Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stranger or Guardian Angel?

Anyone ever came to your rescue, just in the nick of time? Someone you didn’t even know?

I was a young Mom when my one-year-old daughter sat in the back of the car, half-asleep. I was late for my new job and had yet to drop her off at my dad’s house.

Torrential rain nerved me as I drove along the highway. The downpour hammering on the roof of the car, echoed in my eardrums. I turned up the radio. As the water sloshes against the windshield, my car’s wipers stuck on slow hindered my vision and distracted me. Driving in the far right lane, I leaned forward, both hands clutching the steering wheel and wondered how late I—

Suddenly, the taillights in front glowed red. The driver slammed on his brakes. Automatically, I hit mine, but they locked. The back-end of the car in front loomed closer.

Lord, I cannot hit them! So, doing what any sensible driver would have done (or not), I aimed for the concrete divider, swinging sharply to the right.

My car plowed into that barrier. The tires screeched and drowned out the screams in my head. I skidded out of control at 180-degrees before stalling in the middle lane—facing on-coming traffic.

My world slammed to a stop.

The swishing of the wipers still swatted across the freshly cracked windshield. Music blared over the radio. My mind in a daze, I glanced in the rear view mirror. Apart from the fear in her moist eyes, I was thankful that my child was unscathed.

“It’s okay, Anna, don’t cry. Mommy’s gonna get us out of here.” But I hadn’t a clue as to how. I made a quick assessment of the wreckage: the hood had flown open, the front end caved in, the right headlights busted.

I rolled down the window to stick my head out, and became drenched by pelting rain and the splash from a truck blurring past.

Headlights from cars beamed as they swerved to miss us, terrifying me even more. Soaked and trembling with my nerves on edge, I prayed, Lord, how am I going to get the car off the road without causing a bigger accident?

I wasn’t even sure my car would budge.

Vehicles roared by, but one slowed and stopped. With headlights practically blinding me, the driver left his emergency lights blinking; he exited his car and made his way toward me, hunkering down from the rainfall. He scanned the inside my car, his eyes alarmed, yet warm.

“Miss, are you all right? Is your little girl okay?”

“Yes . . . yes, I think so,” I scarcely heard my own voice say.

“Put your emergency lights on. Need to get you out of this traffic.”

I nodded and watched my angel head back to his car, and pulled over onto the shoulder. When the coast cleared, he ran across the freeway and opened my door. I scooted over. He climbed in behind the wheel and proceeded to veer my Plymouth across the three lanes out of on-coming traffic, and onto the shoulder. Finally, he maneuvered my car in reverse to the off-ramp.

With the help of the kind rescuer and some prying of the hood to shut back down, I climbed behind the wheel again and towards Daddy’s house. I’m sure my stepmother’s heart came out of her chest at the sight of me driving a newly smashed-up car, with my baby girl in the backseat.

When I needed help the most, a total stranger—or perhaps a guardian angel—came to my rescue and showed me compassion. Something I will never forget.

(“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” Ps 91:11)

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Accident, Guardian Angel

My Hubby

It’s been a challenging week, but it’s been a fulfilling week. Fighting colds and congestion, while still trying to maintain the many schedules, appointments and deadlines.

In all the hustle and bustle, I reflect and remain grateful to the Lord. I am thankful for God’s provisions. He gives me life, health (the bug has passed), sanity, creativity, purpose, family and friends. I am thankful for His grace, for when I am weak then am I made strong in Him.

Today is my help mate’s birthday.

We will celebrate his life, his character, and his being.

We love “being” with him.

MarkRay

hub

 

You tolerate my trivia,

laugh at my lunacy

and care when I cry.

That’s what I call TLC.

~Source Unknown.

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

2 Comments

July 21, 2013 · 11:49 AM

She Hurts No More

At 5’2”, Grandma was a pleasantly plump woman with a round face and full lips. She had a light olive complexion, wore reading glasses that sat on a nose “too fat” she often complained. Her soft, wrinkled skin smelled like Jean Naté.

My grandma’s name was Ana, born in 1898, the second of six siblings. She worked as a secretary for a steamship company, typing and transcribing in Gregg’s Shorthand. She was soft-spoken, a temperate woman. I witnessed her faith in action. Seeing her on her knees by the bedside in prayer was the norm. She expressed love and devotion by being a “doer of the Word and not a hearer only,” forever willing to help others. Even during the times when I’d see her wincing from the pain in her knees and feet, she’d still stand over the stove, making treats to hand out, or write cards and letters to encourage others.

Grandma suffered from arthritis and blamed the tight pointy shoes she wore in her earlier years for causing her painful feet. All her current shoes in black were odd looking and clunky like the ones worn a long, long time ago. I enjoyed playing in them as a youngster.

Clip-clop. Clip-clop. Grandma’s shoes echoed as I walked in them across the tile floor.

“Mary,” Grandma called to me, sitting at her sewing machine, rubbing her eyes. “You have good eyes, dear. Por favor, thread this needle for me.”

With one eye shut, I squinted, concentrating on the task of getting the string into that tiny hole.

