He was a Great Man

This upcoming Memorial Day as I remember Florentino Mendez, my mind goes back to when I was a little girl sitting at my grandpa’s feet.

I sat Indian-style and watched him scatter newspapers on the floor, laying out the shoes in a neat row and placing an old wooden box beside them. Inside the box, he kept brushes, old socks, rags, and cans of black polish.

“Do you know what I’m getting ready to do, young lady?” Grandpa asked.  great grandpa

“You gonna spit and shine shoes,” I squealed.

With one hand in a shoe and the other in an old sock, Grandpa rubbed the wax back and forth, polishing the leather. I never tired from following his hands, moving like flashes of lightning.

He always rose before dawn and believed in the saying, “The early bird catches the worm.” He prided himself on discipline, stemming from his years in the military. On a weekly basis, he cleaned our shoes, the way he said he had learned in the Army.

He walked me to school and back, logging in about a mile and a half each way. Rain or shine, I counted on his presence waiting for me after class.

I loved him dearly. Always clean-shaven, he smelled like Mennen Skin Bracer and Vitalis. He was average in stature, had fair skin, gray hair, and quick eyes with a broad smile and a jolly laugh that made his belly jiggle.

Years later as an adult, I would never forget how an unsettling aura of death struck me when I first walked into the hospital room. I shuddered and gingerly approached the form buried under layers of covers. The head of his bed was raised, the profile barely recognizable to me.

“Grandpa…?”

A pale, thin face moved; eyes hardly opened. Those eyes, once sharp, were feeble and dull. Yellow paper skin hung loosely from bones. Large purple veins ran up and down his hands like a roadmap. Those hands, once strong and beefy, quick and nimble, felt cold, boney and fragile. The same hands once steady in his military days, guided, and comforted me in my youth, were the same ones I tenderly held now.

I struggled to keep my composure. I knew he was weary. To see him lose his dignity pained me, lying there so helpless, a prisoner in his own body.

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My 19-year-old grandpa, Florentino Mendez – 1916

Lost in my thoughts, my eyes roamed and paused on Grandpa’s wristwatch on the bedside table.

Time. I picked up the watch and held it. Tick-tock. Precious time. Tick-tock. Running out. As Grandpa dozed off, I sat at his bedside, praying for God to hush the raging of my heart.

Two months after his eighty-fourth birthday, my beloved grandpa sadly passed away.

Today, I remember Florentino Mendez: veteran, brother, husband, father, grandpa, uncle, friend – he was a great man – I honor his life.

© M.A. Perez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Father’s Day Tribute to the Men in my Family

 

Picture2Dad: A son’s first hero. A daughter’s first love.

The fathers in my family are called Dad, Daddy, and Papi. Newsflash: None are perfect! But each one represents love, courage, provision, and strength. Their eyes glow with purpose. Their smiles melt hearts. Their chest swells with pride. Their callous hands protect. They stand tall with dignity. And their embraces offer comfort and assurance. Yes, they are the pillars in our households.

It’s said that every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes. I don’t know if that’s true. I only know that each man represented in my family strive to being the very best possible. Each hold a mantle and carry a torch for the next generation. Each dad represented in my family lays a solid foundation, even those who have crossed over to the other side. I can’t help but to think about my own grandfathers. They were strong, respected dedicated men with a constant presence. They left behind a legacy. When the tough got going, they didn’t cave under pressure. They persevere with Puerto Rican pride in every fiber of their being.

To the men in my family who are dads (and have yet to be): I love and admire each and every one of you. And to my dear husband who married me with four children, I share this quote: “It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table.” I salute you.

I salute you all.

Remember: Any man can be a father. But it takes a special person to be a dad.

© M.A. Pérez, 2018, All Rights Reserved

About "Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit & Grace"

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Mother’s Day is Everyday

Last year, my oldest daughter and I were asked to be a part of a workshop at our church, speaking about adult daughters and their mother’s relationships. We had made a list and examined our strengths as well as our, ahem, weaknesses. I knew from experience that mother-daughter relationships can be both complex and diverse.

There are many ups and downs, no matter how positive, or complicated and trying the relationship. Psychologists say daughter’s primary complaints are that mothers try to baby them being overly critical and demanding. From mom’s perspective, daughters don’t listen to them, make poor choices and have zero time for them.

I did not find this teaching comfortable or an easy topic. There are many challenges in parenting and this thing called “motherhood” hit me between the eyes at an early age. My mom raised me pretty much as a single mom, as she never married after she and my dad split. She had common law relationships–I can think of three–and I was pretty much left on my own. So yeah, I was neglected and raised myself. Matter of fact, our roles were reversed and so, I’ve always felt that my childhood was taken from me!

I left home early and married very young. I had my first child at the age of 17, and by the time I was 22, I had my 4th. Ironically enough, I did a lot of the same mistakes in parenting as my own mother. I wrote about my personal journey as a daughter, wife and mother. You can say I was a real hot mess back then. In retrospect, I thank God that He rescued me from myself! Now that my children are adults – I can think of a lot of things that I did wrong and regret in my own role. But nothing worthwhile comes easy; at least it never did for me!

In every challenge there are defeats and triumphs – and all of us have some scars along the way.

Lamentations 3:22-23: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

I am familiar with the power struggles, the pet peeves, and the miscommunications.

What I see in my daughter(s), the good, the bad, and the ugly – I sometimes see a reflection of myself. Oh! Those flaws! Clearly, I may not always liked what I see … or hear. But you know what? We’re on the same team – we love each other, and we are there for one another.

Jer 31:16: Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy.”

