My grandmother is a Pisces. I don't know her favorite color.
Every night before I go to bed, I think of how close she is to passing, how her mind has become a blur, and what will be left. The papers she hoarded, the twenty-dollar bills stuffed into books and bibles—the dresser full of metal car toys and fuchsia pens from permanently closed dentist offices. It's a disservice to remember her through such trivial things, knowing she's lived such a long, fulfilling life. I want to know so much more.
I consider what womanhood has meant to her. An immigrant, a daughter, an anxious and married woman—now in her later years a wise widow and in light of her advancing dementia, callously humorous. I want to know what she was like when she was a girl too, but it's all tangled in Spanglish and another distant dimension between here and "there". 
My mom told me she had met my late grandfather at a party; he was well-known in the community I grew up in. The pair were seven years apart, married young, and had three children. Coming to the States with nothing, they built something for themselves with that hereditary Mexican industriousness. Both had dropped out of school early, the furthest education being a half-completion of eighth grade.
"My teacher never let me have books. She was a racist woman," my grandmother always said. Remember, she's a water sign, so even at the ripe age of 93, the woman remembers and holds a hell of a grudge. Nonetheless, she took it upon herself to own as many books as possible, instilling a love for reading and writing in me. Every day after school, I'd walk to her home, and she'd set down a bowl of peaches and cream avena (oatmeal) with a $1 book she snagged from the church thrift. "I want you to read a chapter and write me two pages about it," she'd say, leaving me to it. She is a smart woman. She educated herself, and my grandfather as well, and they had created a stable enough nest egg to travel the world. 
There are so many trinkets from across the globe hidden in that old house of hers. She gave me a tiny and swirled glass bottle, fitted with a tight cork and filled with colored gradient sand. It was from Cairo, where she detailed a man trying to purchase her from my grandfather for not one, not two, but three camels. I don't know the math behind it.
She and my grandfather went to every corner of the globe, finding themselves in Berlin, Paris, Mexico—anywhere, everywhere. He took her sisters and mother too. My mom detailed how dearly my grandfather loved her, ensuring the love of his life could see the world with him. He loved her through the depression, the anxiety, the incessant internal turmoil nobody could quite understand. When he passed, it seemed like the part of her that wants to be here left with him. 
Now, I could write a novel about the relationship and while it'd be a hefty one, their respective lives could warrant memoirs on their very own. I could talk about how one of my biggest regrets was not recording my grandfather when he told me stories of working at the railroad, being in the military, and days as a laborer in Nebraska beet fields, but unless there is an ethical way to extract the dead from the cosmos, I have to make peace with it. I did write something eulogy-adjacent for his funeral and I really, really hope love letters are universally transcendent. 
All of this is reflection; I'm turning 25 soon and considering the direction and directionlessness of my life. I've never wanted children. The idea of being a wife, to me, has always been equivalent to a bird in a cage. The idea of anything domestic is frightening, and I can't imagine my eyes, the curve of my lips, the dimple I was born with on another human's face. I can't imagine being a housewife, not in the doting sense, and not even in the most liberal sense. Every facet of traditional love scares me and I could soon rather picture myself running from the altar. 
I'd like to imagine I could be a bird with a massively kind caretaker. One that would tend me to daily, leaving the hooks off my cage, keeping around my preferred feed and plants, and speaking to me gently with words of affirmation. But I can't. 
I remember being a young girl and my grandmother owning two birds, both with soft, bright, and rainbow-like fur. They'd hook their tiny beaks around the gold wire frame of their cage, and stare at me with warm and beady eyes. No amount of sunlight pouring in through the window could ever make them free enough. One day, they escaped and I made my way to the tree in front of the church down the street. I looked up and there they were, intertwined, chirping, and darting around basking in their freedom. I think love isn't as tight as we think it should be; it's loose, it's boundless, it's like water we can only hold for so long and desperately need to survive.
