I’ve always wondered why I never had that special relationship with any of my grandparents. Both of my mother’s parents are still alive while my father’s mother stands widowed. None of the three speak English particularly well and it is a constant struggle to communicate with each other. Is that it? Is that the sole reason I’ve never had that beautiful relationship so many of my close friends and other family members have with their grandparents? I honestly envy my friends with every fiber of my being when they tell me about their experiences with their grandparents. Is it my fault for not learning their native language? Is it theirs for not adapting to the circumstances?
As a proud Puerto-Rican living here in the Bronx, I have to admit that many of the said stigmas are true. Puerto-Ricans, especially those living in the Bronx, rarely know Spanish or are drastically disconnected from their heritage. I’ve been blessed to grow up around a plethora of different cultures which has ultimately helped me become the person I am today; a cultivated product of my environment. However, I was still heavily immersed in this Borinquen culture and have witnessed many of my fellow relatives experience the same struggle. My siblings are in the same boat with me although they can speak the language far better than I can. Have you ever watched those spoof videos where a popular conspiracy theorist attempts to portray a specific artist as demonic or satanic by playing one of their records in reverse and it sounds completely ludicrous? Well, that’s what my Spanish sounds like.
There is still some form of botched communication between us though. Between what little words I am familiar with and what little English they’ve picked up while living here in the states, we manage to faintly understand each other, but this will never suffice for me. I want to understand who they are and every little detail about them. Granted, my parents have shared with me a fair and thorough history of how they migrated here to New York City from Puerto-Rico along with tales of their childhood which helps me paint a hazy image of our lineage. This is still not enough for me to analyze them completely.
So what is the solution? I certainly can’t ask them to learn the English language this late in their lives. I have tried on numerous occasions to learn Spanish and it somehow falls on deaf ears every time. There must be an alternative medium for us to use to communicate with each other. Perhaps I can start to apply my artistic skill-set to some sort of canvas where my words will then become visuals for them and vice versa. I am aware of Google Translate’s efficiency and that there are applications out there to help people with these same exact problems.
However, this form of communication is all far too synthetic for me. Yes, it is indeed helpful for those who need it for business related purposes or as a support when travelling, but it simply cannot replace or duplicate that authentic feeling of conversing with a grandparent in their native language. I may come off as snobbish or indecisive, but my intentions are pure and I’m genuinely hopeful. One day we’ll bridge this gap and finally meet each other; I just pray that day isn’t belated.