Grandma wanted me to learn how to sew, but I preferred sitting on the floor, playing with her sewing stuff instead. I either sifted through the mason jars she kept filled with buttons of all sizes, or rummaged through her large round tin can packed with spools of colorful threads. Inside also were porcelain thimbles, a pincushion, and even a wood darning egg for sewing Grandpa’s socks.

The click-clacking of her sewing machine in the afternoons were soothing to my ears. Listening to her humming to His Eyes Are on the Sparrow, whether she sewed, crocheted, worked in her flowerbed or bathed me always ushered in a warm sense of belonging and well-being for me.

On wash days, Grandma ironed all bed sheets, linens, pillowcases, cloth napkins, and even Grandpa’s white hankies. I helped her to fold but knew I didn’t like ironing one bit.

“Mary, it’s good that you give me a hand,” Grandma said as she sprinkled water over a napkin before ironing it. “You must learn to do these things yourself one day,” she added.

Gonna get me a maid for that, I thought.  

Overall, I liked helping Grandma with chores. She saved S & H Green Stamps that I enjoyed pasting in a book. She did many things differently than what I saw Mama do with her time. Even when she was busy, Grandma always talked to me. I liked studying her. I thought it funny the way her mouth moved, with her lips still closed, whenever she read. I marveled how her fingers typed fast and hard on the keys to her black manual typewriter, wishing I could type like her.

In retrospect, Grandma liked my curious mind and eagerness to learn. When she gave me a small white leather Bible for my own, I felt special.

Mija, have you been studyin’ your Bible verses?”

“Yes, ma’am. I learned it all.”

Bueno, let’s hear it.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd . . .” I began. As promised, when I finished, she gave me a crisp, two-dollar bill.

Sometimes I watched Grandma in the kitchen cooking and helped by peeling carrots or potatoes using her peeler.

“It’s good that you pay attention, dear,” Grandma said, wiping the chicken grease from her hands on her apron.

“Why?” I asked, rubbing my eyes burning from the onions.

Señoritas must know how to cook. And you dun want to become vaga,” she replied in her broken English, throwing everything into a pot, adding milk.

“What’s vaga?” I asked.

“It means lazy. You dun want to be that; you’ll have a family to care for one day.”

My husband gonna have to help cook if he wants to eat, I mused.

At my grandparents’ house, I’d run about or played hide-and-seek as much as I wanted. Except maybe when I tried playing an April Fool’s joke.

I waited, crouched down low behind a chair and listened for her. I thought myself witty and barely could keep from snickering. As her footsteps came closer, timing it just right, I sprang up with arms raised and yelled, “BOO!”

But it so happened to be my grandpa instead.

He popped my enthusiasm letting me know it was too early in the morning for such nonsense. He might have popped me on my bottom too, if he hadn’t missed when I shot past him like a dart and hopped back into bed.

Years later, after Grandpa’s passing away, Grandma hadn’t a soul to depend on. Yet she never stopped doing good deeds for others.

Grandma often spoke with my mama regarding her own illness, insisting she wanted to be at home when it became her time to die and not in a hospital.

I prayed that when God took Grandma home, that He would help me to relinquish her. I didn’t want her to suffer anymore but still found it difficult in letting go. I knew I had to, I knew I needed to, but I didn’t know how or if I could.

* * *

A horrific day for our country. In shock, I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger break apart and burn, seconds into its flight. Five men and two women lost their lives tragically for the good of all humanity. They lived their dream by serving others. I may not have known them personally, but they died as heroes.

Three months later, on April 3, 1986, sickness reduced an unsung hero to skin and bones as she lost her bout with cancer. She wasn’t affluent. Refined. Or famous. She was an eighty-eight-year-old Puerto Rican woman. My beloved grandma. And my heroine.

When Mama called me and told me about Grandma’s final moments, sobs stuck in my throat. She expressed how she had sat by my grandma’s bedside terrified, while listening to her breathing as it came in short, laborious rasps.

“Your grandma’s parting words were, ‘God is calling me now,’ and then she gazed up at the ceiling.” Mama spoke dolefully. “So, I asked her, ‘How do you know?’ but she didn’t speak anymore. She closed her eyes and I held her close.”

My mother’s trembling voice jumbled in between her sobs. “I . . . told her that I loved her. And I said to her, ‘you carried me . . . for nine months.’”

I pictured that heart-rending moment, imagining Grandma’s gentle countenance and Mama struggling to convey her love. And I thought, Oh Mama, she carried you longer than nine months. My insides ached, knowing that in her heart and prayers, Grandma carried us all.

My grief came in waves. Looking back, I know God spared me from becoming hopelessly morbid and consumed with anguish. Grandma wouldn’t have wanted that. Knowing she no longer suffered, I believed her final heartbeat didn’t mean the end but the beginning.

I wanted to celebrate her life when I journeyed back to help with her memorial.

Once a plump woman, Grandma had lost so much weight in her final days. She had always loved a white Easter dress of mine and requested that we bury her in it. My dress fitted her perfectly then. I also asked that everyone wear white instead of the customary black garments at her funeral.

