Category Archives: Memoir

Best Daddy Ever: My Hero

As a young girl, I knew I had the best Daddy in the world. Although my parents were divorced, throughout the years, he’d come for me.

I loved it when he took me to the parks. My daddy may have been short, but he was a big kid at heart and loads of fun. He had a knack for mimicking different sounds. Children laughed whenever he cried out like Tarzan on the jungle gym. He wouldn’t hesitate to push me high on the swing. I squealed with delight when he ran in front and scrambled away right in time before I could kick him. He’d twirl me on the merry-go-round until we couldn’t go anymore and tumbled on the ground from exhaustion. Me from laughing hard; him from running in circles.

Daddy worked as the produce manager in a huge grocery chain store. He was a hard worker, a model employee. A friendly, robust, people-person, he never grew tired of chatting with his customers and telling them jokes. His dark eyes twinkled with glee. The mirth in his thick Puerto Rican accent, combined with his animated personality, charmed all.

Sometimes Daddy caused havoc, but always in fun. He often mimicked the sound of a kitten near the produce stand at work to see the children’s reactions. Once an elderly woman hunted everywhere for the pobrecito. Then another time while whistling like a bird, he had customers looking up for one. He even imitated a newborn’s cry.

“Excuse me, sir, but don’t you hear a baby crying somewhere?” a worried customer asked.

“A baby? No, no,” he answered. “No baby over here.” Daddy chuckled as he related to me how he watched the mystified customer walk away, shaking her head.

Daddy told me the story when a little boy in a shopping cart kept staring at him the whole time, while his mother across the aisle weighed her vegetables.

“I smiled at da boy and asked his name, but he dun say noteen,” Daddy explained. “He just keep lookin’ and lookin’ at me, like I’m ugly or somethin’.”

“Then what did you do?” I asked and chuckled.

“I dun do noteen . . .” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“Go on,” I persisted, knowing of his pranks.

“I just smiled big and stuck out my bottom dentures at da boy.”

“No, Daddy, you didn’t!” I laughed, remembering him doing that very thing before, enough to startle anyone.

“Yeah, but then da boy started cryin’, so I got outta there fast,” Daddy said guiltily. “I dunno where I get these jokes. You got a funny papi, eh?”

“Yeah.” I giggled. “Muy loco, all right. Tell me the story about the goat sucker in Puerto Rico,” I said, wiping my eyes.

“¡Oh, si!” Daddy exclaimed, slapping his thigh. “¡El Chupacabra! Dis thin’ dat went round to all the animales suckin’ their blood dry.”

“Yep, that’s the one,” I said.

“Man, da people get so scared and say it’s some kind of diablo. They say, ‘sierra la puerta’, close your door, El Chupacabra is goin’ to suck your blood!”

“Ya ever see one, Daddy?”

“No, no, I never see dat thin’ in my life.” He chuckled and added, “I dunno if I believe it.”

“Well, it’s sure an awful scary story.” I shuddered at the possibilities.

Yes, my daddy has always been a natural born storyteller. I could sit and listen to him for hours. “Tell me again about the first time you left Puerto Rico on the plane.”

“When I left my home town Utuado in 1952?” His eyes flickered miles away, as he mused. “Flyin’ in dat two-engine airplane made me so scared. I needed to go to el baño so bad. The stewardess want to tell me somteen. Pues, I dunno what she say; I dunno any English then. She talk louder but I dun understand; I just wanna go. I try to make her understand me, so I jell to her, ‘I no spic inglish! I no spic inglish!’” 

As I listened to his broken English, I laughed until my sides ached and my eyes watered.

“Daddy, you didn’t know how to speak English when you were nineteen?”

“No hija, I didn’. Later, my cousin in New York explained to me that da stewardess just wanted me to put my seatbelt on. Ay bendito nene,” Daddy laughed. “I didn’ understand noteen.”

“Hey Papi,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Ya know what?”

“¿Que mi vida?”

“Ya still have an accent.”10493030_10204788142091228_5602024329688824434_o

“Ju tellin’ me, man.” He laughed.

Thirty years later:

My world shattered into a thousand fragments.

Along with my heart.

My hopes.

Dreams.

How so? When my former husband blurted, “I’m just not happy.”

After much heated words and screaming fits, I was relieved when he stormed out of the house. I felt ashamed knowing Daddy and my stepmother were visiting and within earshot in the guestroom had heard everything. By the time I went downstairs, Daddy was on his knees praying in Spanish by the bed. I stood by the doorway listening to his prayer, forgetting to move. Daddy, crying, glanced up and reached out his hand toward me. I went to him and collapsed, sobbing.

That day was Father’s Day, 1991.

