(Originally written June 2007)
My grandmother comes from a particular class and culture in Cuban history where women were not permitted much freedom.
Girls always took chaperones on dates, lived at home until married, knew how to embroider and play the piano.
Such a cultured and protected woman could expect a fine marriage with a Papi-style husband, one who works hard, cheats only when he's out of town, takes care of all the money, and -- of course! -- drives his wife wherever she needs to go.
After fleeing Cuba for New Orleans, Abuela had to take streetcars to work in a cafeteria where no one else spoke Spanish.
Later she carpooled to work with her married daughter to a job a downtown lab where she stained and read pap smear slides.
In all these years Abuela has never ever learned to drive.
Many times over the years she's gotten angry, gotten scared, gotten some backbone and threatened to go to driving school.
When Abuela was about 75, I offered to teach her to drive.
Heck, I taught my brother, I'm pretty relaxed, and hey -- this is Dad's car anyway -- why not?
Abuela said no.
Every time I came home for vacation, for holidays, for whatever, I'd shake car keys in front of Abuela.
She would laugh and say "Ay! Si! Vamos!" but she wouldn't get up.
For years Abuela has continually refused the joy and privilege of learning to drive from me.
So about two years ago I started to threaten my Abuela.
Here is the story I told her.
I'll wait until she was completely deliriously old and frail, then I'll ask her to drive me somewhere.
If Abuela says she doesn't know how to drive, I'll make up some wonderfully accurate and descriptive stories about all the places in Cuba she's driven me.
Abuela will then feel a sudden burst of confidence, snatch the keys from me and we'll be off.
Of course, when she actually does drive she'll kill herself, but that would be *fine* because her brain was expiring anyway.
Abuela and waves her hand at me, "Psssssht. I'm not afraid to die. I think it will be fun."
So when I went home this past week, I made sure to wave keys at Abuela, reminding her how much I love her.....