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Four Years at the Mount - Senior Year

Senior Year

Living Witnesses

Julia Mulqueen

(1/2012) The air is heavy with anticipation. I can taste the budding joy on my tongue. The earth tremors with excitement, and my coursework is finally complete for the semester. Yes, all of the signs of Christmas are here! The only thing left for us to do is wait. We must wait with joy-filled hearts for the day that changed the world so long ago. The beauty of this waiting is that we have time to prepare for the day. We have time to allow our hearts to slowly open, like the petals of a rose, to make room for love to grow.

As my own heart unfolded this season, I decided I should take some time to visit my grandparents. When I was younger, I did not always appreciate fully the blessing that they were. My grandmother and grandfather both come from Puerto Rico. When they were 18, my grandfather heard about a pea farm in New Jersey that needed cheap labor. He and my grandmother decided that he would go to New Jersey and work for a little by himself. Then he would send for my grandmother and their two children.

When he came over, he worked with seven other men. They lived on the top floor of a barn with no heat and no shower. They were paid little and fed even less. They used to sneak peas to eat as they shelled them. One Sunday, the owner took them out to a diner so they could each eat two eggs, bacon and toast for the day. After just a few weeks, my grandfather decided that he needed to find a better job. He had heard of work in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. My grandfather decided to move there and work at the Doylestown Inn. He started as the lowest of the low with a thick Spanish accent and little knowledge of the English language.

As time progressed, he continued to work hard and eventually sent for my grandmother and their two children. They bought a cheap house with no heat. He worked almost constantly to provide for his family. My grandmother sacrificed her will and her desires in order to maintain the home for him and their children. Over the years, my grandfather‘s hard work and dedication proved to his boss that he was capable of almost anything. Although he had started out as a simple kitchen worker, his talent for better things was evident. He rose to the position of chef in the restaurant in which he worked, and he started crafting his signature soups. He came up with recipes for delicious soups like shrimp bisque and snapper soup. My grandfather also helped with catering large affairs and ensured everything ran smoothly at events.

They continued to have children, 10 in all! My grandmother tended to the home and their children. Eventually, she pursued her GED. Both experienced hardships throughout their lives but overcame them with poise and grace. Together, they raised their 10 children and sent them to Catholic school, all on his meager salary.

My grandfather finally retired when he turned 80. Now, the two of them go to church daily and take long walks through their neighborhood. He remains dedicated and hard working. He insists on mowing his lawn, shoveling his driveway and caring for my grandmother as she ages. He likes to garden and prays the rosary with his wife daily.

See, when I was a child, all I knew was that my grandparents had thick accents. I did not, and perhaps could not, understand the richness of love and compassion that they brought to our family. When I was younger, I did not know the depth of faith each of them possessed, and I did not understand all that they both overcame in order to provide for their family. As I have grown older, I have finally been able to appreciate what they have done. I have started to see some of their qualities emerge within myself. My dedication and commitment mirrors my grandfather’s. My peace of heart and joyous spirit match my grandmother’s.

This Christmas season when I went with my mother to visit them and put up their Christmas decorations, I found my heart full of joyful appreciation for the two of them. As my mom and I brought up the tree and ornaments from their basement, my grandparents sat calmly in their rocking chairs and watched us work. They patiently showed us where this snow globe should go or where that porcelain tree should sit. As I helped them prepare for Christmas to arrive, I realized that they epitomize the American dream. They are living witnesses that with faith and dedication anything is possible. I know that one day they will pass on, but I also know that the memory of their lives will live on in me and in my children.

Have a joyful Christmas and during this season take a moment to remember your own grandparents, because they are a gift in and of themselves.

Read other articles by Julia Mulqueen