Friday, September 09, 2011

A Daughter's Goodbye and the REFORMA National Conference

Today, a special post from Reyna Grande that reflects on the recent passing of her father.


The Other Side: A daughter’s goodbye to her father
Reyna Grande

The first time I lost my father, I was two years old. I lost him to “El Otro Lado,” the United States. The second time I lost my father, I lost him to alcoholism and violence. This time, I am thirty-six years old. I have lost him to a different “El Otro Lado.” This time, he will not be coming back.

In 1978, when my father left Mexico in pursuit of a dream, I was too young to remember him. During the eight years he was gone from my life, the only way I could hold on to his memory was by looking at the 8” x 10” black-and-white photograph of him we had hanging on the wall. I also remembered him through my older sister’s memories, whenever she shared them with me. His departure, and the eight years I spent longing for his return, would be the premise of my first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains.

In 1985, when I was going on ten, my father returned from “El Otro Lado.” He brought me and my older brother and sister to the United States and took us away from the poverty we had been living in. Like the hero in the fairy tales I listened to in the radio, I saw my father as my knight in shining armor. He had returned to save me and take me to a place where I could live happily ever after.

In 2010, twenty five years after my new life in the United States began, my father was diagnosed with liver cancer. By then, my siblings and I had little communication with him. By then, he’d managed to chase us away.

But as is often the case with terminal illnesses, where broken families put themselves back, I began to find my way back to my father, although the journey—like the one I took across the U.S.-Mexico border—was not at all easy.

Every since his diagnosis, there were times when I had to stop outside the door of his house—and sometimes, the threshold of his hospital room—to tell myself that the father I was about to see was not the same father I had come to live with twenty-five years ago. I had to leave my emotions at the door—anger, resentment, bitterness, sadness, frustration, regret—before I could step inside the room and be able to look at him in the eye feeling nothing but concern for his well-being.

There were times when my emotions got the better of me, and I would not go to the hospital on those days. It was the same for my siblings. “He’s gotten what he deserved,” we would tell ourselves sometimes. “He chose to drink, and now he has to pay for the consequences.” Or we would talk about the way he treated us when we came to the U.S. to live with him. We soon learned that the father we had longed for, the father we had thought was our knight, our savior, was not the father we had come to live with. We had quickly discovered that our father was an alcoholic who was quick to beat us with his belt. No matter how hard we tried to get close to him, to overcome the gap immigration had created in our relationship, we could not. His drinking and the beatings steadily increased, until one day my brother had enough and he left home. Then my sister followed. And finally, I left as well. We each went in search of what we could not find at home.

“He’s reaping what he sowed,” we would tell each other on the days we couldn’t bring ourselves to go see him. “Now he wants us around, and when we wanted to be there with him, he pushed us away.”

But there were also days when I would think of the other father—not the violent alcoholic one—but the one who left for the U.S. because he wanted to give me something better, the one who did not abandon me in Mexico, the one who would tell me about the importance of an education, the one who taught me to dream big. Whenever I thought about that father, I would spend hours researching liver cancer on the internet and at the public library hoping to find a way to save him. I would read books about alternative medicine. I would take him to the supermarket by my house that sells organic fruits and vegetables, hormone-free meat, and health products such as milk thistle and stevia. I would cook soup for him and put it in containers and then drive over to his house to drop them off.

Then, when he had been in the hospital for two months, when I weighed more than him, when he needed dialysis every other day and his stomach fluids drained, when his only hope of getting out was by receiving not only a new liver but new kidneys as well, my research and my soup were no longer needed. What was needed was my presence. What was needed was my conversation to help pass the time.

What was needed was something I was struggling to give—my forgiveness.

Yet, as my siblings and I stood around his hospital bed this past Tuesday, September 6, 2011, and we gave the doctor our permission to turn off the machine that was keeping our father alive, I thought of nothing but the happy moments between me and my father. As his heart slowly came to a stop, all I could say to him was thank you. Thank you for wanting something better for me. Thank you for coming back for me. Thank you for teaching me to be strong and to accept nothing but the best from myself. Thank you for teaching me to dream big.

Even though he has now gone to a place he won’t be coming back from, I know that as long as I continue to remember the good things he taught me, and accept that I am who I am today because of him, he will never really be gone.

He will continue to live in me and in the dreams I keep on dreaming.

You can help the Grande family with expenses for Natalio Grande's funeral. Click here for information.

Established in 1971 as an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), REFORMA has actively sought to promote the development of library collections to include Spanish-language and Latino oriented materials; the recruitment of more bilingual and bicultural library professionals and support staff; the development of library services and programs that meet the needs of the Latino community; the establishment of a national information and support network among individuals who share our goals; the education of the U.S. Latino population in regards to the availability and types of library services; and lobbying efforts to preserve existing library resource centers serving the interests of Latinos.

The organization is governed by an Executive Board which includes the officers, committee chairs, and the Presidents chapters and our one affiliate.

Nationally there are eighteen (18) active REFORMA chapters. These function autonomously, working through their local library systems, state library associations, and local organizations to achieve local objectives.

One of REFORMA's most noteworthy activities is the annual scholarship drive. The association awards a number of scholarships to library school students that express interest in working with Latinos. Other activities that benefit the members include the publication of a quarterly newsletter which keeps members abreast of the latest developments in the organization and in library services to Latinos; publication of an annual Membership Directory which has, in effect, established a national network of librarians, library trustees, community and library school students with mutual concerns; and programs and workshops that focus on serving Latinos. We warmly invite all interested persons to join us in our efforts.

The goals of REFORMA include:

  • Development of Spanish-language and Latino-oriented library collections
  • Recruitment of bilingual, multicultural library personnel
  • Promotion of public awareness of libraries and librarianship among Latinos
  • Advocacy on behalf of the information needs of the Latino community
  • Liaison to other professional organizations

REFORMA National Conference IV

Date(s): September 15, 2011 - September 18, 2011
Time: All Day
Westin Denver Downtown Hotel, 1672 Lawrence Street, Denver, CO 80202
Event Website:

The 4th Reforma National Conference program is now available online.

Click on the image to your left to see a flash version of the program (Adobe Flash Player is required to see this version of the program). Also, you can download the program as a PDF file and save it to your computer (To see the PDF file you must have a PDF reader application, such as Adobe Reader).

Among the many events scheduled for this conference are two author luncheons --

RNC IV: Author Luncheon w/ Pat Mora
September 16, 2011 - 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Westin: Tabor/Molly Room

“Extreme Yum: The Zing of Sharing Bookjoy & Growing Día”
A former teacher, university administrator, consultant, and the author of many award winning children’s books, Pat is the also the founder of the family literary initiative El día de los niños / El día de los libros, Children’s Day / Book Day (Día), now an initiative of at the American Library Association. The year-long commitment to linking all children to books, languages and cultures, and of sharing what Ms. Mora calls “Bookjoy,” culminates in Día events across the country. Día celebrated its 15th Anniversary in April 2011.

RNC IV: Author Luncheon w/ Manuel Ramos
September 17, 2011 - 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Westin: Tabor/Molly Room

“The Search for the Essential Latino Character”
Colorado native, Manuel Ramos is a lawyer, former professor of Chicano literature, and a recipient of the Colorado Book Award and the Chicano/Latino Literary Award. He is the Director of Advocacy for Colorado Legal Services, the statewide legal aid program and the author of seven novels, five of which feature Denver lawyer Luis Móntez. Mr. Ramos will discuss “The Search for the Essential Latino Character,” a look into the characterization of the Latino psyche in contemporary literature.

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