Micaela Colon: The woman with the best laugh, softest smile, and a heart of gold.
My name is Leesa Truesdell and I am from Coral Springs, Florida. I was born on October 3, which means my birthday is coming up very soon. As I get older, I realize that life means more. What do I mean by “more?” Well, it means these three things: tell people what they mean to you often, live with purpose and do what you want often, and finally, remember that every person you meet has a story, so listen.
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the course of my life. Nonetheless, it’s these mistakes that have made me who I am. It sounds cliché, but let me explain. My grandmother is no longer alive to write about how she would want to be remembered. However, I have a heart full of love and a mind full of memories that still feel so real. She passed on January 11, 2017, and yet it’s as if I can still hear her voice and see her smile. Those are the memories that never fade.
The love my grandmother showed me as a child was the kind of love a child could only dream of. I can still see the red swing that I would run and jump on when she took me to the park by her house. We went to the arcade for hours over the summer. One of my fondest memories is going to the cinema with her and sharing popcorn. We used to go to the cinema a few times a summer. Two movies that remind me of her are Chances Are and Xanadu. She enjoyed a movie with a good soundtrack. She played the piano and enjoyed a variety of music very much.
I am telling you about my memories that live on in my mind because as she got older, I remembered her love and I never forgot her. When I got older and was able to drive, I took her out to lunch. Eventually, when I was in college, I called her on all of her birthdays. When we went to lunch, she usually ordered the soup of the day and a half-sandwich combo at Jason’s Deli near her house. It was one of her favorite places. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us. After she passed, I remembered the things that I did with her as a child and as an adult when it was my turn to care for her. It didn’t take away the sadness but it helped me through the sadness.
Let me emphasize this — tell people what they mean to you while they are in your life. They don’t forget it and you won’t either. When I got home from Madrid and saw my mom for the first time after my grandma had passed, she handed me a box with things from my grandma. In the box were cards that I had mailed her over the years. She kept all of them. At the time, I didn’t know how much a card meant to her, but clearly, it meant everything to her.
Embrace Being Abroad
My grandparents traveled across the world throughout their lives because my grandfather was an aeronautical engineer. His job required that he live in different countries for years at a time. My grandparents embraced this part of their lives. They did what they wanted and they lived with purpose. They adapted to environments that did not accept them and taught in places that embraced them with open arms. For example, my grandmother taught English in Kinshasa, Africa in the 1970s while my grandfather made friends at work. He attended Rumble in the Jungle. This is something I didn’t know about until my late twenties.
What Tata wanted most during the older years of her life after Papa passed was attention. The roles reversed on us and towards the last few years of her life, I found myself sitting and listening to her about her childhood in Puerto Rico. When her dementia started to progress, she kept her long-term memory and continued to remember her childhood in Puerto Rico. She just couldn’t remember what she had just eaten. It was important for me to sit and just listen to her during these stages of her life. Unfortunately, with Lewy Body dementia, the person knows what is happening to them while it is happening.
I felt at times helpless that she wouldn’t remember I was there because her short-term memory would not last. She would talk about Puerto Rico and her sisters over and over again. In the end, I felt like I was the adult and loving grandparent she had been to me for thirty years prior to that moment. These moments made me realize how much people have to tell if you listen. Some might not want to share, but those that do might need a friend or, in my case, their granddaughter, to sit and listen to the same story over and over again. As I look back, it only took a few minutes here and there, but collectively these minutes are some of the best moments I have ever spent.
Remembering Micaela Colon
Tata’s legacy changed my life. I am now a more mindful person of my actions. I tell people what they mean to me more often, I live with purpose, and listen to others regularly. When I got back from Madrid, I became an international student advisor and my sole role was to listen in this job. I also started Dreams Abroad to help others achieve their goals in life. No matter what I am doing in this life, I am always remembering her and using the love she gave me as a guide in my day-to-day actions. Micaela Colon is sincerely missed and not forgotten.