Choosing Each Other
I’ve always been envious of people who know their grandparents. I’ve never met any of mine, the last of them having died only days after I was born. Consequently, everything I’ve learned about them has been from stories told by family members. Some of these stories, of course, get increasingly more fantastic and unbelievable as the years go by, and some take on certain embellishments when told while drunk. Only a few of these stories have remained consistent; among them, the story of how and why my father’s parents became estranged from their families.
All I know about my paternal grandfather was that he was born in Jalisco, Mexico sometime around 1910. I don’t know what he did for a living, or what made him decide to venture north to the United States. At some point he met my grandmother, a full-blooded Apache who was born in Arizona. I know even less about her; I do know that she had no birth certificate, and that when she married my grandfather, she changed both her first and last names. According to distant relatives that have come out of the woodwork in recent years, her family name might have been Mankiller, or possibly Grassrope. No one knows what her true first name might have been, although she carried the name Yolanda when she died.
When they married, each of their families was disgusted by their choice of a mate. To the Mexican side, marrying an indigenous person was akin to marrying an animal. Their language sounded barbaric, their pronounciation of Spanish an insult. Their way of life was foreign and threatening. To the indigenous side, marrying a Mexican was an affront to decency; Mexicans were seen as intruders, people who were no better than the American soldiers and Spanish missionaries that had caused such suffering and the decimation of their culture. I don’t know anything about the extent of the conflict, or if the estrangement was gradual. I only know that each of them was given an ultimatum, and that, in the end, they chose each other.