In loving memory

GueliFacebook tells me that 8 years ago today I wrote this piece (see below) about Gueli, my Chilean grandmother.  Seeing it now, a few months after her death, reminds me what a strong woman she was.

Gueli was not a blood relative.  She was the Grandma is my Chilean host family from high school.  But, she transformed into more than a host, and rather a part of me.  This woman, who lived through the dictatorship worried about her 5 kids, was strong, thoughtful, caring, and a wonderful friend.

In college, while living with some girlfriends, I got ill.  I got ill and then passed out on the side of the road splitting open my head.  The exchange program didn’t want me staying alone in the house with friends— they wanted me with family who would care for me or in the hospital.  Gueli took me in, dutifully following me around the house to make sure I didn’t fall again.

Gueli wasn’t a political person or a moralist.  She accepted people for who they were, regardless of what society would say.  She took actions to ensure that it was clear that the dictatorship never broke her spirit.

She loved talking to me about her life, her kids, her grandkids, and then her great grandkids.  She loved her family and it gives me peace to know that at the end, she was surrounded by them.

Eight years ago I posted this:

Ud. vs. Tu

Me and Gueli, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

There are two ways of saying the word “you” in Spanish: usted (ud.) and tu. The latter is less formal. The former should be used in work situations, when you don’t know the person, as a sign of respect, and for the elderly.

I didn’t always know this rule and I continue to be horrible about following it. Sometime in college though I figured out I should be using ud. and not tu when talking to grandma. Even her children call her ud. and use that form of the verb with her. So I switched. Gueli (grandma) did not at all appreciate the switch and promptly told me so. I was the only person who continued to call her tu and she liked it.

Last weekend I was at her house. She sat next to me during lunch and I helped to cut up her meat. She chatted to me the entire meal, picking on her children and grandchildren, complaining about the soccer team and her hearing, rearranging her chair time and time again. The whole while, I addressed her as “tu.”


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