The following day at the airport heartbroken and devastated, as we kissed and hugged to say our goodbyes, words stuck in my throat. He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure what to do. But my daddy’s silence comforted me and it was enough. He wrapped strong, loving arms around me. I was a few inches taller, but felt smaller. At that moment, I wished I could stay in his arms and be a little girl again.

Today, with Father’s Day soon approaching, I remember how special my daddy has always made me feel. I still feel his love across the miles when we speak on the phone. At any given time when we’re together, I can still feel secure and safe in his arms as we embrace. His eyes still carry that familiar twinkle during his story telling.

Before long, my hero and I are reminiscing, laughing and enjoying the magical moment of father and daughter.

Note: My daddy will turn 83-years old this summer. He is still young-at-heart, full of lively, warm stories and jokes to share at a moment’s notice, and still very much a caring, loving, praying man. 

Te quiero mucho, Papi.

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Filed under Father's Day, Memoir

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.

Great Grandpa20

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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Filed under Legacy, Memoir, Memorial Day tribute, veteran

The Day the Earth Stood Still

“No, not again! Not now!” I cried out in the bathroom. I’ll call Marisa. She’s always been strong. She has it together.

I reached for the phone and dialed her number. When she answered, I blurted, “The test is positive! I’m pregnant.” She’ll lift my spirits.

“Mary . . .” she began. “How in the world will you care for another baby?”

Then again, maybe not.

“What are you going to do?” Marisa squealed.

I thought, If I knew that, I wouldn’t have called you. Wasn’t I the one supposed to get some reassurances, some guidance, some support here?

“I . . . I don’t know, I thought–”

“Mary, what were you thinking?” she shot back. “You can’t possibly have another baby! You’re only twenty-one; you already have three children, and now number four on its way? Your husband drinks too much, he works only when he wants to, you have a child with special needs, you guys don’t have enough money . . . !”

My mind swirled. I hung by a flimsy strand, all hope slipping. Okay! Tell me something I don’t know. Marisa’s right, whom am I kidding? I. Can’t. Go. On.

Then, she added, “Listen, I’ll help you. If you will get an abortion . . . I will help you pay for one.”

So, that’s it? The quick-fix solution to the problem . . . to end an innocent life?

“I . . . I’ll have to think about this,” I muttered. “Let me sleep on it and get back with you.”

Did that answer come out of me?

I placed the receiver down, heavy with conflicting emotions. My world came to a halt. My heart felt heavy. I cradled my belly, thinking: I can’t have another baby. But can I truly consider this the way out?

The girls slept in their room. Their father was—Lord only knows where. I sat alone in the dark, crossed-legged on the bed. My head ached. My stomach tied in knots. Overcome with waves of hopelessness, memories churned to the one security blanket I had ever known: the home of my grandparents. And I realized I was sinking. Fast.

What happened to my anchor of faith? My hope? Isn’t God big enough to handle the mess in my life? I have to admit, I’ve been too busy for Him. Now that I need Him, does He still care? Then it occurred to me: If I can’t trust God now, then what’s the point of going on?

That instant I prayed like never before, and pored over my Bible. The Book of Psalms always comforted me, and that night before sleep overtook me, my “Ah hah” moment came after reading Psalm 139:13: For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I wasn’t about to take the life of my unborn child, believing that God gave that life in me.

Come morning. A new day. A fresh start. Resolute in my decision, faith sparked. God had always taken care of me before. I determined to trust Him to carry me now. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Give me the grace to endure…

I reached for the phone and dialed Marisa’s number.

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Mary, think about what—”

“No!” I shouted. “I’m going to walk on and trust God. You knew my convictions. I thought they were yours too.”

“Mary, I was only trying. . .”

“How?” I interrupted, pacing the floor. “By offering me an abortion? I came to you down and out for encouragement and prayer. I needed to hear ‘hope’ beyond my pain, but you didn’t—you wouldn’t—give me that!”

“Look Mary, you’re still so young. I’ve been around longer than you. . .”

“You never had children,” I protested.

“I married a jerk once too. They don’t change.” Marisa went on to give one reason after another how she was looking out for my best interest.

After long seconds of dead silence and nothing else to say, we hung up.

I thought of a lesson in Sunday school about Job who called his friends miserable comforters, even his wife told him to “curse God and die.” They were supposed to be his friends; yet, those comforters increased his trouble by condemning him.

Marisa and I parted ways. Our friendship ended that day.

Days, weeks and months overlapped one another; my past troubles behind me. With my heart overflowing and my eyes drowning in tears, I reached down to kiss my newborn. “Hello, Daniel Michael,” I whispered. “I’m your Mommy.”

**********

Before long, my little curly-lock hair boy is running around with deep brown eyes touching my heart each time he looks up at me.

Next thing I knew I blinked, and the little boy is now a strapping young man and I am gazing up at him.

