The remains of childhood.

Without a doubt this year has been one of the ones where I have enjoyed the small conversations with my kids the most.

I can no longer call them children sometimes; other, yes…I yell at them when they are acting like TODDLERS and call them so!  But most of time, I quite enjoy these exchanges of ideas, opinions or simple points of view.

Sometimes even a short sentence will teach me a lesson; listening to them is key, especially in this era where we are enslaved by our cell phones. More than once they have complained because they are not getting my undivided attention, but shared attention between them and my phone screen, so I will put it away and face them, and listen.  I have heavily criticized people that have their faces on their screens the whole day. It annoys me and I find it disrespectful, and yet sometimes I find myself distracted by my own electronic devices as well.

And speaking of distractions, I have found that defining and respecting the line between work hours, lunch break, family time is sometimes challenging: it blurs when I have a heavy load of work and I want to do it all at the same time. I get anxious and sometimes selfish about my own needs. About a month ago I was leaving town to meet someone at the airport 80 miles away. I was running a bit late and as soon as I got on the Interstate, I saw a mile of cars completely stopped because of an accident ahead of us. I was fuming, and said “Great! All I needed was an accident blocking my way!”  My daughter looked at me in surprise –disapprovingly- and said, “Mom, don’t be selfish, think about the people in the accident that could be hurt.”

One more lesson learned from her. 🙂

When I was her age (10) I was a very oblivious child, very forgetful and easily distracted. And my daughter reminds me of those days very often. A few nights ago we were watching the Billboard Music Awards. They invited Celine Dion to sing My Heart will go on, in remembrance of the disaster of the Titanic or something of the sort.  While she sang, they showed scenes from the movie Titanic , and my daughter asked “Mom, was that movie shot on the actual ship?”  The question first annoyed me, then almost made me laugh, but I kept a straight face remembering myself as a child, and explained that the Titanic sunk over 100 years ago.

Next, the invited guest was Cher. Neither of my kids had any idea who she was –of course-.  As she performed with her extravagant clothes and hairstyles, my daughter asked if that was Cher Lloyd. I said “Cher who?”  She said “Cher Lloyd mom! The pop star that sings I Want you Back”.   I said “No, this is just Cher, not Lloyd, just Cher. A bit frustrated because I couldn’t hear or watch the show of this amazing performer (at 71 looks amazing still).  So my daughter looked at me straight and asked “no one knows her last name?”

Well, I had to laugh hard then. Her naiveté drives me crazy, in a good way. It shows the remains of what is left in her of my “little girl”.  I love her many questions that just prove how she is still my baby and how curious she can be.

This past week, while we were cooking something one night she said “Mom, what is the purpose of life?”.

A recent movie came out with the name A Dog’s Purpose, so just for a second I thought she was referring to a movie or a book. So I clarified her question, and she said “The purpose of life Mom, what are we here for? What is this?”

I stopped what I was prepping in the kitchen and thought hard for an answer I was not prepared to give while standing with a mixing bowl!

A simple question that called for a simple answer for a 10 year old.

We are here to be decent humans? We are here to create families and extend our values?  We are here to help the needy?  If only she knew and understood how pathetic I think the work-eat sleep-play cycle can be at times, how we live in a society where we are always competing and wanting more to reach a state of happiness that sometimes seems to never come until we “land” and realize what a are some of the fortunate few in this world that have a good life.

The last thing I wanted, was to discourage my little girl about any possible preconceived ideas about life; good ideas.

So my answer was, “We are here to be happy, with what we have”. I then returned the question to her and she replied “I think we are here to learn and help, and be happy”. Good. We were both pleased with our answers.

Oftentimes children (not only mine) surprise me with their questions, their statements, their drawings, their dreams, because it shows how frequently we –adults- underestimate how bright and deep their thoughts can be.

I feel like I am holding on as tight as I can to these last years of innocence, like a dog that will settle for crumbs, I will (almost) beg for conversations with my children, nighttime chats, a walk in the afternoon just to talk to them with no screens present. And I try to remember the things they say to me, or write about them here, in my blog.

I just enrolled my son, now 12- the acceptable age at the gym- to 24 Hour Fitness, where I go to work out several times a week. He seems too self-conscious about his skinny build, and he is constantly asking how he can get “muscly”. He is 5’6”, so at least the height is not a problem for him. So I thought it was a great chance to spend more time with him and help him get “muscly” at the same time.

So it has been fun, walking on the treadmill next to him, or the elliptical or the bikes.  We do cardio for a good 30 minutes, then we do weights. It has been just about a month or 2 and he is already asking his Dad if his biceps look bigger; patience and discipline I tell him, but 2 days later he will ask again.

Last week he said to me “Mom, I have a question about reproduction”. It was a casual afternoon while I was putting groceries away, not at the gym, not at night, just out of the blue. I switched from cook mode to Sex Education mode in seconds. “Yes?” I replied, expecting a very complex question or embarrassing moment.  “How long does the limo have to park in the garage?”

Well, I am glad he explicitly said it was a reproduction question, or it would have taken me a while to figure out what he was talking about. After all I was just putting canned tomatoes away!

Well, these questions are the beginning of the end of the stage I have adored as a mother. These questions are still a mixed bag, in the case of my son anyway.  Where the “bag” is leaning towards religion, politics and sex and less about simple things of life and the endless why this and why that.

Like I said before, I am not looking forward to the teen years and all the difficulties that come with the age, I am not ready but who is? All I can do it keep the bond between us nice and tight, the trust, the emotional freedom, so that when the road starts getting bumpy for them (and me I guess) I can be one of the first persons they will turn to for help or guidance. Me or their Dad of course.

I have a whole Blog entry to write about our recent trip to Cancun and today is Father’s Day so I have one more thing to write before I end this one..

For the first time ever, I have no father to call to say Happy Day. So I am going to write here all that I am feeling today, for him.

Thank you Dad for your laughter, for your smiles, for your silly dances. Thank you Dad for sacrificing so much of your own time and money to provide us with the best of the best, even when we didn’t deserve it.

Thank you Dad for never leaving, thank you Dad for all those Sunday mornings of long breakfasts at our table.  Thank you Dad for years of weekly manila envelopes with an allowance.  Thank you for teaching me how to use a credit card responsibly.

Thank you for teaching me to always wear clean shoes, and return loaned cars with a full gas tank; to pick up the check every now and then. To be a great host at parties.  Thank you for teaching me to be humble and to be charitable. For teaching me to pray and talk to God.  Thank you for being so strict about rules, discipline and school grades, but most of all, for instilling in me and my siblings such respect and admiration for my mother.

Wherever you are Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. I will always, always love you.

 

Home is…where the Mom is

Last week went- as expected. A triangle route that allowed me to touch down in the two cities that I have grown up more closely to: Monterrey, where I was born and spent the first 29 years of my life-  and Chihuahua (where my parents were born, where they met and where my sister was born some  years later.

I knew that my mother had made serious progress selling anything from trinkets to furniture, but I didn’t expect to see the house almost empty. I arrived on a Wednesday. There were exactly 5 large plates, half a dozen bowls, some plastic cups, some cutlery items and some disposable forks and spoons left in the kitchen pantry. For cooking, 2 pans left and –of course- the griddle used to warm up tortillas or grill sandwiches. That is pretty much it.

I thought of it drastic at first, then quickly did the math and realized we (my mom and I) had only 3 days left in the house. Plus, the moving company expected everything to be packed and ready to load by Friday, 7 am.

There were only the necessary bath towels left out, same for toiletry items. The fridge and freezer were pretty decent, which gave me some comfort. There were several home-made meals that the cook had made for us for those last days. I gladly ate that for dinner that Wednesday, plastic fork and all. It was delicious.

My mom had 2 hangers left in her closet with 2 perfectly matched outfits. One for Thursday, one for Friday. That afternoon, one of my mom’s best friends came to visit. She came often, always unannounced and bearing gifts- always. She is like an Auditor that does surprise visits to “check-in” and supervise the mood in the house, and specially, in my mom’s mind and heart. She is a true pleasure to chat with. My Dad adored her. She has what the kids would call a “potty mouth” which makes her even more fun and unique that she already is speaking “clean”. Her loyalty and friendship with my mom over the last 50 years is something than I envy. It is the kind of friendship you read about or see in a movie set.  I know she has been as sad as my mom with the news of her departure and had visited more often since my Dad died. That afternoon she showed up with very sad eyes, smelling of her usual Carolina Herrera, looking great still. She put on a smile when I opened the door for her, a smile that seemed to carry weight and was not effortless.

