After accepting employment in the cotton industry I found myself commuting a hundred and eight miles each day between my home in Phoenix and my office in Casa Grande. I worked long hours through the harvest and frequently began the drive home sometime after nine or ten o'clock at night. I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep the routine up, and then a Casa Grande family rescued me. I'm not sure if they adopted me because they really, really loved me, or because I just kept showing up every night at dinner time and repeatedly fell asleep on their couch.
I know the reason Tom, a coworker, and Ian, his step-son, loved me was because I ate leftovers. Heather, Tom's wife, loved me because I was single and willing to follow her around like a puppy dog. Or maybe it was because I was from "the city" and she could make fun of me.
Whatever their reasons, in no time I was given my own bedroom to sleep in, keys to the front door, and deemed part of the family. It wasn't just Tom, Heather and Ian who adopted me either. Tom's Mom, known simply as "Nana", enveloped me as part of her extended family too.
Nana and Heather always had a bit of a tug-of-war relationship, and hearing Heather tell me about their latest exchanges always made me laugh. After Tom asked Heather to marry him, they went to tell Nana the good news. Nana looked at Heather and said in a sad voice, "Oh. I always wanted him to marry a nice girl."
"Well too bad," Heather replied. "He got me instead!"
Nana was a stereotype Abuelita to me and I loved her. She was short and round and had a pillowy lap and soft squishy boosum. Just as my family role was to consume leftovers, hers was to worry and pray over each one of us. Without fail, when I showed up, she'd say, "Oh mi hija how are you? Have you found a man yet? I've been praying for you."
No matter how many times I told her I wasn't looking she'd sigh and say, "He's out there. You need to look for him, mi hija. It's not right for you to be single."
Now - I could have taken great offense at these words - yet somehow her smiling face - and the way she always patted my hand took the sting out of her words .
Nana's outlook about marriage and relationships wasn't her only "old school" convention. Each time she came to visit Heather and Tom she brought a Ball's canning jar of Holy Water. Not long after their marriage the house had jars of water stacked in the pantry shelves next to the enchilada sauce, stuffed in dark closet corners, and balancing on bathroom window ledges.
One day, when Heather was trying to figure out what to do with the most recent container, she said, "I can't just pour God down the drain, can I? Because you know my luck. If bad things started happening it would be because I sent God to the sewar, ya know?"
I always thought it was hysterical - the never ending procession of jars - until I moved into a different house myself. The next time I saw Nana she told me, "Ah mi hija! I have a gift for you - for your new house." I was expecting a little piece of brick-a-brack. Maybe a pot holder or dish towel. But no - there in the plastic bag, tied with a bow, was a bottle of Holy Water.
Heather was right. It did seem sacrilegious to pour it down the drain so I watered my always parched house plants instead. I figured they'd think they were being blessed twice by God. Not just receiving water, but Holy Water at that!
The last time I saw Nana, I'd lived in North Carolina for six months. "Have you found a nice man yet, mi hija? I bet there are lots of them in the south."
"No Nana. I haven't found one yet," I told her.
"You need to stay home more often. You travel too much. Maybe you need to learn how to be nice and not so pushy," she counseled me. "Men like nice girls - and ones that aren't too smart, you know," she said in her sing-song voice. "And maybe you shouldn't have such a good job. It might scare them."
"For you, I"ll try being nicer." I told her, feeling like that was the only concession I had to offer.
This year, when I went back to Casa Grande, Nana was living with Heather and Tom. Her health was failing and although Heather, the Home-Health-Care-Nurse-by-Profession, was doing everything to keep Nana comfortable, Nana wasn't the best patient. "I've been on this earth a long time and I'm ready to join my Tom," she told Heather repeatedly.
"Nana, here's your pills."
"Oh, I don't want to take those anymore. I'm done living."
"No, really. You need to take them. They make you feel better," Heather would tell her.
"Not today, mi hija," Nana would say shaking her head.
As Heather returned to the living room where Tom was watching TV he would ask, "Did you give Mom her pills?"
"She doesn't want them."
Tom, walking into Nana's bedroom would say, "Mom. Why aren't you taking your pills? It's time you know."
In a plaintive voice Nana would ask, "Do you have them? Heather wouldn't give them to me," and then she'd hold out her had for the pills and accompanying glass of water.
Heather knew Nana's time was drawing to an end when she began refusing not just her pills, but to eat also. Heather insisted Tom call the extended family together. A few days later they'd gathered from near and far to see her and say their goodbyes. In the days preceding the visit Nana hadn't been out of bed. Heather tried to prepare everyone for her decline.
Imagine Heather's surprise when she came home from work, to find Nana up and dressed, drinking tea and laughing with everyone in the living room. "Doesn't Mom look great?" one of the sons said. It was hard for Heather to explain that Nana really was on her deathbed and had been refusing food and medication. I think it's was a continuation of the little game she and Heather played.
Just a few days later, Nana died. I wonder who's going to take over her job telling me to be nice to the boys?
Herminia (Minnie) Ginn - May 23, 1922 - October 19, 2008
Herminia Ginn passed away peacefully in her sleep Sunday morning, October 19, 2008. Born May 23, 1922 she was a native of Tucson and spent most of her life there. Minnie and her husband Tom were well known and respected in the local community where they owned and operated several businesses. The best known and most remembered was "Ginn's Liquors and Basket Shop" located at the corner of Broadway and Campbell, which they worked together for over 30 years. Customers were often treated to exotic smells and tastes as Tom cooked delicious oriental dishes while Minnie watched the front. She was most proud of her three children who were the focus of her life. She did everything possible to nurture and raise them to be upstanding contributing members of the community. Minnie also lived a very devout Catholic life and was active for many years at St. Ambrose parish and the Benedictine Convent where she often volunteered her time and resources to various functions. She has been preceded in death by her two brothers, Raul and George and her husband Tom. She is survived by her three sons, Mickey, Richard and Tom (Heather); four grandchildren, Jeremy (Kristen), Jason (Heather), Ian and Sarah; and great grandson, Wade. She will forever be proudly remembered as an excellent wife, mother and role model.