Last week, a family member was admitted to the ICU and took a turn for the worse. We were given the devastating news that there was nothing they could do. When I heard the news, I immediately knew I had to go to the hospital. By the time I got there, there were around 30 people in the waiting room, waiting, crying, and praying.
A woman who was not a family member, (and not Hispanic) asked why there were so many people there. We replied, “We are family.” She replied in astonishment, “But there are so many!”
I replied, “And this isn’t everyone!” I walked away, a bit amused as well as annoyed.
Later, our family discussed this incident and laughed at her astonishment. For us, it was normal. A family member is sick and dying, you go to be with them. A family member needs to be consoled, you console them. Family needs help, you help them.
To us, family is not something you must “do” on holidays; it is part of everyday life; a phone call, a text, a message. It’s little things that make a difference, that say, “I care. I’m thinking of you. I love you.”
As Hispanic-Americans, it is normal that we acculturate and grow up with elements of both cultures. It is important however, that we not lose sight of what is truly important, and instill that in our children. It’s probably safe to say that Latinos from all countries have a strong sense of family. We must not lose this.
As generations pass, our children will become more “Americanized.” Yet we must remember to teach them that family is paramount. By family I don’t just mean the traditional unit of family (mom, dad and siblings). I mean tíos, tías, padrinos, cousins, etc.
I grew up visiting aunts and uncles, celebrating birthdays, special occasions and holidays with them. I grew up loving my cousins like siblings. Growing up, family gatherings were a normal part of life. We didn’t wait for a special occasion to get together and visits didn’t have to be fancy… just some cafecito, quesito y verde (coffee, cheese and plantains) and we were set.
This is what I want for Enzo: for him to know that family is the most important thing— they have your back, they will wipe your tears and rejoice with your accomplishments. This is a part of our cultura we must never give up, part of the heritage we must keep alive from generation to generation. When I die, (many, many years from now, God willing) I can only hope that my son is surrounded by many family members who will care for and comfort him.
A cousin recently said, “I’d hate to have one of those ‘only see you at the funeral families.’” He’s right.
Let’s strive to always have those “I’m here for you no matter what” families, and teach our kids that’s the only way to be family.
This post was written in loving memory of Julio Andrade, beloved brother, primo and friend who left us too soon.
Diana Limongi-Gabriele works hard juggling a full-time job, motherhood, family, grad school and her blog, LadydeeLG where she writes about issues she is passionate about including teaching her son Spanish, motherhood, parenting, Latino issues, good quality food and women’s issues. Diana is a regular contributor for Mamiverse. She has a MA in Migration Studies, and is pursuing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. Her most important job however, is being mommy to Enzo, a French/Hispanic/American (one day trilingual) 2 year old boy. You can connect with her via Twitter, @dianalimongi or on Facebook.