She stayed there for a good 2 hours and broke down crying a bit with the disguise of some family troubles – but I knew in my heart the source of her tears. I was pretty edgy and vulnerable too so I went along with the family troubles conversations.

That afternoon she brought my mother a beautiful blouse to wear the next day, at her Farewell luncheon with all her friends.

My mom and I  went to bed that night with a decent dose of sleeping pills – both of us-. There was too much going on in our heads.  The next morning, we snuggled in her bed for a while and chatted and laughed and talked about the plans for that day. I made fun of her – as usual- for stroking my head on the same spot, as if she was going to dig a hole in my skull with her fingernails.  “You are horrible!  You need to try better, come on!” I told her as I rearranged my head by her side and she laughed hard.

That day she had a farewell lunch party at a nice seafood restaurant just minutes away from the house. Twenty ladies or so attended.  All her friends from the times she married to the latest ones she met later in life.  Some got emotional and could not say good bye so with a “See you soon” they parted with glassy eyes and quickly turned on their heels. Some clearly did not want to go, so they stayed after lunch, after dessert, after coffee, and after the lunch crowd had gone and there was almost no one left.

Some just dealt with it, got their strength from their gut, said their goodbyes, expressed their good wishes and hugged her tight.

They took turns posing next to her for a picture “just with her”. It was adorable. They all dressed up very nicely for the occasion. I hope I look as good as them in my 70s! I was the one that felt like a boring librarian with my tight low ponytail to control my curls and lots of gel to accomplish it (I felt like I had glue on my head) and I wore almost no makeup- not in the mood.

My brother, his wife and their eldest son arrived that afternoon.  They drove from their home some 8 hours to be there that weekend.

That night we had almost no food left in the fridge so we ordered Sushi for dinner. We all sat at the dining table, felt relaxed and nervous at the same time, but if my brother is EVER present in a group, there is guaranteed laughter, fun and good times. I was so thankful for his presence, so happy that he was there.  We realized that is was our “last supper” in the house. We took a selfie in remembrance and sent it to my sister, the only one missing.

Last Supper

That night, we did the last packing that was left, which included disconnecting the last Television in my mom’s bedroom. So we went to bed with no sound but our voices. Our conversation. I thought of my Dad and wondered if he would approve of everything we had done since the day he left this world and I said to myself: “Yes, he would”.  I know he blindly trusted my little brother, as if he was the eldest of us 3, and he has been the guide and executioner of all the big decisions we have made together since December 14th 2016.

I went to bed that night exhausted; the moving company confirmed the truck would come between 6 30 am and 7 am that Friday.

At 6 am I woke up. It was still a bit dark. I quietly left the room so not to wake my mother up. I had heard noises from my brother being up too. I could not find him but realized he had already taken a shower in what used to be his bathroom, even though he did not spend the night in that room.

I went to visit my father’s garden again, then laid down on the living room couch in complete silence and closed my eyes. I thought about all the things that had taken place in that house, good and bad. All the people that over the years felt so comfortable in it. The parties, the celebrations, the study groups when we attended high school and college. The sleepovers. The many Christmas dinners served. I remembered my father’s 50th birthday party. How we danced to together to Mexican Mariachi music. He had been so happy that day. His extended family had come all the way from Chihuahua to attend.  I even remember what I was wearing.

I remembered the many cakes I baked in that kitchen. Many breakfasts with my Dad on Sundays.  On that couch I was laying, my Dad used to sit every single morning to read the paper, and many mornings he sat there at 5 or 6 am while I opened the door and tiptoed inside after a night of partying hard.

The look in his face was one of anger, frustration and worry. “Where were you? It is 6am!!!” He would yell at me.  My poor dad. I felt terrible realizing I made him go through hell wondering if I would make it home all right.

I found myself not crying but with a heartbeat so fast and hard I could hear it. It was past 6 30am. The sound of the busy street started getting louder. Probably moms and dads going to the gym, carpooling with kids in their vans, and then I heard it. A low droning big engine making its way to our house. I heard it 3 blocks away, and as it got louder I grew angrier. I went outside to “spy” through the fence still in my pajamas.  The big moving truck had parked across the street. I ran inside to find my brother. I found him in all serenity resting next to his son who was still asleep.

“The truck is here” I announced. He slowly got up and I hugged him. “Let’s just leave them outside and not open the door” I suggested, and we both laughed. I had knots it my throat and stomach by then but a very busy day lay ahead of us.  

After that, the loading of the truck went pretty fast. Boxes first, then couches and mattresses, then my mother’s beloved plants and last my mom’s van.

The movers had warned me that the truck got very hot during transport and the plants might not make if after the 12-15 hour trip. But my mom has a very special relationship with her plants and I knew it meant the world to her to take the big ones with her, to what would be, her new home.

So we decided to chance it.

By 11 30 am the truck was packed and ready to go. I signed the inventory list, still angry at the movers, just for being there.  I stood at the driveway watching the tuck roll away with my home in it. I know it wasn’t but that is what it felt like.

More people came to buy furniture, mini splits, window AC units, smaller plants, the dining room set.

Several of my closest cousins and my brother’s wife came to spend time with us that morning, to offer help, even packing. But there was nothing left to do. Their company is what helped, I did NOT want to be alone in the remains of the house.  My mother and brother had left to take care of legal matters so I appreciated the company.

There was not a chair left so we sat on the floor to chat.

The lady that cooked for my parents for the last 30 years or so could barely talk.  She was so saddened by it all.  She later told me that she already worked with my parents when they moved in to that house and it was empty because they had no furniture yet. 1971 that was. The year I was born. “Now I see it all empty again” she said crying through her words.

When all the rooms were cleared I saw all the dust that comes out of places one usually never cleans, I immediately grabbed a broom and started sweeping the floors. The new owner of the house (a developer that will soon demolish it and build a gorgeous new  2 story home)  would soon come to receive the keys and have a walk through to verify the bones of the house.  “Why do you sweep? What is the use? “ She asked me. I replied ”because the house looks very dirty and my Dad would hate anyone to see it like this.”  She smiled but did not reply. Her silence was one of respect. That’s it.

As she left, she took with her some cooking pans and other kitchen items. I helped her out into an Uber and sent her home with a big hug and a promise to be in touch and give updates of the new home. She never stopped crying softly.

By 2pm I realized that I had not had breakfast. I was feeling light headed and to top it off, there was a heat wave which made temperatures rise to the 40’s (Celsius).

My cousins that I refer to as our Angels, and my sister in law, who truly is like a sister, offered to join me for a late lunch at a restaurant nearby called Los Mostos.

As we were eating I suddenly realized we did not have much time left before we had to go to the airport.  We rushed through the meal and went home.  I met there again with my mom and brother. I packed up my bag and a few minutes later I was picked up to head to the airport.

I rode with my mother’s sister. My mom rode with my dear cousin that had been so close to her these past months.  She is without a doubt the one that was closest to my Dad, his favorite niece if I can call her anything. They spoke the same language, they had been through very similar life experiences. They truly loved each other.   So she is the one that offered to take my mom.  We were all to meet later at the airport.

Once checked in, the time came to say good bye to my beloved cousins and for my mother  and her sister to say good bye.   “We have never been apart” she had said to me on our way to the airport with sad moist eyes. And I realized it was true. Other than one or two years of college, they had lived in the same city before and after marriage.

My mother broker down crying hard in her wheelchair as her sister stood next to her and tenderly held her red faced head in her chest.  “I will go visit to Chihuahua” she promised. And I know she will, but it will not be the same.

This was the end of a stage, of a phase, of a part in my mother’s life and the beginning of a new one, as a widow.

I could not watch them for long, it was heartbreaking to put it mildly.  I turned away to be strong and think of all the good things that would come, eventually.

After giving them a few minutes I leaned down and asked her “Are you ready Mom?”  She nodded, so I took the chair after a quick hug to my aunt and rolled away into the Security area.

Two minutes later my mom and I went to see the jewelry display at the shopping area. She has a “thing” for jewelry so that got her attention.    She then ate her Torta  from Los Mostos that she had been carrying since 4pm. She was starving!

