TITA

TITA

From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Tita

Margarita Solis de Hernández is my grandmother. I was unable to say abuelita when I was small, so I named her Tita. Today if you wanted to meet my tita, you would have to visit a nursing home in Torrance, California. There is a beautiful patio with a fountain in the center of the building where a very kind nurse named Rosa wheels her out for fresh air.

You would see a frail, ninety-pound woman with cotton-white hair, wrinkled skin and no teeth. She no longer recognizes her loved ones and doesn’t even know where she is. However, to those of us who have had the privilege of knowing her, we see an elegant lady who has lived her ninety-seven years with passion.

When I look at Tita, I see a beautiful woman who had a glorious love affair with a very handsome man, Alberto Solis. He worked in music and later became a pilot for Howard Hughes.

As Tita sleeps peacefully in her hospital bed, I see a sophisticated lady who has traveled all around the world. After the untimely death of my grandfather, Tita and her sister Julie went to places most people only dream of visiting. Hawaii, Japan, China, Russia, France, Italy, Germany and England were among their many destinations. Tita had a Bette Davis style and loved her four o’clock “copitas,” which was either a shot of gold tequila or a Beefeater martini straight-up with extra olives (on the side as not to disperse any content from the glass).

As the nurses and attendees walk in and out of Tita’s room, I want to stop each one of them and tell her story. “This is not just any little old lady. This is my tita!”

I shout it silently from my heart as I watch the kindly hospital staff patiently tend to her. “She met Pancho Villa for heaven’s sake! She’s seen the world! Do you know who this woman is?”

Even now, everybody falls in love with Tita. She blows kisses and tells the people who feed and bathe her that she loves them. Although her mind and body are deteriorating, Tita’s spirit is alive and well. Her eyes still sparkle with love. Sometimes I can even see that light of mischievousness that once gleamed when she’d play canasta, spin the roulette wheel or bargain with the vendors as we shopped in Juárez. “Pero Señor . . . somos mexicanos . . .” she would say, with a sly smile and that funny little glint in her eye. That expression would always get us a great price!

As I look down the hallway of the nursing home, it occurs to me that each of these rooms has a “Tita.” Every frail, hunched-over body with cotton-white hair has a unique story filled with love, loss, pain, happiness and adventure. Most of them survived the Depression and experienced World War II. They were around before TV, studied in one-room schoolhouses, and, if you asked them, they could tell you about a time when you could see a picture show and buy a hamburger and a Coke, all for about a quarter.

Today, Tita is very much like a new baby. She is fed pureed food, wears diapers and looks with wonder around the room as if she sees angels floating around the ceiling. Sometimes as she looks, she points and calls out to her loved ones who have passed on. She sees little girls in white dresses playing with their dolls, family members and friends. She smiles, laughs and even speaks to them with love.

One day, my uncle and I witnessed Tita’s “visitation” by family members together. “Oh, Cindy,” he said with tender sadness. “Our little Tita is hallucinating.”

I smiled back at him, and as the tears filled my eyes, I quietly said, “Just because we can’t see them, Uncle Dickie, doesn’t mean they’re not there.” I think they will continue to visit her until they’re ready to welcome her home.

Cindy Lou Jordan

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