I would see my mom enter with tears in her eyes and a smile. It made no sense to me how an innocent person could be confined in a place like this.
By Andre Grande
In celebration of March as International Women’s Month, we continue to honor women’s work and sacrifices. We are grateful to the author for sharing excerpts of this essay which he originally wrote for his college application.
Andre Grande is a Biology student at the Ayala School of Biological Sciences of the University of California Irvine, the eldest son of Grace Grande, who came to the US together with her and his younger brother to escape their abusive father, a powerful and rich man in the Philippines.
Grace fought for her freedom and custody of her children, even if it meant the bitter retaliation of her abuser to cause her to be put in jail. She was later declared innocent and was reunited with her boys.
A soft yellow light, a seemingly impenetrable bulletproof window – in that room, I quietly stood; my heart pounded louder, breaking through the barriers of deafening silence. On the other side, a big metal door opened – a familiar figure hesitantly appeared: Mom. Innocent. Incarcerated.
In that moment of heart-gripping sadness, I longed so much to create a spark of hope. I wanted her to see that her son has grown – in love, in inner strength, and in wisdom.
The memories are still very fresh and clear. Visiting my mom in jail was the hardest thing I ever had to do. For six months and ten days, I would go as often as I could to see her, even if I could never give her a hug or a kiss on the cheek.
I remember the visitation room filled with countless bleeding hearts and “I love yous.” I would see my mom enter with tears in her eyes and a smile. I could tell she tried so hard to smile, although she was also tearful. It made no sense to me how an innocent person could be confined in a place like this. We even spent her birthday in there. It was unbearable.
Despite how hopeless my situation seemed, I was determined to make my mom proud. I continued to try hard in school and achieved high grades, which assured my mom that her children were not going to give up in life.
Of course, discouragements came, especially when our visitations ended. Every time we left, my heart broke. It was crushing to see her waving her hand to say goodbye through a densely tinted window on the side of the building and even if I knew she could not hear me, I would always shout “I love you, Mom!”
I cried myself to sleep every night. It was painful but I knew that no matter what, I could continue to be the strong son my mom needed me to be.
After those six agonizing months, a miracle happened: she was set free. It was one of the greatest moments of my life – to be woken by my entire family and to see my mom there, waiting for me to embrace her. She had long braided hair, but regardless of how funny I thought she looked, I still gave her that hug and kiss on the cheek. I prayed to God every night to bring my mom back to me, and He finally gave me His answer.
Ironically, my room was also lit by a soft yellow light, but this time, a glass wall no longer prevented me from being with my mom. For once, there was finally peace. Love bound us together; strength of character kept me fighting; wisdom kept me in the right path.
Although I never had the chance to have a normal childhood, I am thankful for the way my life turned out to be. I learned to be a preserver, one who strives through all the trials of life, yet I also learned to be a person who fights to achieve his dreams. I have never let my efforts lessen, even if our battles in courts and against my dad are not over. My past may have been unbelievably hard to overcome but the experiences I went through have made me who I am today.