We boarded the plane and took off on a one way trip to Chihuahua.  I was seated next to her but with the center aisle between us.  So I could not hold her and hug her when she cried during that flight. I put myself in her position and though about the implications of this move.  She left behind her adopted hometown of 50 years. A network of closely knitted friends that showed respect and admiration for so long. She left the city in which she lived many experiences with her husband. She left a house which took years of my father’s work to pay and where she raised 3 kids. A house in which she put her heart and soul decorating, redecorating and remodeling. She left behind a part of her life that ended just recently with my Dad.  I looked at her from the corner of my eye, her profile exactly like my grandmothers.  I looked at her holding her head up high, eyes closed. And I felt so proud of her and but I could also feel her pain.

Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new life for her- I thought, and mine too.

I also left behind a house I would never ever see again since in a week or so it will be no more. I left a city which I will now visit on rare occasion. I left behind the streets where I learned how to drive, the places I went out to dinner with my Mom and Dad, I left behind the little bit I had left that connected me to Monterrey: my parent’s home.

But now, when I will feel that need to reconnect with my family, my origins and it will be fulfilled in Chihuahua, where my mother is.  Because, like I said in the beginning Home is where the Mom is.

My brother , sister in law and nephew in front of our house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One way tickets…times three

My life has been moving on fast, I have kept busy and tried to help my mom as much as I can with her relocation.

“My mom is moving to Chihuahua” is a short simple sentence, yet each word carries so much weight. I have said it probably 20 times, but just until now, these past few days, I have realized all it entails.

Cancelling utilities, requesting changes of addresses, having total strangers come and look at your “things”; things that have been part of my mother’s house for 40+ years, now sitting on tables, displayed as they’d be in a Bazaar. I think to myself, if those “things” could feel, would they be hoping to be rescued and re-sold, and be part of another one’s home?

My mother inherited from her mom a complete China set, very adorned with golden touches. I barely remember times when we used it.  It was mostly reserved for Christmas Dinners.   They reminded me of the Waldorf Apple salad that my Dad absolutely loved and craved for months.  Until recently, he said one day to me “I don’t have to wait for Christmas to come, I should have this salad whenever I want, right?” and so, he did.  About a year ago I remember him telling me that he ate some apple salad -between summer and fall-; he sounded proud, eating it almost with the sole intention of breaking a rule, which he was very good at J.

My brother was there last weekend, checking on my mom and helping with so many things that are left to do; I called one day and he answered the phone and even if I was not there I felt his pain and sadness across the thousands of miles between us. So far apart, yet I felt so close to him, sharing his emptiness. “We are cleaning up and packing stuff” he said.  Later that evening he sent me pictures of Vinyl LPs that he said reminded him of me. Classical music and Ballet Suites, along with Zarzuelas and Operas that my Dad listened to a zillion times.

I sent him a message later suggesting he didn’t need to save them for me. All the music I have a special love for, that linked me to my Dad, is in my heart, and some, on digital format, in my phone.  I refuse to cling to things that pull me back and make me sad and drown me sometimes. I don’t need that. I want happy thoughts and memories.

My Dad’s Blu de Channel is fading fast. There is barely a drop left and the scent is not the same anymore. It smells more like a forgotten sample at the Macy’s Men’s Fragrance Counter.

The weekend of the move is fast approaching. Only 2 weeks left and I have been in charge of choosing and booking the Moving Company. It is all set for Friday April 28th.

Thinking about how hard it will be for my mother to move out, see the truck being loaded, seeing her house empty almost to the bone, and then getting on a plane to her new home, ironically, her original Hometown, I decided several weeks ago to fly with her on that One Way trip. I would be more than happy to join her on the journey and be there for her, and share every moment with her, bitter or sweet, it doesn’t matter.

So I first purchased my one way ticket to Monterrey.  Once we decided when to schedule the moving truck, I bought the next set of tickets, one way again, from Monterrey to Chihuahua. Her helper, my mother and I.  Extending my stay as much as my busy life and work allow me, I chose a return date, and again, bought a one way ticket back home.

Once I had my 3 one way tickets, and the dates were set and stuck in my mind, I have been a bit nervous about that weekend.  I know being with my mom and brother will help a lot. I think the worst already happened: my father’s departure.

We will all be OK, we just have to have the right attitude towards change.

No matter how many people go to my mom’s Bazaar , like crows on a carcass, my memories are not for sale . They are mine, and only mine to keep.

I have been getting email from the airline offering a “Good Deal” if I complete my trip flying back with them. A computer program that shoots massive email out to customers doesn’t understand I cannot buy a round trip this one time.  As if I didn’t hate spam email already… these ones in particular I hate even more.

Ever since Christmas our house project (on my end) took a pause. I have so many things to work on: frame pictures, print photos that I took and love. Finish my 2012 scrapbook that never saw the month of April.  Plant more trees and flowers.  But I feel stalled, self-stalled. And I hide behind books or TV shows or the occasional movie. I have noticed that much. I am emotionally “parked”. And it’s fine. In time I will continue with more enthusiasm. This slowness has allowed more time with my kids, which I can hardly regret. So, one day at a time, and enjoying each one very much.

My kids are growing at a speed I don’t exactly love. My son is eating like a teenager already, having snacks and desserts the size of a meal sometimes. He told me yesterday directly to please not hold his hand when crossing the street any more- period. It is too embarrassing. I said, sure, fine. No problem.

I now ask for permission to kiss him in public. He still talks to me – a lot- and confides in me, he still shares his most intimate feelings; I am flattered with the trust and never take it for granted. His mild acne seems to have decided to stay, so his face has that constant reminder that he is not my baby boy anymore, so I kind of hate his nose right now. We laugh a lot together; he has developed a witty sense of humor and his answers frequently leave me speechless or make e burst out laughing. A couple of weeks ago he went to a Theme park with a friend. We gave him some spending money and he returned with most of it. When I asked why, he said he started a “Savings Fund”, either for a Cello or for a new puppy (ours is only 3 months old but he says that way in 10 years when she dies he will be ready to buy another expensive one).  So he ate barely anything at the park, so he could add to his fund.

I told him, if you didn’t spend your money you are supposed to give it back. He replied with a straight face “Mom, it is very rude to return a gift, you should know that “.

Today we washed windows together, he made $10 dollars. Last week he cleaned the baseboards of the whole house, he earned another $10.

Last weekend my daughter had 2 friends over. They picked 3 big bags full of grapefruit, and washed windows too. That is how my Dad was with us growing up; he constantly reminded us the value of money and how important it was to understand how hard it could be to earn every penny. He never made my sister and I work for money, but I don’t see how it can hurt these days, when kids are living in a world of instant gratification and don’t have a clear understanding of building something up from the very bottom. Not because they are not mature enough, but because in a generation of self-entitlement and constant rewards, it is not common practice.  That is why we taught our kids about Savings accounts, loans, credit cards and how the whole machine works. Why it is important to maintain a good credit record, to spend only what you have or know you can earn, not more.  At 10 and 12 years old, I believe they both understand it well.  Still, one can never stop instilling these values. Practice and example are indispensable.

This weekend (Easter weekend) I have being feeling particularly down. Commercials on TV show family feasts ,  large groups gathered around a Spiral Ham, potatoes, veggies, desserts, everyone smiling, picture perfect scenes.  It is all over and it makes me mad at times. Because I have never had that on Easter since I moved here, not once. But I do however, have the memories of our own Easter feasts with my cousins when I was my kids ages and younger.  The Easter egg hunts, the feeling of belonging to that large group. The pretty dresses, the sunny Sunday out in the big backyard of my mom’s sister’s home.

This is the second year –in a row- that we no longer to the Egg Hunt.  Once the Santa illusion was discovered and confirmed, all the other childhood heroes slowly disappeared: Tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, Leprechauns (I never got those), slowly but surely vacated our home, and our kids’ minds.

Now I wish I could see the expressions on my kids’ faces again when they went running outside to our small backyard to find the most fake colorful plastic eggs with melted chocolate, candy or coins in them. And spend the rest of the morning with their faces all smudged with chocolate stains and red tongues from the skittles or Jolly Rancher suckers.

