio

La gallina busca

El maíz y el trigo

Les da la comida
Y les presta abrigo

Bajo sus dos alas
Hasta el otro día
Duermen los pollitos

As a child growing up in San Francisco, this was the lullaby sung by my Abuelita to me. When I was between the ages of 5-10 in San Francisco, summer days were spent with my Abuelita Monday through Friday. Mornings were spent watching the Price is Right and eating a little breakfast. Then we would go out shopping by taking Muni to Mission Street. Sometimes we would shop for groceries, pastries, Chinese food or go to Walgreens on Mission. Or go to the fish market to buy my Abuelito something to cook for his dinner despite my Abuelita’s distaste for fish. Then we would watch judge shows in the afternoons or SF Giants games on the television while Abuelito was fixing stuff around the house with all televisions on and the radio next to his ear to make sure he did not miss a single play of the game. Then Abuelita would make dinner (arroz con pollo or the occasional sopa de camarones) and my mom would pick me up after work and take me home. I always felt that my needs were taken care of just like the baby chick of the above lullaby when Abuelita watched me as my mom and dad went to work. 

When I became a newly graduated Physical Therapy student at age 26, our roles began to change. My Abuelito was forgetting how to get home when only being a couple doors down from their house in Noe Valley. Abuelita was also losing her short-term memory and forgetting to turn faucets off after going to the restroom. In order to keep them safe from themselves, we moved them out of their beloved home. I became one of their main caregivers over the course of four months before I got my first Physical Therapy job. I studied for the Physical Therapy boards and jurisprudence exam during this transition to their new apartment. Despite the memory loss and eventual dementia diagnosis, Abuelita still enjoyed some of the same things she had always enjoyed, including singing, spending time with family, telling jokes, shopping, eating Chinese food, crocheting and watching her TV shows.

“Despite a rough childhood losing her mom at a young age in Nicaragua, Abuelita kept on fighting for a better life.”

She became a seamstress and married Abuelito, who was also from Nicaragua, after they met in Costa Rica and became fiancés. They started a family and Abuelito worked in the US for a couple years before the rest of the family (my mom, my two tias and two tios) made it to the US. I am a miracle of God (soy un milagro de dios) Abuelita always proudly stated. Despite having a heart attack during my high school years while visiting family in Costa Rica, Abuelita survived. I’m a quinceañera she always joked on her birthdays… Only God knows when it’s time to go. She joked as someone young at heart and loved collecting jokes to tell to others. Despite the tough times she endured in her life, I believe her unwavering faith in God, her jovial attitude toward life, and her ability to find humor in anything kept her going.

She lived a long life of 97 years. I had the pleasure to know her over the course of 34 years of my own life. The Physical Therapist in me would try my hardest to get her to walk in her later years. She would always reply I’ve walked enough in my life, walking up and down Mission Street for so many years. I rather sit and crochet! While I am sad she is no longer on this earth for my 35th birthday, I like to imagine she is entertaining the angels above with her singing and jokes. Any time I sing, crochet, enjoy wonton soup and shrimp fried rice her memory lives on in my heart.

Storyteller Kelly is a physical therapist born and raised in San Francisco and in Millbrae and the proud granddaughter and “pollita” of Elba Castrillo.

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