White carnations—Grandma’s favorite—covered her opened casket. I stood, my eyes caressing her still face, now so thin. Vivid images of her life jumped in my thoughts. I saw her on her knees pleading to God to be merciful to her loved ones. I recalled the many prayers of her being grateful for another day. I pictured her lips moving wordlessly when she read her Bible, with her index finger pointing to the sentences across the worn out pages. I could still hear the sound of her soft voice calling my name. I remembered the merriment of her laughter after listening to one of my silly jokes. I couldn’t blink away the hot tears that blinded me.

In my mind’s eye, Grandma came to me.

I could hear her.

Feel her.Grandma

Touch her.

Her love, her hugs, her kisses embraced me.

We honored her memory and her passing from this life into the next.

A gentle breeze blew the heat of day; the sun hid behind the clouds. The scent of rain.

As it started to drizzle, my heart comforted. Grandma always considered it a good omen if it rained on the day someone laid to rest.

Before long, her coffin lay in a crypt next to her cherished husband, my grandpa.

At last, Grandma’s labors had ended. Thank God, she hurt no more.

(An excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace. A small tribute to my dear grandma who passed away 27 years ago, whose birthday would have been this month.)

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Crossing Over, death, the Challenger

My Bicentennial (Mis)Adventure

July 31, 1976

Have you ever experienced a what if? Ever been dangerously close to a hazardous situation, to realize just how fortunate you were to have escaped, only to have it gnaw at you later?

courtesy of Wikipedia

Loveland Pass, CO looking east from the summit. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Today, as I celebrate this Independence Day, my mind goes back to a moment in time I shall never forget.

We headed for Colorado’s Rocky Mountain State Park for a continued weekend bicentennial celebration, to enjoy the magnificent canyons’ cool mountain air and breath-taking river valleys.

The afternoon breeze, mingled with the whiff of hamburgers sizzling on the pit, put our troubles behind us. Don was in good spirits, along with ample supply of his favorite beverage. He drank one after another, as he rehashed old childhood and war stories. I roasted marshmallows over the campfire, until raindrops drove us inside our van. We tucked in for the night in our sleeping bags.

In no time, Don’s snoring commenced. As my eyelids grew heavy, I thought, at least I’m not out in this wilderness alone.

Sometime later, I awoke with a start, “Donny! Donny, wake up!”

“Hmmm?” my still-asleep, great protector mumbled, turning over.

I sat up and held my breath. I felt the van vibrate. The plunking sound of raindrops rattled across the rooftop, lashing at the van’s exterior. I strained to listen for something else, feel something else, but wasn’t sure what.

Only a case of bad nerves, I reasoned, starting to lie back down. No! There it is again.

“Donny, did you feel that? Our whole van shook!”

“Go back to sleep, gal,” Donny muttered. “It’s probably just a bear.”

Just a bear? Better not be any bear out there!

Minutes passed. I lay back down and willed my body to relax. The sound of rain soon lulled my unsettled thoughts and sleep overtook me. Before nodding off, I thought I heard rumbling in the distant.

Dusk turned to dawn, and I considered my night’s fright silly. We ate a quick breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, leftover meat and orange juice.

“Shake a leg,” Donny announced. “Time to go.”

We left our campsite cruising over mucky roads. Puddles and slushy trails made the roads treacherous and tricky. At one point, our van was stuck in the mud. Donny kept his foot over the gas pedal and accelerated. The tires sloshed and the van swirled, nearly tipping over.

“Jesus!” I cried out, thinking we were history.

Unruffled under pressure, Donny turned the wheel sharply to the right and back on the road again.

“What’s the matter?” he said, looking at me as if I were a dimwit.

“Nothing,” I huffed.

As we continued, we noticed massive trees toppled over, many bobbed along in the river. We heard the whump, whump, whump, whump of helicopters overhead. Soon, we approached park rangers re-routing traffic. I stuck my head out the window and overheard bits of instructions given to other passengers in their vehicle. “. . . mountainside . . . engulfed . . . destroyed . . . missing . . . proceed with extreme caution . . . !”

The reporter on the radio described how a typical summer rainfall turned into a horrendous nightmare for hundreds of people. Many homes washed away in a flash flood. Cars vanished, buried under tons of debris. Roads had swept away along the canyon, broken concrete stuck out of the riverbank like foreign objects. It took hours before we careened back into town.

The morning headlines read:

Photo: Vehicles were left stranded in the aftermath of the 1976 Big Thompson flood. Courtesy of Water Resources Archive

Photo: Vehicles were left stranded in the aftermath of the 1976 Big Thompson Flood. Courtesy of Water Resources Archive
(We were approx 35 miles west from this disaster.)

“THE BIG THOMPSON CANYON FLASH FLOOD.”

Many reported missing. Dead. Houses and businesses washed away, destroyed. The overwhelming thought hit me on how oblivious we were to the dangers the night before. If we had camped near the Loveland area, we would never have escaped. Donny could have innocently erred by having us camped out in that Loveland area—and brushed off my concerns in his half-drunken sleep, just as he did the night before. Then what? We might have been one of those statistics.

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Bicentennial, Colorado, travel