I know I am feeling melancholy with so much going through my head, and my heart, and homesick too.  And also overwhelmed with the idea that it is up to me to create childhood memories (Easter, Christmas, you name it) for my own kids or none at all. In a way, I am the “producer” of a background in the movie where they each star. Not to mention a Director of the first part of it too. What makes me feel better, is that I have the best co-producer and co-director that I could ask for to engage in this never ending task: my husband, who lately has been amazing at understanding my mood swings, my anger, my need to be alone and to be there for my mom too.

Just last week I was sitting at my desk at work, when the receptionist came in with a beautiful flower bouquet sent by him. He has never been a fan of sending anything on the most predictable days such as birthdays, valentines or an Anniversary. So he keeps surprising me like that day. And I needed it too. Because this past week and this one too have been especially hard.

My sister came to visit just a couple of days. She had a work seminar up in Orange County and stayed here before that. I loved her company, I felt privileged to have her, her love, her support, her listening ears.

The day she left I stood by the door and watched as her little rented car drove away. I thought to myself, she is so small (she is only 5’2” or so), so petite, and yet she is one of the strongest women I have ever know and she makes me feel so strong too. She is so intense when she is with me, that that morning she left, the house felt strangely calm.

This morning I felt like doing absolutely nothing but staying in bed, read, write, cry, look at the ceiling, look out the window and enjoy our view.  I have slowed down these days, like my book “World Enough and Time” suggests. I have taken many mental notes about how to slow down and enjoy my days- all of them. So I am not staying in bed all day. I have written and posted this, and I will get out and get fresh air, exercise my body as I did my mind, and take it form there.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet dreams among boxes of memories

My mom’s 70th party was a total success. Out of the 35 ladies we invited, 33 came. I am not surprised, because once again this event confirmed that my mother has a very closely knitted group of friends that not only admire her and find true inspiration in life through her, but also follow her, look for her, NEED HER and truly cherish every minute they spend with her.

For this small party I did not write her a letter. People often tell me that when they read my letters or my blog they cry, they get emotional and reflect upon life in ways that make them shed tears. I always feel flattered when I hear this, because it means that my words are not only understood, but felt deep down other people’s hearts; however, I was determined not to make a single person cry that evening.

And I didn’t.   But her own friends did.

After clinging a wine glass with a spoon (it works wonders) and getting everyone’s attention, I said some brief words to acknowledge and praise some of my mother’s best life lessons. After some severe thought and selection, I chose 2

  1. She taught me to be extremely practical and an absolute multi-tasker, because as a result of her own upbringing and her condition, it made her be practical, efficient and confident about her own capabilities- her wheelchair doesn’t even figure in all this. So she taught me just that. Without total conscience about it, I have tried to pass that on to my own kids, and the only reason I notice I am doing it,  is because every now and then they will say to me “Mom, I am not an octopus! I can’t do so many things at once!”  So I try to wind down and restart.
  2. By example, she taught me to love books, to love reading, to develop the habit and find its beauty, its many benefits. To be disciplined with it. To be curious and, just as she grabbed the Britannica Encyclopedia in the 70s and 80s when in doubt, I now google every word, event, masterpiece, city that I read about so that I get deeply immersed in my story. Fiction or not, it doesn’t matter.

After my words, my sister followed with other life lessons, mostly related to self-confidence and being independent as a woman, as an individual.  I encouraged her friends to say some words to my mother, comical events they treasure, lessons learned, inspiration, anything. I honestly think this is more precious than all the Hallmark Cards in the world.

My mom’s only sister followed. It is just the 2 of them. Hers is one of the most pure, unconditional and just absolutely beautiful forms of love and admiration for a sibling I have EVER seen. So when she spoke about my mom, her voice broke, as she ended her brief speech saying “You are my strength”. That is when the teary eyes began.   I knew for a fact that a dozen or more of her best friends had prepared things to share, I was surprised to see that almost none spoke because of the same reason: they couldn’t. They were all choked up already, wiping tears from their eyes, because, not only they love her and where happy to be there celebrating my mom’s 70 years of life, but also their friendship of 50+ years.

I saw them all, observed them, and remembered the many parties (50, 60 and many more) they had all attended, and I breathed love, loyalty and true admiration in that room. I felt so proud not only of my mom, but of all of them.

The support, understanding and sincere friendship  that exists between women that have known each other for decades is something priceless, unbreakable. They have gone through pain, loss, joys and accomplishments together. It is a true roller coaster and they all go on it,  together.

I felt jealous in a good way to see this beautiful group of women and prayed to God that night that if he gives me enough years to turn 70 or 80 or 90, I have this in my life too, with the many friends I have today that I truly love and admire.

The group was seated in 4 round tables, and I thought it was adorable that 2 of my mom’s best friends dumped the table they were seated at, and went to find seats in the table where my mother was. They asked the waiters to squeeze in chairs, had their salads and drinks moved and felt truly happy to share the rest of the afternoon seating just feet away from her.  I thought to myself: that is lovelier than have a guy following you around when you are dating!

The fact that my mother is relocating to another city in 2 months has made her friends more desperate to spend time with her too. They want to see each other as often as they can. Yesterday one of them said, “Let’s meet every Friday!” another said… “What? NO! What about Wednesday and Thursday?”

I loved every minute of it. I think I enjoyed the party more than my mom.

After we got home, my mom told me that a good number of her friends approached her separately throughout the party to say their own speech, personally, because they just couldn’t speak in front of all.  One of my favorite lines was the one from my brothers Mother in Law. She said to my Mom “The moment I met your son, I knew what type of mother he had.”  WOW!  My throat knotted.

One of my sister’s best friends was also there and she said “Your sister is my hero, I might as well have a poster of her in my home. I just love her, but until I met your Mom I knew why”. So then, I was the one crying a bit.

Well, I have to say these past 4 days were a mixed bag of feelings.  The day before the party, my parents’ house sale was finalized and all contracts were signed. My mom is now on a rent-back lease until she leaves for good, the 1st week of May.

A subject that has been talked about even before my Dad passed is now a done deal.  The packing and cleaning out and sorting of items has started and I was a bit surprised to find the house full of packed and labeled boxes and mostly empty furniture -all over.

The beds in both guest bedrooms were literally surrounded by boxes, the smell of dust and old paper was lingering in the air all the time. I peeked into several of them and saw old pictures, kitchen utensils that I had used hundreds of times when I baked cakes in my teens, old coins, key chains, little note pads and all the usual trinkets found in junk drawers and forgotten dusty shelves. I tried to remove pictures from old frames and couldn’t because they were glued and stuck to the glass; old wallets with passport photos from the 80s.  I found books that were read a decade or two ago and have probably been ornaments since then. All of them memories, sweet memories- in a box.

I slept well those nights, maybe it was all the nice memories that made my Dads presence felt in a warm way.

This morning, my sister woke me at 5am before leaving for the airport. That left me with a good 30 minutes of snuggling time with my warm sweet smelling mom that was next to me. So we laid there in silence half asleep. I positioned a small pillow just next to her belly and put my head on it, so she could stroke my tangled mess of curly unruly hair, ever so gently and softly. After a while I kissed her hand and reluctantly got out of bed to shower.

I already had a headache by then, because the tears refused to come, I didn’t stop them but I guess they went to my head instead. After showering and getting ready and packed, I took a last look at the almost bare bathroom and sink counter top and realized there are not going to be many more showers in this bathroom, in the only house I ever knew growing up, the bathroom where I got potty trained when I was a toddler, where I started using make up, where I saw the first pimples ever on my face. The bathroom where I got sick so many times after partying hard when I lost control and track of my drinks. The bathroom and the bedroom I shared with my sister for over 20 years.

My headache got worse and the clock was ticking. I was avoiding one more good-bye and the sound I HATE of the rolling suitcase on the wood planks of the floor.

I quickly kissed and hugged my mom good bye and left feeling 50 pounds heavier. The Uber was waiting for me with Alicia Keys screaming “New Yoooooooork” on the radio. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the driver to turn it down because 10 minutes later I was nauseous.

Once I boarded the plane the tears came -just a few- and I took aspirin a little bit ago. So both things combined made the headache disappear.

I wish with all my heart that I had the power to give my mom the freedom she needs to stay in the city she loves, because I know the move will be hard- for all of us.  But I also know that she is so emotionally intelligent and so wise, that she will find a way to find happiness wherever she is.

The love and support from all of us – family and friends- will follow her.

I LOVE YOU MOM!!! Happy Birthday.

