On Monday morning, September 25, Isa Adney woke up to news of her grandmother's passing. This is her thank you to Abuela Isabel. 

It’s Hispanic Heritage month and my Grandma just died this morning. 

What do those two facts have in common? 

My Grandma is Hispanic. She is my heritage. And I have no idea how I can ever fully thank her for what she’s done for me.

My Grandma moved from Puerto Rico to New York when she was young. 

Her mom died when my Grandma was just a teenager, so she spent most of her young life raising her many siblings. When they were almost all grown she moved to New York to find work.  She sewed in the garment district.

My Grandpa, also from Puerto Rico, worked as an exterminator. They met, married, and worked hard to make enough money to take care of their two kids and live in the projects in the Bronx.

They say the American Dream is in danger. And though my Grandma has just died, I believe the American Dream is still alive.

- Isa Adney, Columnist and Author

I wish I had known my Grandma in those days. 

I wish I had known the lady who woke her kids up early, splashed water on their face, and took them to the downstairs neighbor, who babysat them until it was time for school. 

I wish I had known the 20-something who negotiated the subways even though she couldn’t speak English, the young girl who loved to read and dance. I think we would have been friends.

I am thankful that I got to know the woman who planted purple flowers in front of the house in Florida that she eventually owned, the woman whose elation poured out of her wrinkles in a string of Spanish words I didn’t understand every time she opened the door to welcome us in for our Sunday with Grandma and carne guisada.

But the image that is strongest in my head this morning is a sparkly blue greeting card with a silhouette of a college graduate on the front. 

It is the card that my Grandma gave me this summer after I graduated with my Masters degree. 

It said “Aspiraste a lo más alto”(Aspire to the highest).  

While I don’t know how to translate it perfectly, just as my Grandma and I weren’t always able to communicate perfectly, in many ways it is much deeper than words alone. 

Because I got the message that she, who never made it past the fourth grade, knew that reaching for this step was a big deal. And I hoped, and I still hope, that she realized how much she made that aspiration possible for me.

They say the American Dream is in danger. And though my Grandma has just died, I believe the American Dream is still alive. 

When I think about my grandparents, I am astounded by what they were able to accomplish. 

My Grandma never spoke much English, but she lived a full life in America. She raised incredible kids, and she made it possible for her grandkids to live their dreams.

I always dreamed of being a writer. 

I never thought it would actually come true. 

In the hospital a few weeks ago I heard my Grandma tell the nurse proudly that I was an “escritora Latina.”

A Latina writer. Me? I’m only half Latina. But in that moment, I felt whole.

Isabel Rosado. 

I just needed to type her name on the page. 

I’m desperate for the permanence now that she’s gone. And I realized that just as words can be written on a page, so generations still can write their stories on their kids' and their grandkids’ futures. 

With every thread she sewed and every room she cleaned, she was building a bridge, stone by heavy stone.

I get to stand on that bridge now. And from its heights I miss her deeply. I look down and I can see the hands and the language and the sweat in its stonework. 

And I can see the little purple flowers sprouting up between the cracks. The flowers I know she must have had her in mind when she worked so hard every day. The promise of the beauty that was possible. The promise that her son would go to community college. The promise that her grandkids could go to graduate school.

I want to thank Isabel Rosado. 

But I also want to thank every man and woman who has cleaned someone else’s house, took care of someone else’s kids, picked up someone else’s trash, grown food on someone else’s land, or simply worked a hard job they didn’t like every single day so that their kids and grandkids could have a better life.

Gracias.

Your quiet work is the bedrock of the American Dream. 

And it enables your kids and grandkids to be louder, to stand up for the American Dream, and to keep it alive and thriving, just as you have done your whole life.

How can we ever fully appreciate those who have come before us? 

I know as I sit here on my laptop, writing for a living and working with community college students to keep the American Dream alive, that I am lucky. 

I don’t deserve this in many ways. But I will be forever grateful to my grandparents who made it possible.

Isa Adney is a Fox News Latino Education and Community Columnist and the author of Community College Success (NorLights Press, 2012), available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. She advises students across the country on how to break socio-economic barriers and build positive educational communities. You can connect with Isa on Twitter, Facebook, and www.isaadney.com.

For story ideas e-mail isa at isaadney@gmail.com

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