My paternal grandmother came to visit when I was barely fourteen. I had recently discovered the wonders of make up, but had none of the skills to apply it to enhance my looks without making me look like a cheap doll. Come to think of it, I still don't.
Grandma Leonor was a woman of strong faith, humility, wisdom and love for others. She is one of my heroines, and she had a tremendous impact on the kind of woman I grew up to be.
That day, grandma looked at me with loving reproof and said, " Guerita, ( her pet name for me since when very young my hair had been blond) make up is for the old because we have lost the wonderful colors of youth. You do not need it."
As she saw my eyes begin to roll, she raised her hand to silence me and continued, " When we are young, we show the face God gave us. When we are old, we show the face we've earned."
Before I got the chance to ask, and sensing the question since she knew me very well, she added,
"By the choices we have made. So, focus on making the right choices and you will grow in beauty with every year."
I never thought I was blessed with physical beauty. But grandma's words have proved to be true in more than one occasion. No, do not worry. I am not delusional. I do not believe I have grown more beautiful with every passing year. As proof, you only have to compare my present looks to those of the picture I chose for this article. Taken almost 40 years ago during the celebrations of my graduation from medical school, it bears little resemblance to how I look today. I turned to eyeglasses instead of contacts years ago for comfort, my hair has gone gray and I ain't size seven anymore.
But I chose this picture because I still catch myself with that look and smile sometimes when I find something ludicrous, which is often. So, it captures my essence. Inside at least, I am still the same quirky, clumsy, accident prone, nerdy kid I always was, laughing at life and rolling with the punches.
I am still not pretty. But, I have been able to realize grandma was right when I ran into my childhood crush a few years ago. This boy at seventeen was the hottest boy in school. Four years his junior, he didn't give me the time of day. Which did not deter me as my heart fluttered every time I saw him passing by. He was popular and his drinking, smoking and heavy partying only made him more so. Those traits were cute then. With the passage of time though, they took their toll on his body and looks. He is not hot anymore, nor cute.
On the other hand, I saw my Dad on his deathbed look beautiful to me. So much so, that remembering grandma's words, I turned to Mom once as we sat next to him and said, " Dad must have made many right choices in his life, Mom. Look how cute he looks."
I finally understood that day what grandma had tried to teach me years before. Our choices when wrong bring despair and sadness, which make our face crumble into a bitter mask . On the other hand, as we strive to choose the right as much as we can, light permeates our souls and we reflect that dazzling light. Have you ever met someone who you just can't get enough of because of the way they make you feel, safe and warm and loved and happy?
So today on the eve of my birthday, I welcome another year, and another chance, to make the right choices. I was not born to be beautiful, but it is up to me to die as a knock out. At the end of my life, I want those sitting next to me to think as I thought when I looked at my father that day and ask, " Isn't she lovely?"
Happy Birthday To Me!