Gracias por darme la vida!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathroom Problems and Birthday Parties

Zooming out again for the E.T. View (Extra-terrestrial View)…

I am happy to report that my commute to work, slowly but surely went back (almost) to what it used to be. I re-engaged in checking out Audio Books from the San Diego Central Library to enjoy while I drive.  I don’t quite enjoy being on the phone as much anymore – or yet- because my Dad had that special place in my Samsung 7 during my commute. So I opt for listening to my choice of Audio Book of the week and -on occasion- the depressing news.

Just a couple of days ago, I took a moment to catch up with the news on the one and only station a can tolerate KPBS (Public Radio). I ended up listening to a very controversial situation that has been going on for almost a year, and apparently, States cannot agree on and keep approving then banning laws:

Plainly said: where should transgender people pee.

Since I have been listening to this issue for months, and after watching the movie The Danish Girl , my views have been affected and somewhat swayed towards empathy , I could not help but tune out the details and zoom out several thousand miles to outer space and see us, -again- as a foreigner.

In this state of mind- as a foreign unearthly being- I often find myself trying to understand (not very successfully) the human kind.  I not stating that all issues related to the LGBT community are minor or blown out of proportion. They can be in some instances, but generally speaking I agree that they are matters that affect thousands of people, where not only feelings, but human rights are involved.

In this state of mind I remember and analyze all that has happened from the times of slavery, the European “Conquistadores” abusing and wiping out entire communities of natives, Hitler’s abominable “cleansing” of the population, the never ending religious wars in the middle east that nowadays are felt more closely, courtesy of our current President.

It all seems so pointless, hurtful and unproductive and yet, these events have cost millions of dollars and millions of lives throughout several centuries. Most definitely these wars and disagreements will never ever end. The only thing that will change is the means with which different groups/communities or governments react and handle these matters.   So I listened for a good 30 minutes about the “bathroom ban” in Texas, the different reactions from different states, different School Districts, all from my ET standpoint and I almost laughed.  WHERE TO PEE? I do not mean to sound insulting, but I just don’t get all the drama.

People just want privacy I assume, so how is having someone that crossed/changed  into your same gender an invasion of privacy or a threat while using the restroom? No one is asking for empathy or even support for this community. They just want to use the restroom in the room where they identify with, period.

The irony of all this is that right after the whole Bathroom Ban segment, another one came about Immigrants officially considered refugees. The hell they are going through with all new laws and travel bans. The types of horrible crimes and abuses they face in their countries of origin.   After being absolutely disgusted with as much news as I could take, I turned to music and kept thinking: there are people fighting for their lives, fleeing their lands, leaving everything behind looking for safety and a better life for their little ones, and here we are in the US arguing where the transgender people should pee.

That evening after getting home, I realized we had serious bathroom problems in my own home, because just a week ago we got a tiny puppy, just 8 weeks ago that is trying to understand were to pee and….well everything. She has decided to go wherever she pleases so my son – the official owner- spends half the time with paper towels and odor-neutralizing spray chasing after her.

Everything is relative I suppose…even bathroom problems.

My mother is turning 70 in a couple of days, so my siblings and I are all flying down to be with her and celebrate in a small party with her closest friends. It might be hard for her, for all of us, to not have my Dad with us in this time of celebrating life.

I had a dream last night that he called me and explained in a clear and calm voice why he should be there, at the party, and I was thrilled to know he’d be there. I envisioned him in his black suit and a tie greeting all the ladies and standing close to my mom. He looked so handsome and young, and…he smelled so good. I remember that in my dream.

My Dad was a bit addicted to showers and cologne, so those elements remain even in my dreams. I am nervous, a bit, of what feelings might take over me, but this time I will just let them take me without fear of crying, as I did on my last trip. Maybe it will be nothing but joyful.    We will see.

 

 

Untitled, as the winter goes on

It is the weekend, the days of the week that -for me- are most ironic and spontaneous in its unplanned disarray. For five days many of us can only think of…”when the weekend comes” , then it comes and there is so much to do in the house. I fantasized yesterday of a whole day at home, blogging, finishing my 2012 scrapbook that never saw the month of March, and possibly continue with 2013.  I  pictured myself selecting some of the best family pictures to get them printed, framed and hung on our walls, so that our new home ,that is still a bit cold and empty in the wall department, can start getting some friendly and warm faces here and there.

Some pictures than can remind all of us that we are part of something big and beautiful. That there are people scattered in several  States and in Mexico too, that probably think about us every day, that miss us. and that very likely see our faces on a wall of their own.

My fantasy sounded good, almost relaxing and fulfilling, but I ended up deep cleaning our stove, polishing our kitchen hood, vacuuming the house, polishing hard wood floors, all while dirty laundry was spinning in the washer, or drying.

I got the kids to do some work too, their weekly chores, I didn’t feel so miserable working on a Saturday, plus my husband worked from 8 am to 5 ish too, clearing and moving dirt on our lot in his little tractor. I have to say there was some consolation in seeing all of us working. The fact that I had music playing the whole time helped too. Lately, that is my way of feeling I am not alone, there is almost always a good memory linked to every song as I move around the house with my cleaning supplies.

By noon I was mostly done, and realized I was in a little bit of a bad mood and acting quite bossy with the kids. I made myself a cup of tea and went to sit outside to take a break and become a nice sweet Mom again.

It was chilly but sunny. I sat on our new, but almost never used patio chairs and watched my husband diligently up and down a slope, moving rocks and a lot of dirt. I enjoyed the view, the cold crisp air and my chamomile and peppermint tea  just sealed the moment. Then I thought -yet again- that my Dad would never come and sit there with me.  No afternoons there chatting with him, making him his favorite snacks, laughing, reading. No, never. Then I knew why I was so grumpy and bossy. Because I miss him a lot.  Just then, one of my favorite songs started playing:  Silent Lucidity.  A 90s song that I have heard many many times. I love it’s rhythm, the very soft, deep voice of Queensrÿche’s lead singer, the sound of the guitars, and violin’s in the background with so much emotion, almost pain.  But for the very first time, the lyrics just hit me and made me teary eyed:

“Hush now don’t cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You’re lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over
Or has it just begun? “

This is a song about dreams, specifically about lucid dreams: when we dream we are dreaming. It is like a double depth or layering withing the dream. When we dream we are dreaming, and we know it and have certain control over the dream.  Maybe this sounds crazy or complicated, but it really isn’t. It has happened to me many times, and it is true. I have been able to control the dream. If it is too scary, I make it stop.

I have had many dreams about my Dad in the last few weeks. None of them lucid dreams; they seem to be more like memories of him, of the situations I lived in real life with him.

The song has a protective tone to it: a man talking to a child about not being scared of the dreams and the feelings that come with them. It is amazing how the same song in different stages of our lives can mean something so different. Just today I learned that the track incorporated a tiny bit of Brahm’s Lullaby (5:26) played by a Cello.

http://www.vevo.com/watch/queensryche/silent-lucidity/USEM40200001

So I listened yesterday to the song, uninterrupted and not bothered by anyone, music playing loud through the patio speakers and while I felt sad, I also knew that even if my Dad will never come visit me here, he will visit my in me dreams.

His birthday just passed, on January 31st. I had feared that day to come, but surprisingly I was absolutely OK. I am doing well I think.  The distance (away) from my home town and my parents house has helped. I visited my Mom recently and I have to say that being there, witnessing -again- the empty  spaces and getting a whiff of my Dad’s Bleu  by Channel made my stomach hurt.

That weekend my admiration and empathy for widowers skyrocketed. They stay there, they feel the pain every single day. The clean out the rooms. They are reminded of what they don’t have anymore almost 24 x 7.

I was sad to leave my Mom, but happy to run away from it all. I am dealing with my loss here at home at my own pace.

On another note, life is happening so fast, too fast!  My son got his first real pimple a month or so ago. He is just a couple of inches shorter than me (5’6″),  but he still plays with stuffed animals and asks to be tucked in at night, so in my eyes, he is still my little boy. He will be turning 12 this week. One more year before officially becoming a teenager, but that stupid pimple made me feel like there was no time left at all!  Together, my son and I killed it. With gels and soaps we dried up the invasive premature infection on his face.

