Mamá Toni, the matriarch

Lori, Mamá Toni, me

I heard a car idling outside at 4 am. Who idles at 4 am? I wondered. Was it my dad? No it couldn’t be. It was way too early even for my dad. I didn’t even bother looking at my phone. After a couple of minutes Sean stirred and eventually went to the door. It was my dad.

He was an hour early for his 5 am appointment. Two days before I had arranged for dad to give Sean a ride to the airport. On Tuesday morning Sean learned that his close friend of 12 years, Kevin, passed away suddenly. Sean booked a flight to NY to attend the services. Although I got to know Kevin too, I opted to stay home due to the expense. I enlisted my dad for a ride to the airport to save money on a cab or shuttle.

Sean got dressed and ready. He came back in to the room and said, “Your dad wants to talk to you.”

I walked slowly out to the living room and saw dad in the dark. He gave me a hug.

“Mija, I wanted to tell you. Mamá Toni is now in heaven. It just happened right now. At 3:05.” He drew me in closer. “She went away very peacefully. We were monitoring her.”

Oh. This was the second time in 48 hours I had been informed of a death after just waking up. Kevin was 36, his death was sudden and unexpected. Mamá Toni was 92 and for the past 8 months or so we knew she was quite ill. On Sunday when I saw her last, she stayed in bed all day and woke intermittently to greet the many family visitors who stopped by. We knew her death was imminent and the team of family nurses and caretakers (dad, mom, aunts, uncles and cousins) were working diligently to make sure she was as comfortable as possible.

“I wanted to tell you now, in case you want to come back with me after I take Sean. She’s still there, we haven’t called the nurse and mortuary yet.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”

I had already planned to take Xavi to spend a day or two at my mom’s while Sean was in New York. There’s more space for him to run around plus I could get a little help when I needed it. And there’s the bonus that he cheers up Papá Chepe and everyone else.

Oh. My heart sank. Papá Chepe.

Dad seemed to read my mind.

“He hasn’t woken up yet. We haven’t told him.”

I told dad we’d get ready and go back to Hacienda Heights with him. I wanted to let Xavi sleep a little longer. Sean hugged me tight and offered to cancel his trip but I told him no, he should go to Kevin’s funeral and see his friends. We would be okay and I wouldn’t be alone. I did ask him to pack up some things for Xavi.

Once dad and Sean left, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay with Xavi at my side going through all my Flickr photos tagged “mamatoni.”. There are over 200. Most are from the past 10 years when I first got a digital camera.

Tres generaciones

There are dozens at the January anniversary parties, birthdays, and holidays.

Dad and Mama Toní on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Adrian finally gets a dance with Mamá Toni

And then there are the oddball ones of her riding Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters at Disneyland or Adrian dancing kinda crazy with her. (That one isn’t goofy, but I love their expressions.)

60th anniversary

And there are the heart melting ones of her kissing Papá Chepe or holding a newborn Xavi.

Mamá Toni and newborn Xavi

She adored Xavi.

Mamá Toni, the matriarch

My favorite is the one above, which I titled “matriarch” from Mother’s Day 2006. Her face is fuller, her hair shows no grays (she still insisted on dying), she’s in tan rather than her signature lavender. I love her “let me tell you” expression. And mainly, I like that she’s somewhat smiling. It wasn’t easy to get a photo of Mamá Toni smiling.

When dad returned I got ready. I drove my car and he followed behind. Xavi woke up in the transition from bed to car seat. I sang to him on the way to HH. “You Got A Friend In Me” was tough. I cried for Mamá Toni and Papá Chepe and for Kevin and Sean.

We got home to find several cars and aunts and uncles sitting soberly having coffee and donuts. The door to Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s room was closed.

When my aunts opened it, they told me they had just told Papá Chepe. I went in to the room. He was being consoled by my mom and her sisters.

Mamá Toni was in her bed at the other end of the room. I touched her head and gave her a kiss. She felt cool but just looked like she was peacefully sleeping.

Papá Chepe was crying in a low wail. Really, I think the word “llanto” is more fitting. Llanto implies utter heartbreak and loss. And that’s what I imagine he feels after losing his wife and partner of 71+ years.

