My Grand-Everything

Posted by Liana Winternitz, Marketing Fellow

Liana and Tita Mona catch up at Liana's sister's wedding rehearsal.
In 4000 Miles, 21-year-old Leo moves in with his 91-year-old grandmother, Vera. Despite their differences, they discover connections that span generations, and 4000 Miles has encouraged many of us on the A.C.T. staff to think about our relationships with our own grandparents.

Do you (or did you) have an especially meaningful relationship with a grandparent (or grandchild)? Share your photos and stories on our Facebook page for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Mike's Bikes!

Here is the story of A.C.T. Marketing Fellow Liana Winternitz's relationship with her "grand-everything," Tita Mona.

I can remember as a child being hesitant to answer the phone, fearing that it was an older relative calling to chat. I thought chatting was boring, mostly because everyone always asked the same questions: "How is school going?" "How's your soccer team playing this year?" And I always had the same answer: "It's fine."

All four of my grandparents passed away before I turned 13. Now, at 24, I'm slightly older and wiser and devastated that I never had a chance to really connect with them beyond cordial conversations and expecting toys for Christmas. Vague memories and dusty photo albums don't fill that extended-family void—I never got to meet my father's dad, but everyone tells me I'm just like him.

Tita Mona shows her love and support at Liana's high school graduation.
However, I am blessed with the presence of my grandmother's sister, Ramona. My parents and sisters call her Tita Mona. Tita Mona was born in Spain in 1916. Having lived through almost 100 years of dramatic cultural and social change, she is living history and a connection to my family's past. Because of a limited extended family, Tita Mona has become the embodiment of everyone—she acts as my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins combined.

At 96 years old, she stills dyes her hair, paints her nails, eats junk food, and plays bingo twice a week. When she visited, she would knit while watching hours of James Bond films (Sean Connery is her favorite) and make my family hats, gloves, scarves, and huge elaborate blankets. One of them is on my bed right now! She visits so often that she has her own room in my parents' house, and when I think of her she is sitting at our dinner table with a coffee mug on one side and her glasses and magnifying glass on the other. She was in that spot recently when she gave me relationship advice: "Don't marry too young, you have time to be choosy and find the right person for you. Unless he is a doctor, then marry him before anyone else can!" For her it's either a doctor or a professional tennis player; otherwise, I should just become a nun. Of course, she married a marine, not a professional, tennis-playing doctor.
Her advice about being independent and working hard is from experience: she was a court reporter in San Francisco, working well into her 70s. In the 1930s she came alone on a ship to California for school. She was a volunteer nurse during WWII, and she lived in Hawaii with her husband. She also raised champion German Shepherds.

Many people are surprised upon learning her age, and if you asked her, "What is your secret to a long and healthy life?" she will answer, "With all the coffee and wine I drink, my body doesn't have a chance to die!" 

Family is family, and whether you love them or tolerate them, they are a part of your life.  I look forward to being an aunt to my sister's children one day (and hopefully a grand aunt to my sister's children's children!) and sharing my memories of Tita Mona with my own future family.

I love you very much, Tita Mona.

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