That pimple was definitely a marker for what will be the start of a phase I am not exactly looking forward to: snappy kids that talk back and need constant reminders of who is boss, mood swings that are never understood (not even by them), challenging questions to test limits and,  oh my,  kids that after school, fill my car with the smell of dirt and sweat that remind me they are not kids anymore!  :/

My daughter is following right behind. While she is ever so careful with her personal hygiene, she is at the age where, while she can’t sleep without her stuffed bunny, she also listens to songs that could very well be in my own playlists, and likes to wear mascara on special occasions.  I remember it myself as being very confusing, should I act like a sweet little girl or should I make it clear and apparent I almost a teenager and act super cool?

Just last weekend my daughter and I went to see the kids from School of Rock in town, perform at a local  family friendly bar/restaurant. My friend’s daughter was performing, she has been into music and performing arts for years now, she is only 12.  The whole group of kids ranged anywhere from 8 years old to 14, so it was quite a mix of ages and talents. As I sat there, looking at my daughter, 10, wearing a cute and girly outfit, her heir neatly tied up, I noticed how out of place she felt- and looked. The very loud guitars and drums made it impossible to  talk, she was clearly a bit bothered by it, but refused to wear ear plugs (available for all intolerant audience members). She endured over an hour of rock music and I watched as my friend’s daughter along with other kids, were singing their hearts out and playing their instruments with a true and authentic professional attitude. Girls wearing make up, crazy hairstyles dyed with blue and purple, and clothes that made the point: I want to be a rock star.

It felt like watching kids wanting to be adults, really wanting to grow up fast and be cool teenagers. I felt older that afternoon. The memories of watching my own kids at Kindergarten Christmas recitals came flooding my head and I confirmed with myself: time flies!

Because of the abrupt circumstances in which I received the new year, no resolutions or major reflections were made. But it is never too late to stop and think what changes or additions we intend to make in our lives. On 2017 I want to make my fantasies come true about being more leisurely on my weekends. The kitchen hood can wait, the windows too. But to watch our kids grow up leaving childhood behind and turn into young adults can’t wait. Every day counts, and it is my intention to be right there with them, reinforcing the trust and communication bridges both my husband and I have built between us and them.

To answer their questions promptly before they resource to the internet when they get curious, to cheer them up after dealing with mean spirited kids at school. To laugh at the things they think are funny, because as we get old, our sense of humor changes too, and I have learned it is refreshing to really get involved and listen to their funny stories. To tuck them in at night as long as they will let us. To keep teaching them the values that we believe matter, values that will make them better people in this crazy and sick world, specially in a time where our country is so divided.

2017,  here we go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commute in Silence…where are you?

The ten days that followed my father’s passing were hard. Christmas was approaching, an emotional time of year for many. A Holiday I had planned to spend with him and my Mom. During the day there were many things to take care of: banking, legal matters, contracts; while those things helped me be distracted and busy they also served as a dam to hold in all  my feelings that were strong and fresh and building up, so the nights became even harder.

Once I was out of my Mom’s sight, I let go. The anger and the pain. Because of our crazy sleeping arrangements those days at my parents’ house in Mexico , the only one at night with me was my daughter. The same one that was next to me when I heard the news that my father had passed; she was the same one to hold me at night, and say “It is OK Mom, we will get through this together”. Only 10 years old and yet she was the little person that comforted me as much as my husband did those days. Children can be amazingly sensitive to our needs sometimes.

Having my mother here, back home with us  for two weeks after the holidays, helped us both have each other for company, for comfort, for support, as a crying shoulder. Even though she was very much in control of her emotions and surprisingly calm, she broke down crying when someone close sent her a message, an email, or would pay respects.

Me? I worked hard to be busy, to be distracted, to be watching TV or listening to the radio.  January is the busiest time of year for me at work. Being part of an Accounting department, I knew what was coming, and I welcomed the work almost thankfully.

My commute to work is an 80 – 90 minute drive,  twice a week. This is the time when I either make calls with leisure, listen to relaxing music, mostly classical or listen to the news.

It is during this commute that I always called my Dad, once or twice a week and we would chat for a good 45 minutes. He would tell me which movies and series him and my mom were into, he complained about the weather, about his arthritis and  his aching back. He would ask many questions about my children, about our new home, about work. He always wanted to know -and make sure-  that everything was ok.

We laughed a lot during those calls, making jokes about most anything. At times he would be a bit sad, lonely I could tell, on the verge of a depression. He missed his children, and the joys of having a full house, with kids or grand kids, but him and my mom had nothing ; the three of us left our hometown years ago.  Rarely he cried and vented, but sometimes he did and it broke my heart not to be able to help, to be there, to give him the love and company he yearned for.

As of today, my commute is silent. Loud, fast music annoys me. News overwhelm me, I can’t play classical music – yet. It makes me cry still.

Every now and then I will call a close friend and say hello. Now I am the one that feels lonely during those 90 minutes.

It is down time; time to reflect, to relax, to collect one’s thoughts and put them in some logical order. Yet, it is also time to accept, to process, to remember.

I find myself talking to him in my mind, asking…are you there? Can you hear me? Can you see I miss you so?

Maybe silence is what I need, to take further steps towards  the road of healing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast with my Dad

On December 14th 2016 I woke up at 6 30 am,  looked outside my bedroom window and saw one of the most spectacular morning skies I have ever seen. My daughter had just walked into my room and we were both mesmerized; we  went to fetch our cell phones to capture a little bit of what the lens could get. The sky was peach and pink, and there was still a big  full moon floating  above the hills.

I took a photo that did not do justice to what my eyes saw, but it was good enough to remember it. We both stood there, looking as the earth slowly moved making the moon disappear behind the hills.

12/14/16
Sunrise on December 14th 2016

 

Little did I know that at that same moment, my father’s heart was failing, and he was being rushed to the  hospital.  I went about my usual school day routine: breakfast, preparing lunches, getting dressed to take the kids down to school.

An hour later I found out that my Dad was struggling for his life in the hospital and my mind started going 100 Miles per hour. Should I fly out that same day? Or was it just a scare? Would he be OK? I had just spoken with him 2 days before and heard his many voice recordings on Whatssapp telling me he was so excited that I was going down to Mexico to spend Christmas.

This couldn’t be…

Fourty-five minutes later, while I sat with my daughter in the car waiting for her school to open its gates, I got the call from my brother. My Dad had passed. I reacted with screams, loud, hysterical, pained, I could not breathe , I started sweating and shaking. And then sobbing came, endless, out of breath, and it hurt. My chest hurt so much I felt I could collapse. My brother stayed silent, and waited for me to collect myself. It look me several minutes to realize that my daughter had been sitting there, on the passenger seat the whole time. I turned to see her, my face a mess; she sat there looking tiny, not her 10 years old and her regal 5 feet, but a little tiny girl that was terrified, not quite understanding what just happened, since my conversation had taken place in Spanish.

After ending my call I turned to her and told her “He just died”.  Soft sobbing came, I hugged her and we held each other for a while.

This is how December 14th started for me, the day of my sister’s birthday, which will now be marked with the end of my  father’s life but also with the joy of always remembering him as a loving, hard working, admirable and hilarious father.

Because both my Mom and Dad have had several health problems, more so lately, I have  -reluctantly- given some thought to visualizing the day they are not with me any longer.  When would the last day be?  When will the last good bye?  Will they go gently or will they suffer?  Could I stand the tremendous pain of the loss? As tears always filled my eyes when reflecting upon death, I put those thoughts away and decided to move on and enjoy them while I had them both. Email, calls, messages and as many trips as I could afford to see them. To share my family stories, my worries, my joys. To say “thank you”, I miss you”, ” I love  you”- over and over, because one can never get tired of these words.

That morning I stood in my closet with an empty suitcase, refusing to proceed pulling out my black pants and blouses. I wanted to scream, to curl up in a ball and disappear, to make it be yesterday so I could call him and say I LOVE  YOU DAD.

A couple of hours later I was on a plane feeling numb, empty and full of sorrow. I wrote then, the letter that would be my fathers eulogy. He loved my writing so the least I could do was honor him in the presence of his family and closest friends with a letter that would attempt to describe one of the most wonderful man I will ever know.

Thoughts in Motion…and then words poured relentlessly; my fingers typed with care and tenderness. Warm tears came , non stop. I was grateful not to have any passengers on either side.  Halfway between Dallas, Texas and Monterrey I finished my letter. I remember looking out the window, to the skies, the clouds, the immense space and wondering…where are you Daddy?

