My Little Poker Blog

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I was able to bid farewell to my grandmother a few weeks ago. Laying her to rest was one of the oddest things to do in my life. I remember reading about Felecia’s family issues when her grandmother was dying in one of her ancient posts from way back. In any case, I thought how sad it is when all this old family drama arises when someone is passing. My mother, like Felecia, tried to take the high road on all these issues and made everyone feel welcomed and not ostracized during these emotional times. I was proud of my mother for this, I suppose she could have let little petty things eat away at her and thrown a fit when certain family members showed, but that’s not the way to lay someone to rest. Good job.

I suppose the individuals that I really felt for was my smallest nephew and niece. They took my grandmother – their great-grandmother’s passing really hard. I tried to comfort them in this difficult time and tried to reassure them that things will go on with the great memories of my grandmother. Yet, I remember being their age when both of my father’s parents were killed in a car accident. That one hit me really hard when I was their age. Till this day I don’t think I have ever really gotten over my grandfather’s passing. Odd as it may seem. That moment was very surreal and I can still see myself draped over him in his coffin crying. Setting here thinking of him I can even remember his scent when he use to hold me on his lap.

My great-grandmother showed which was nice. She is old now and has is very sharp still. Her and my grandmother didn’t talk much anymore for some reason. Yet, to see her as sad as she was reminded me of a mother’s bond with their child. It was one of the most beautiful things to see. I know that may sound odd, but it’s a bond that never can be broken…nuff said.

It was a cold and rainy day and everyone said their good-byes. I wanted to wait around while they laid her down. We in America have gotten so accustomed to doing everything fast and there is no tradition anymore. I remember as a kid we all put dirt on my grandfather’s grave, now they wanted everyone to walk away without lowering the casket. I suppose I can see in Mexican funerals they don’t do that. For the record, in Mexican funerals people throw themselves on the coffin in hopes of not letting them lower the casket. But for me this didn’t seem right with my grandmother. So the grounds keepers laid her down and I grabbed the shovel and started to lay dirt on her. I don’t know, I just didn’t want anyone else doing the shoveling. So there I was with the raid pouring down on me and with shovel in hand. My uncle came back to get me to go home but he also decided this was the thing to do and shoveled a bit on his mother.

This will be the last I write about this topic and I will now go back to poker, food and times in the city.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Grandmother

I sit here today in deep thought over the death of my grandmother who succumbed to cancer this past Friday. Tomorrow I will leave home for the funeral services which I’m sure will be emotionally draining for everyone involved. When speaking with family on the phone I can tell that everyone is emotionally spent already, but there still lingers this deep pain that seems not wanting to believe the end has arrived. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope in their hearts and minds; after all, my grandmother had fought the disease for two years and seemed to be willing to fight for many more years to come.

I guess you always expect that out of people who have overcome so much in their lives. Like maybe they have that one more great fight in them. Alas, the body can only take so much wear and tear over the years. I guess that’s the reality of life, one day all of our bodies will not be able to fight that one last fight and we will succumb.

There is a small part of me that thinks it would have been great to see my grandmother alive one last time. I had my plane ticket to visit this coming week but she passed six days before my arrival. I have no regrets about that. We had spoken over the phone and had an understanding between one another. I can’t really describe that understanding; I guess some people would call it a bond. There are just those people with whom you speak with no words said. Some of us have this bond with friends, if one were to die the other would know what his friend would want. The two may have never even spoken about post-life, but there would just be this understanding. I remember the last time we spoke on the phone. It was late and I called a bit intoxicated but happy to speak with her. I saw a CD by one of her favorite singers, Jose Alfredo Jimenez and threw it on. I always loved to sing his songs to my grandma and so I just sat there and sang song and after song and cried my eyes out telling her how much I loved her. She would laugh and say, “yo se, Mijo” (I know, Son) as to comfort me. Song after song I sang and she never skipped a beat on any of the songs. One song we both loved and one which I made sure to sing to her goes as follows:

Yo sé bien que estoy afuera
pero el día en que yo me muera
sé que tendrás que llorar

Llorar y llorar
llorar y llorar

Dirás que no me quisiste
pero vas a estar muy triste
y así te vas a quedar

Con dinero y sin dinero
hago siempre lo que quiero
y mi palabra es la ley
no tengo trono ni reina
ni nadie que me comprenda
pero sigo siendo el rey

Una piedra del camino
me enseñó que mi destino
era rodar y rodar

Rodar y rodar
rodar y rodar

Después me dijo un arriero
que no hay que llegar primero
pero hay que saber llegar

Con dinero y sin dinero
hago siempre lo que quiero
y mi palabra es la ley
no tengo trono ni reina
ni nadie que me comprenda
pero sigo siendo el rey.

My grandmother took care of me much of my life. I would come home after school and she would be at home after returning from working in the fields to have my after school lunch ready for me. I remember those days like they were yesterday. Now in my office here in NYC thousands of miles away from her home I can still smell her house and her homemade flour tortillas cooking (a very distinct smell indeed) on the comal.

I learned some of the most valuable lessons in life from my grandmother. I know that everyone rants and raves about how great someone is in death and I think that is needed. Yet, one of the things that I remember distinctly about my grandmother I her self critique. Not in a negative way, but she was always very critical about the way she lived her life and always took pride in saying when she was wrong (which wasn’t that often..haha!). I always found that to be one of the great qualities of my grandmother. She never lied to herself about when she was wrong. She was always accountable for her wrongdoings and although she wouldn’t always apologize for them, she did account for them. It’s something I feel many of us don’t do today…we are always looking to lay the blame on others.

No words can do my grandmother justice. So I will just end with this:

Maria Reyes
She was a Daughter of Mexico. Born to Parents who were servants on a hacienda. She claimed Texas as her soil and home upon arrival to the United States. A loyal wife who never re-married after the passing of her husband. She was the mother to three children, six grandchildren, and three great grandchildren; all of which called her Mom. A proud woman who tilled the earths ground working in the fields of the United States and also packaged that harvest at night working in a cannery. In sum, she was my life, my joy and my heart and she will be missed. Mom, may you soul rest my beautiful Queen and please save me a seat next to you up above. And just maybe you can have me a nice hot tortilla waiting upon my arrival as you always had here on earth.

Con Amor Tu Mijo,
Joaquin Manuel Ochoa Reyes