I can’t stress how I prayed, interceded and wept for my wayward child (children). But as a mother – that’s what we do! We don’t give up and we don’t let up until we have God’s peace. Know that it’ll be in His time frame, not necessarily in ours. And when God does it, it’ll be a sure work. He’ll leave nothing undone.


HOW CAN WE BE STRONGER TOGETHER?

Here are a few golden nuggets from my own firstborn’s perspective:

Everybody knows that TWO heads are better than ONE. In Girl scouts and in the 4H Club, you learn that three strands of string make a strong rope. To play harmony on a piano, you play with two or more notes. And as you know, you won’t find a giant redwood tree standing alone!

  • Teaching by example, learning by experience, in values and in skills – all help us become stronger together.
  • Spending quality time with one another binds us stronger together as a family; i.e., meal times and outings.
  • Appreciating each other – showing love and affection.
  • Sharing a laugh builds us up – laughter is good medicine.
  • Sharing in responsibilities, accomplishing tasks together.
  • Stand by each other in times of trouble, uniting and pulling together when things get tough… when we encourage each other, we are stronger together.

Most importantly … when we learn to forgive each other, being opened and honest, yet KIND, we become stronger. Remember: attack the problem, not each other.

We encourage each other, consult with each other, spend time with each other, learn and grow from each other. No matter what the circumstances, despite feelings, perspectives, weaknesses and “bumps” along the way, when we face life together, find God together, pray together … all of these acts and then some, we can get through it and be stronger together!

My daughter(s) and I have come a long way.

Ps 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.


Here are my own acronyms for MOTHER & DAUGHTER:

M ake the first move

O mit malice

T hink before responding

H ave realistic expectations

E xtend grace

R epair damage quickly

 

D are to forgive offenses

A gree to disagree

U nity is better than division

G ather your words with prayer

H old unto hope

T alk about ways to communicate

E mbrace change for the better

R espect each other

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

MotherAndSon        MotherAndDaughters

And by the way, I also have an adorable son close to my hip! God is good!

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Weekend Getaway – Family Reunion

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Missing my loved ones in Florida, and thankful for the beautiful memories.

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Then Came the Morning

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It’s Friday…!

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He Completes Me

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

He is the one for me. He is the man who has stuck by my side since day one as my loving confidant, helpmate and best friend. He is the man who loves me, cherishes me, and tells me that I am beautiful. He loves me on my best days and he loves me on my worse days. He knows my past and has never belittled me nor made me feel inadequate. He is faithful, a man true to his word. I can count on his constant love and remain secure in his arms. He praises me in my accomplishments and encourages me in my failures. When I’m happy, his warm laughter melts my heart. When I’m sad or fearful, his gentle touch wipes away my tears.

I love you my husband. And I am proud to be your wife. I am truly grateful to the Lord for joining us together to share the remainder of our days. As we celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, may our constant love nourish and sustain each other until the end of time.

You can read about him in Chapter 42 of my book: “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace

 

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The Andrew Sisters – Near You 1947

Have you ever been asked to do something out of your comfort zone? Ever felt like you were unqualified, not talented enough, or simply not good enough?

Yeah, that happened to me. Only this time I didn’t have to stand alone.

My girlfriends, Mary, Deborah and I, accepted the challenge to participate at our church’s Sweetheart Banquet. Ah, the joys of friendship! We went all out in finding matching outfits and practiced for weeks. Our bonding during rehearsal, accompanied a good deal of missteps and loads of laughter, while lip-synching to “Near You”.

On the night of the event, when our turn came up, my motto was to zero in on my husband in the audience, sing to him, keep balanced wearing heels, and just have fun! We pulled it off and had a blast performing our skit. We received loads of compliments.

So when you think you can’t – you just might after all. Then again, you’ll never know if you never try.

Aren’t we purty?

 

 

 

 

 

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Reckless Love

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me – the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!

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New Beginnings ~ 2019

Wishing all a Prosperous and a Happy New Year!

 

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Prayers for the Birthday Boy

Photo credit by Leo Laredo Photography

This is for you Grandson, Ryan.

Mimi can hardly believe how much of a young man you have grown to be. We are all so very proud of all your accomplishments, and look forward with great anticipation to what is yet to come.

Where has the time gone? I shall never forget when you were around six years of age, and attended a holiday outing with me and Papa. I invited you to go for a spin on the dance floor. You were a bit shy then and did not want to. I smiled at your sweet face and simply said that as I become older, I may not be able to move around as much and we will never have that dance … You delighted Mimi’s heart by not hesitating and pulled me to the dance floor! While others looked on, taking photos of us slow dancing that night, I beamed with pride.

Play it forward 10 years to the present – you are quite the matured teenager, way too cool, so much so that you amaze me with your whit. Matter of fact, it was just recently that you were standing by listening to your mom, auntie and I chit-chatting the way we normally do. As you observed how animated we are (after all we are Latina women), you exclaimed how the three of us are so “extra” when we talk. We laughed at that remark. We realized that maybe we are … but you know what? I have an extra remarkable grandson whom I love with all my heart!

May you continue in your journey to being more remarkable than today.
Happy Birthday Ryan.


Dear Lord, on this day that we celebrate Ryan’s birth, I pray for blessings and joy over him.

You knew everything about him before his birth and You have a plan of prosperity and hope for his life!

Let him feel confident and ready for the year ahead knowing that You have an order to his steps and a purpose for his life.

Help him to find joy in every circumstance in life, knowing that You work all things out for good.

I thank You, God, for Ryan, for loving him with unconditional love, and for the promises You have spoken over his life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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