The next morning my father’s body would be ready for viewing. I needed to see him, to say good bye. Both my sister and I drove to the funeral home together.  I saw his face and felt out of breath again, my Dad, whom I had just spoken to a couple of days earlier to gossip and chat about anything, was in the casket, handsome as ever, wearing his one black suit and a bright yellow tie. Perfectly groomed, with a peace in his expression I do not recall ever seeing. Sobbing took over me again, I wanted to  hug him, to feel his soft hands, to talk to him. The glass that covered him was soon wet. I wanted to break it and reach in to be in my fathers arms again. But he was gone. I talked to him, kneeling by his side. Thanking him for being such a loving father, for giving me so much, and assuring him I looked my best for this day, clean shoes and all, as he taught me as a little girl.

My sister and I shared this very intimate moment that will forever be sealed in my heart. We cried together and held each other. Soon  dozens of people would arrive and this moment would end. The thought was sickening.

My husband and children joined me the day after. We had a small intimate ceremony at home in which we spread some of  his ashes in one of his gardens and I was very happy to have them by my side those days.

My Dad had been growing and caring for some fruit trees in the back yard for years now.  He often bragged about all they fruit he got every year from them. He really enjoyed this as a hobby and often sent pictures of him sitting or standing by his trees.

After the ashes were spread , we had a party, -as he had requested in written form in a document we found from 2008- His family came from Chihuahua to the services, so we invited them all to our house to celebrate my Dad’s life, to share stories, mostly funny ones and moving ones. We played his favorite music (Zarzuelas and Spanish Opera).  I barely remember any of it, I feel like I wasn’t really there. It was over before I knew it.  Then everyone said good bye, they have lives to go back to, families, jobs…and the house felt empty again. My Dad’s absence became a presence.

The next morning I woke very early. The house felt very still, quiet, and everyone was still sleeping. I made myself a cup of coffee, black. I went outside in my pajamas  still, and sat in one of the tables we rented for the party.

The wind was blowing very gently; all the leaves in his fruit trees were moving softly. I looked at all of them, and felt so calm. As my brain started waking up and awareness of the events registered, a sudden pain  in my chest came with a deep sadness and realization. He was gone. And I missed him- a lot. I stood up and walked over to a tree that had some tangerine oranges begging to be picked. I took one, peeled it and took it back to the table. I ate it all, enjoying the sweet and tangy flavor, as he would. “You did good Daddy”- I thought.

I finished my coffee and sat there crying freely, no one to stare at me, to try to make my stop crying. It was me and my Dad there and then. Me and his trees. Me and his messy garden. I felt him there with me , at our last breakfast together.

I love you Daddy, always will. Rest in Peace.

Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016
Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016

 

 

Fall, Middle School and Vivaldi

Summer passed (yey) and my favorite time of the year is here: fall.  Fall equals cozy, beautiful colors in the trees, pumpkin everything (Oreo cookies? really?); fall is butternut squash recipes, creams and soups, fall is dressing up the house with Halloween theme first, then Thanksgiving followed by Christmas. My second favorite time of year.

Updates on previous topics: after giving up on decent technology to have Internet at home, we decided to go for Satellite Internet, the worse one can have (only because Dial up doesn’t exist anymore). I can finally work from home, no need to bother my cousin at her home, or buy dozens of unnecessary Starbucks drinks and treats to use their Wifi, or 2 hour trips to the library with my kids objecting every time.

Our speed is good enough for me to work, or pay bills on line, or my husband to research a topic, but definitely not good enough to stream Netflix or You Tube. Our kids were extremely upset at first, asking me…”If we can’t watch Netflix or You Tube Videos, or Play on the Xbox Live , why would we want Internet at all?” Unbelievable what the concept of Internet has  become for the kids.   That afternoon I explained to the kids how I used to do my research for Middle and High School: Encyclopedia Britannica.

My daughter said, “Oh yes, I have seen those thick books at your Mom’s house”. I bet she thought they were ornaments for people that want to seem smart. I made them appreciate what it is to have data at the click of a finger for any imaginable subject.

I honestly find this situation an opportunity. Our kids are still reading more than they did all last year, and we spend good quality time with them after dinner, on a slow morning on weekends, before bedtime.

About my mom:  She had tests done a month ago and no clots were found: none.  I was so blown away by the results, I had to hear it directly from the Cardiologist, so I reached out to him kindly asking for a brief summary of his findings, and he replied confirming that he and his team were as pleasantly surprised as us. We all prayed a lot…a lot. I believe the power of prayer, plus the determination (and stubbornness) that my mom possesses, and of course, the medication –medication that “could only do so much”, in the words of the doctor- all contributed to a very successful result.  My mom if now off the oxygen machine and as of today, October 30th 2016, has taken 2 trips already.

On October 12 she landed in Tijuana, Mexico. I had the joy of having her visit, and stay at our house for 10 days. I got all the equipment she needed: power wheelchair, Oxygen for night time only, and my (adorable, amazing) husband made her a ramp in an hour, to make her access to the house smoother.

Our kids knew what happened to her in July, everything, they saw me cry many times, and be sad for her, and some of that sadness got to them; they were a bit worried, and my daughter specially, prayed for her many nights. Our son is a bit less expressive, less comfortable with showing feelings, yet they were both as affectionate as I know they can be with her, each one in their own way.

Like many kids, they don’t have any of their grandparents in town, so when one of them visits, it is very special to them. My mom truly enjoyed the house, the ease with which she could move in a one story home, the wheelchair friendly bathroom we designed for her, every inch of it.

But more than the house, she could not get enough of the mountain views, the hillsides with perfect rows of fruit trees, bright healthy green,that go for miles to the west of our house.

The sunsets that look like the sun is exploding with unique orange and pink colors as it sets and disappears, leaving us holding up our cameras that fail every time, to capture the beauty of it.

Every morning she sat at the end of the dining room table, sitting facing west, looking at it all morning as she applied her make-up, read in her kindle, or had breakfast.

Once I told her, “Mom, let’s go out to the patio to eat”, she said, “I am already outside”.  We have no blinds or curtains, it was all as enjoyable to her  from her spot in the dining room.

I observed every day all that it meant for her to travel, with her aide, her wheelchair, her seat cushions, her medications, her foot brace she uses at night. Her dozen creams and make up (it’s no wonder she has the complexion of a 40 year old), and she never fails to amaze me: there is no limit for her. She will bring whatever it takes with her, to visit her children, to be there, to see her grand kids, to be part of our lives, not just from a distance, but in person.

She told me one afternoon, “I really like spending time with the 3 of you” (meaning my siblings and I).After that, I didn’t care much about taking her out, to the mall, to go grocery shopping, because I understood very clearly she was there for me, to be with me, so see our lives from within, our family and be a part of it for a few days.

I felt like a plant that was being watered: fed, nurtured. I had not realized how much I needed her, just as she needs us. My husband told me more than twice that week “It is really nice to see you so happy.”

Our kids and my husband really enjoyed her company. The day she left my son’s first words that afternoon when I got home where “The house feels very empty Mom”.

We are looking forward to her next visit.

Our kids are doing very well at school. Our son is still getting used to Middle School. The change is big and I am not sure he embraces every aspect of it. The first week of school he came home to tell me his school was “rated R”. Because all he heard were bad words. He quoted several kids very disapprovingly and said they were completely inappropriate. (By the way, he is 11)

We have been giving him advice on how to deal with bullies, or just aggressive verbal kids. How to be likable to…..yes: girls!  We are already there. I can’t believe my baby boy has a crush on a girl. He is almost as tall as me, which I am still getting used to.  Eleven years old and 5’5”.   I find it a bit harder to lecture him or give him the “Homework and chores first” speech when he is almost eye-to eye level with me.

I know my daughter will catch up fast too, so either I start wearing heels more often, or use a step ladder to give my speeches, or just get us all used to the shorty mom still be the boss of them (I am 5’8” and yet I will be shorty soon).

The signs of growth and maturity have also been very “loud and clear” with our daughter too: no crushes or boy talk,  but perfume, colored lip gloss and pimple cream (even when she doesn’t have a single one yet),  fancy shampoos and flowery scents all over her room, and a taste in music that keeps surprising me.  She will sing to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, Erasure, Neil Diamond, the Fratellis and then Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, Arianna Grande. The girl is carrying the very mixed tastes of her parents, the radio top 40 and then some. She will happily dance to it all.

