Grandma’s been blue lately. A dear cousin of hers died.
She says the worst part of people dying is losing shared stories.
She told me to write down the stories she tells me before she dies and none of us remember it anymore.
Like the story of when her father died.
She was 9. Her big sister was 11, her brother was 6, their little sister was 4.
Her father was a construction worker in the countryside of Uruguay.
They were very poor, of course.
Great-grandma had just given birth to stillborn twins. It was her sixth labor. The first had been a stillborn boy, then her four kids, then the twins.
She lost gallons of blood. Trying to picture how destroyed she was aches me in the guts.
Great-grandpa, in despair for the woman he loved, went to his workmates and asked for blood for his dying wife. Grandma says he had many friends, that he was a kind man. I believe her.
All of the construction workers donated blood in the hospital.
The day she went home from the hospital he went to the construction to say thanks to his mates.
When I think of why he went I remind myself that there was no instant messaging back then, you had to walk up to people when you wanted to tell them something.
They all said he shouldn’t have left home, that he was on leave, that he didn’t need to go all the way there, that he should have stayed with his wife, that it was no trouble, that this is what one does for friends, all of that. But he was just too happy, he needed to tell them the good news and thank them right away.
Then, out of nowhere, something in the construction fell on his head and fucking killed him on the spot.
‘Can you imagine a woman alone with four children and no husband and poor health and no income in 1949?’ says grandma with wet eyes and bread-crumbs all over her agitated chest.
I say I can, and it sounds awful.
That’s where the actual plot twist comes in. The most important thing about this story, says grandma, is not the irony of almost losing a parent and then losing the other. That’s an interestingly intricate sad script, that’s all. Any TV station could have writen a soap-opera with similar structure and one would even say they were pushing it.
The actual beauty of it was how all of those men agreed to lie about great-grandpa’s leave so that the family could get a pension. Grandma says that they taught her 9-year-old self, through the mist of grief, that some lies can be told out of kindness.