There have been two cases in my family of people who have suffered this natural regression to states and stations of childhood: my maternal grandmother, Juana, and one of my great-aunts, María Deogracias, both of whom were very special to us.
I remember my grandmother encouraging and supporting me as if she were a young girl of my own age. She spoke to me as if she were a young woman instead of a 90-year-old lady, speaking to me as if to someone who was a reflection of her young husband. “You’re the best-looking grandson I’ve got! How many girlfriends do you have? Well, you treat ‘em mean, because you can choose among them…”. Then she would laugh. Later, she would say goodbye to me with a kiss on the lips, like she did with her husband. Before her regression, that was unthinkable.
My grandmother was talkative, but independent, and distant with her thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I felt that she was very comfortable with me. She was always laughing and joking, re-telling humorous anecdotes. She took the initiative with conversation, whatever the topic. As time went on, she spoke less and less, but she was still jovial in her ways. I believe that once the mask of the matriarch (which came from being a widow at an early age) came off, she became herself again: a happy, vital adolescent with contagious optimism. Not once did I hear her complain. Moreover, she loved stories of people falling in and out of love.
My great-aunt, María Deogracias, took care of us when we were little. When she began to lose her faculties, we decided to unite our flats and take care of her. Our relationship with her included taking care of dolls, which she treated as if they were children – she dressed them, brushed their hair, sang songs to them. And she enjoyed the time she spent organizing photos of weddings and children.
She didn’t recognize me as if I were a nephew. For her, I was the brother who’d just come back from the front. For me, she was the happiest connection with my childhood.
The thing that both women had in common is that they acted as a catalyst to unite the family around them.
I discovered something fundamental with both of them, which was that outside of our respective roles and personalities, there is the core of a human being that you have to connect with. It doesn’t matter how old the person is, or if the person is male or female, or what culture they come from: that soul is a twin soul, a mirror to see yourself reflected in. You have the certainty that, one day, sooner or later, you’re going to occupy that place, and another human being is going to treat you just as you treated the other person.
That’s the reason why when I was with them, they were not just my relatives; they were independent beings, unique, unrepeatable, essential, without protocols, without ranks.. The relationship was heart-to-heart and at times no words were necessary: a caress or simply being with them, reading or listening to the same radio program, or reading out loud. Being with them was what mattered, a presence that was stripped of interest or convention, a presence that transformed into acknowledgement. In turn, they, they continued transmitting knowledge and wisdom, a knowledge that the experienced traveller offers the young traveller who is just about to set off. The best way we communicated was listening to each other, even in silence.
I know that what I’m about to say is going to sound strange, but even after they have gone, they still are showing me the way. Somehow they left time-released messages inside of me that open when the right moment comes. I’m sure of one thing: knowledge is not just transmitted with words. Sometimes, it can be transmitted with a simple kiss, with a hug, or, what’s even more incredible, it can move from one heart to another with a simple glance. I was too young to know this then, but I could feel it in an intuitive way.
They gave up all conventions letting the flow of their feelings and emotions show up cleanly without retaining any social code or protocol. Is this not a wonderful opportunity for two human beings to connect essence to essence?
That’s exactly what happened. Now that the years have gone by, I hardly remember any details of suffering or work, but the lessons and the legacy they left me remain fresh, and every day they help me grow and communicate with others.
Thank you, my darlings!
Javier Salaberria, Spain