And speaking of music…Our son is taking Viola lessons at school. For the first 2 months he absolutely hated the class. Month 3: he is reading music, playing basic simple songs that he knows (like Jingle Bells) and loving the sound of his Viola along with 20 other kids that take the Strings Class. His first concert will be in 2 weeks.

I love listening to him practice at home. Even if this doesn’t last for the rest of Middle School , just this year has brought him the basic knowledge of what music is, how difficult and challenging it can be to read music, to play with others, to combine sounds, and to build and maintain  the harmony needed to be part of a Strings group and on a bigger scale, an Orchestra.

For the last months, as we drive to or from school, he asks if he can select the music to play during the drive, I always say yes. He will choose Bach, Debussy, Edvard Grieg (one of his favorites), Tchaikovsky and lately Vivaldi.

He plays it loud and asks us to please be quiet. I love every minute of it.

Every now and then both kids will say a piece sounds familiar, so I remind them about the Baby Einstein and Little Einsteins videos we played for them a zillion times as babies and toddlers.

I have friends with kids that just left for college and often talk about how they miss them and how the house feels empty. These are constant reminders for me to enjoy our own, at this age. They can be so much fun as they can drive us crazy sometimes. They keep teaching me lessons, to calm down, to chill. To take it easy, to watch my back (literally) and not bend over or carry heavy things, since I have had several episodes of severe pain and days of being bed bound.

They have become much more helpful around the house. More opinionated, more curious just about anything. More involved in our conversations, in politics (Can’t wait ‘til elections pass!). But all of it makes them more aware about the world, and not just the small bubble they live in.

I have learned lately that I have to be extremely careful with what I say in front of them, because…THEY WILL REPEAT IT!!!  This has already caused embarrassing moments.

Our house keeps getting little things (that I buy) here and there, more color, more personality, more “homey”. I am loving it and feel blessed and fortunate for being where we are today.

I went to a PET SHOP BOYS concert last night. I enjoyed it a lot since I almost never go to concerts: my husband is happy to listen to our son play the viola for 30 minutes and that’s about as “concert” as it will get for him. So I go with girlfriends every now and then. Listening to the songs I danced to in my 20s brought back very good memories at the same time as I watched the lead singer (completely bald) singing his nasal, high pitched  voice to Go West , It’s a Sin, Domino Dancing and New York City Boy –among others- made me realize….we are the old crowd for many! But, who cares. We had fun, enjoyed the music AND had midnight tacos (at 2 am) like on the old days.

I must head back home now to start testing my Blondie recipe in our oven that I have yet to master.

Must get ready for Christmas time,  when I have many batches to bake.

Happy Autumn Season.

This was really…September 4th.

Back -posted, after 2 months of craziness…here is entry from 2 months ago:

As a quick reference to my previous post…we are still off the grid, just like I suspected it would happen.  We have found additional spots in the house where our cell phones get reception, so it is “partially” off the grid I guess.

In the past 3 months (it has been almost 4 since we moved) I have tried to make the house feel and look more like a home. With the constant and unconditional help of my (very patient) husband, we have hung several paintings here and there. And added some décor items around. Some of them reminders of our previous home, some brand new.

Almost a year ago, my husband noticed a Latin Art Festival was going to take place in San Diego. We attended and walked through several dozen stands that offered a variety of artwork, from photography, pottery, weaving, painting, sculpture and food. A couple of artists caught our attention, so we took their cards and added our names/emails addresses to their newsletter lists. Ever since, we have attended 2 more art walks in the area. We always take the kids with us. With technology brutally taking over kids’ spare time today, I strongly believe that we -as parents- have to take charge in the roll of instilling other interests. From sports, to arts, to cooking, or just plain relaxing and reading a book for a while. “Down time” seems to be a rare thing in high risk of extinction among children and preteens today…and adults too!

I was very pleased when, at our second fair – an annual event that takes place in Palm Desert, CA- both kids walked out with something beautiful that they chose and loved.  My daughter chose a photography of a very calm and relaxing beach, printed in a sheet of aluminum that sits on a stand.  My son, a print (of an original painting) of 3 wolves. He met the artist at the stand, she told our son the story of the wolves. They were rescued and cared for as cubs. The 3 of them had different conditions that made it impossible to release them. And sadly, they all died young. The artist did and amazing job capturing the look in their eyes and the softness of their fur.

My husband and I had grown a strong interest in the work of a Mexican artist that paints abstract, very colorful pieces. Alejandro Martinez-Pena. We had been following him since the first fair. And just a month ago, we were able to purchase one of his paintings. It is so bright and colorful we decided to place it at the entryway of the house. It is the first thing you see when the front door opens.

On another note, exactly 2 months ago, my mother fell ill and gave us all quite a scare. I don’t think I will ever forget that 4th of July when I received a call that announced that my mom had been rushed into the hospital. That night, the fireworks at full blast as I stood there in the small area that has cell phone coverage, desperate to receive more calls or texts with an update. I knew close to nothing. It was a horrible feeling; I felt out of the loop, in the dark. Fortunately, my sister was in the area, and she was able to get us both tickets to fly out the next day. I barely slept that night. My brain turned into a type of movie player, and all the trips we took with her instantly came streaming one after the other. Only my player had scents included, so I could smell my mom’s perfume, and her natural motherly sweet smell that I love.

Her laugh, her smile, her many life lessons, her optimism despite the challenges she has faced since her twenties, when the stoke happened.

I tried to remember when and how many times I told her I loved her. Have I said “thank you” for all the many things she has taught me? For shaping me up to be the woman I am now? Have I hugged and kissed her as much as I can on every visit or trip with her?

The flight down to Monterrey seemed to take forever. I felt numb most of the way; I had episodes of non-stop crying, when I was very grateful that my companion was my sister. I felt terrified that something would happen. I felt angry for being so far. I felt sad for her loneliness. My sister held my hand and squeezed it hard to show her support, and me hers, as my crying became contagious.

The next week was one of the worst I have ever lived. My mom was in the ICU, so visits where somewhat controlled and limited. I say “somewhat” because we found ways to bend the rules and flex the hours every single day, so that my mom had one of us with her most of the time. Using the excuse that my mom had a hard time speaking clearly,  we convinced the nurses what it was better for everyone of she had one person there as a translator. Whether they bought it or not, it worked. It was bad enough seeing her with needles on her neck (IV) and oxygen and monitors on her chest and forehead. The last thing we could stand was have her being alone.

That week, my sister – who is tiny but as the eldest, the big boss nonetheless- took the overnight shift and sent me home every night. She knows I have a very light sleep, while she can sleep with a Mexican wedding party next to her. So she decided I was to rest at night and be bright and happy during the day, to keep our Mom company, cheer her up, and of course, see to all the visitors at the hospital, who were really visiting us, as my Mom could only see family members. It worked perfect. Towards the end of the week though, I did see the lack of restful sleep take a toll on my sister.

My mom was diagnosed with a condition (forgot the name) where her own blood creates clots. We were all quite surprised that this diagnose had not come up years earlier, as her Cardiologist expressed his suspicions that this condition might be the culprit of the stroke she had 42 years ago.

Not only did I pray hard that week for my mother’s pain to be over, the needles out, the tubes, all the invasion; but also, I prayed for recovery, for a solution. I was so very grateful that she had access to a medical facility as the one where she was, the means to pay for it, the amazing doctors that had her case, and most of all, for an anti-clotting medication that would solve the problem of future clot formation.

My mom’s mental strength (and stubbornness to recover) was so, that after almost 2 weeks in the hospital, in a state where we had to spoon feed her due to the weakness in the right arm, today she is feeding herself again. She can have phone conversations again, she goes out to the movies and to have coffee with her friends taking along her small mobile oxygen tank. She is counting the days so that her doctor authorizes her to fly, and she can finally come out to see our home.

Life is most definitely a mystery, in terms of how long do we get to be around our loved ones. Yes, healthy lifestyles help -quite a bit- but there are so many things moving and happening around us that are out of our control, so many diseases still invincible, that we really never know.

One thing I took away after those weeks of emotional pain : enjoy today….at the fullest. Express love and gratitude whenever you can. Make someone’s day better with something as simple as a sincere smile.