So I find myself at a crossroads: with the deep desire to be loved, and requiring a necessary freedom that is deeply misunderstood. I don't believe my grandmother would've been lost without her husband, but I do wonder what her life would've been like if she had the resources I do. She couldn't have her own credit card until she was in her 50s. I don't want to think about what her married life would've been like as a wife in the 1950s either if my grandfather hadn't loved her and respected her so much—the idea of her micro-dosing benzos, crushing them into narcotic sugar crystals to have in mid-afternoon cups of tea is a nightmarish concept.
I look to my mother's marriage as well, forever cursing in its wake. She married young too. She worked at a pizza shop, and every time I play "Faithfully" by Journey, she makes me groan when she reminds me it's the song that played when they first met. All of her kids were planned; the infidelity was not. I remember being a young girl, climbing out of bed in the middle of the night and joining her by her side at the window. She held her finger to her lips, and I stood on my tippy-toes to see my dad with a suitcase before pulling out of our driveway.
It wasn't the phone logs, the missing food, or his absence that made her leave. One night we had tickets to Disney on Ice, and despite being dressed and buttoned-up, he left us without a word. She served him the divorce papers shortly thereafter. Of everything that could've been, perhaps the saddest is her dream of being a labor and delivery nurse, now substituted with desk work and caretaking for her mother. I know she likes her job, but I see a glimmer in her eye when we're talking about regrets and I wish I could give her the lost hopes and dreams.
Two marriages: one the epitome of everything wrong and the other an impossible fairytale. We are shaped by our experiences but seldom do we recognize how we're shaped by other's as well. 
All of this, and there's the socioeconomic factors, too. I can have my own home. I can travel without a husband to fund it. I can be a CEO if I'd like, and opt out of motherhood. Celibacy could be a lifelong experience, and I could be the crazy cat lady. I am the first, like all the women in my generation and likewise, to have this decision. To choose ourselves. To have a choice at all.
I find myself so involved in my career, hyper-focused on the possibility of success. I have never considered this to be an act of self-preservation nor as a fight-or-flight tactic as a result of my fear of...abandonment? Failure? Dissatisfaction? I don't know. I do know that I don't want to regret not choosing my career, trying everything, and walking away sooner, like my mom tells me. Yet I find myself contemplating the fear of waking up one day and realizing I let love pass me by out of terror.
I am young, I am young, I am young! I keep trying to tell myself. I have all the time in the world to meet the warm and peculiar lover I dreamt about so many times, but I'm still living in a sort of fear that they'll put me in the golden bird cage. That they won't love me, they won't let the sunlight touch me, that they won't let me be free, or that they'd misinterpret my dire need for individuality as a border to our ardency.
The love my grandparents had for one another, for my mom, for me and my siblings, is one I hope to practice. I try to do so today—extending it to my loved ones, both bound by blood and time. To strangers I worry about, to the singular plant I've managed to keep alive, and to my dearest pets. To give it to a lover seems foreign, risky, and blind betting but I understand that is the price we pay for affection. I've never been much of a gambler.
To be driven is to have an all-consuming intramural fire, but sometimes I wonder what it's there for if I have nobody to share the fruits of its labor with. My siblings? Sure, but I'm only closest to my younger brother, who will eventually have his own family because he's, well, normal. And mentally sane. Someone in the family has to be the fun, pessimistic but altruistic overthinker, sorry. My mother? Who will one day pass has told me countless times to not live my life for her. My friends? Who absolutely do not think like me and would like to one day be married and/or have children. I'm clueless.
To sum this up, because it is late and my tea is cold: I am in the crosshairs of individuality, navigating womanhood with a massively unprecedented ability to be selective, and uncovering what it means to actually be fulfilled. What the lack of motherhood could look like. What to expect from love, knowing the purest versions of it exist, while simultaneously knowing it's hardly stumbled upon. Most of all: why my existing concept of love feels so scary and fundamentally restrictive.
I really need a therapist.