Someone asked if he wanted to see Mamá Toni, to touch her. He nodded yes and soon their two beds were side by side. Mamá Toni was on Papá Chepe’s left side, the side he can still move freely. He held her hand.

“We are here for you, your family is here and will continue being here,” my mom told Papá Chepe.

***

Over the rest of the morning more family members arrived. The funeral director and his assistant came a little after 9 to take Mamá Toni. And we paused to say the first of our goodbyes over the next week

***

Not sure how Adrian feels about Sean, the new brother in law

I’ve been at my parents’ house since Thursday morning. Family members and friends have come to offer condolences and others are busy planning the services for next Wednesday and Thursday.

It’s nice to be around my immediate and extended family at this time if only for the distraction. The house is far from being lonely, but Mamá Toni’s absence is impossible to miss.

Mamá Toni's health has been rapidly declining over the last few months. In August she was still moving around with her walker (which Xavi loved) and watching Xavi play. She hasn't been out of bed in 3 days, but is still greeting family members who come to

I don’t think that feeling will go away anytime soon. Mamá Toni and Papá Chepe have been part of my home since I was 9 years old and they were always part of family gatherings. It’s tough to think of home without Mamá Toni.

***

I’ve written about both my grandparents many times over the past 13 years of blogging. I know some of you will feel like you know Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni too. Or maybe you met them at some point.

Thank you for those who have prayed for my grandparents in these recent tough times. I deeply appreciate it. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts, especially Papá Chepe.

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One year, two shifts

Family photo for my birthday

It’s been exactly one year since I returned to work after a 3 month maternity leave. It was a tough morning and the week leading up to my return was filled with anxiety.

I don’t cry when I leave to work anymore and there are no balloons in my office. I settled in to a new routine, pumping in my office stopped being awkward, and I liked commuting by bus because it gave me some time to myself to read or just stare out the window.

These days my schedule has changed due to my fitness class. I leave to work later, occasionally I’ll get some morning play time in with Xavi. Sometimes he doesn’t even wake up before I leave. And then there are the mornings where he cries a little as I leave. It’s not a full on meltdown, but it still makes me feel guilty. I feel better knowing he adores Lupe, his babysitter. (He runs to her when she arrives.)

New hairstyle

Aside from my schedule, the other big change is that I stopped pumping in September. I was down to one pump a day and was planning to stop after Xavi’s birthday but didn’t want to affect nursing at home. He shows no interest in weaning and I’m cool with that. Anyway, one day I just didn’t get around to pumping and felt okay. If I have an extra long day, I’ll still take the pump. (In that first month when breastfeeding felt like the hardest thing ever, I didn’t imagine that at almost 15 months I’d still be gladly breastfeeding.)

This is one Friday 4:30 pm meeting I'm happy to take.

I stay later on the days I workout to make up the time. Sean is typically home first and he brings Xavi out for a walk to meet me. It’s my favorite part of the day to see tiny Xavi walking with Sean toward me on the sidewalk. Sometimes they’re already on the corner and I can hear Xavi’s happy screaming when he spots me getting off the bus from across the street.

Once we are both home, Sean starts dinner while I nurse Xavi. Afterward, we sing (current favorites are “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Little Black Raincloud”), read, play hide-and-seek, go out for walks to checkout the neighborhood dogs and play with his plethora of toys. I also do a lot of chasing to make sure he stays out of the kitchen. He moves surprisingly fast. At least he’s a noisy walker/runner so I know when I need to hustle.

Someone loves cheese

After dinner Sean takes care of bathing Xavi and I start cleaning up in the kitchen, making lunch with the leftovers or getting ready to put Xavi to bed.

Then we go to bed and I read a little before showering and getting my stuff ready for the next day.

***

Xavi OOTD: Polo pleated khakis (via grandma Eula), Yankees polo onesie, Stride Rite shoes.

I marked my anniversary of being a mom + full-time worker bee by staying home with the little guy. Lupe is visiting family in Houston so Sean and I are taking turns staying home. Today we went to the doctor for a checkup, had a long afternoon nap, walked around the neighborhood to check out Halloween decorations, practiced climbing the stairs and met up with Sean on his walk home.

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