(An excerpt from Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

Daniel28916_1453827833528_7338531_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Please understand I share this story not to condemn, criticize, judge or belittle anyone who for whatever reason may have made a different decision than I did. Everyone has their own story to tell; this is mine. I may have made a lot of mistakes in my life. This was one example when I was strong enough to make the right decision for me. I believe that strength came as I prayed to my Heavenly Father. While it’s true that I may have my share of regrets in life, not giving birth to my one and only son thirty-five years ago is not one of them.

Happy Birthday, son! I love you with all my heart!

© M.A. Perez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Memoir, Pro-Life, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving ’76

Forty Years Ago:

I stared at the TV, hearing the drone but not paying attention to the program. Earlier I had eaten to my heart’s content, wishing I hadn’t stuffed myself the way we did our turkey.

Before too long, I felt a strong urge. Alone and frightened, my heart raced.

I pressed the button.

And pressed again.…

I shouted.

No one came.

In desperation I banged on the wall, yelling, “Hello, anyone out there? I have to push! I have to push!” Doesn’t anyone hear me? I . . . have . . . to . . . push! 

I pounded on the walls, about to put a hole through it. At last, a nurse ran in. Much to her surprise—and my anguish—she found me fully dilated and ready to pop.

A lot of activity happened at once. Oddly enough at the same instant, I felt like an ice cube. The nurse noticed me trembling and threw three blankets over me. She fetched Mr. Wonderful in the lounge, already stretched out half-asleep. After waking him, they gave him a hospital gown, a cap, and a mask. After he followed them to the delivery room, they instructed him where to stand.

With my knees bent and feet in stirrups, an assistant leaned me forward.

“Now push,” my doctor instructed. “Push, hard.”

I took a deep breath and held it, managing a couple of pushes, one or two deep grunts and a long groan, feeling the blood rush to my brain. “I . . . can’t!” I gasped. “No more. I’m tired.”

“Come on. Keep pushing. Bear down. A little more.”

“Arrrrgh!”

“Shush. It’s okay, honey,” Mr. Macho-turned-coach drilled. “Stay calm.”

YOU stay calm! IT HURTS!

“Humph,” Donny snorted.

“All right, now give me one big, long push.”

“It . . . b-burns!” God, I feel like I’m tearing! 

“Okay, now stop. Stop pushing a moment.”

PushBreatheBear downDon’t pushBreathe! My mind zoomed from ninety to zero. Oh, what am I supposed to do? Why hadn’t Donny and I completed those Lamaze classes? Finally, the answer came to me: In order to refrain from pushing, I had to do a series of shallow breathing. Pant. Like a dog.

Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. 

Donny watched the whole process bug-eyed and ashen-faced.

Some macho-man he turned out to be.

2:56 a.m.

Gorgeous. Chestnut hair. Almond-shaped eyes. Rosy cheeks. Ten fingers and ten toes. I was in my teens and just delivered a beautiful, healthy 7 lb. 6 oz. baby girl. My baby girl! Thank you, God. With the ideal name for her—in memory of my beloved grandma and my deceased sister—I named her Anna, with Marie being her middle name.

Once home, I savored the miracle before me: An innocent life at peace in her crib. A life I had only known as bittersweet; a life filled with much adversity from being alone, cold, hungry, and frightened. My mind twirled with unanswered questions. Could I protect this child and keep her safe? As her mommy, I wondered if I’d always be there for her, and not fail or disappoint her. Would we have a close relationship? Would she always feel my love?

(An excerpt from Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved

About

 

# # # #

We celebrate my firstborn’s birthday on the 26th. About every four years, her birthday lands on Thanksgiving Day. From day one, she is a reminder of all I am thankful for. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. I thought I knew something about parenting and Motherhood, but when she came into my life, she taught me.

As I watched her grow, she taught me the rhythm of a mother’s heart beat for her child.

heartbeat

To my beautiful daughter:

Anna Marie, as you have already read in my book about some of the joys and sorrows of life that transpired before and after you came into the world, I pray you will always know that you are no accident. You were a blessing to my heart’s content then and continue to be so now. Thank you for all that you do for me and Pops, both abroad and beyond, as well as behind the scenes. We love and appreciate you.

Happy Birthday, Anna!

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Filed under Memoir, Thankfulness

Glamorous? Not so Much: My Life as an Author

12932601_1167941376590318_6157266493608052874_n2.jpgI published my memoirs just last year. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really fine people along the way, people who’ve become fans of my work. I am thrilled when they ask for my autograph and want their pictures taken with me. I love feedback. I am touched when a reader shares how my story has inspired them. I feel honored and validated. Sure it feeds my ego; it blows me away. And when I’m asked to attend a speaking engagement, a book club, or ladies’ conference, it’s such a humbling experience and never ceases to amaze me. But if I’m honest, stress also comes with the territory. I may tend to be a nervous wreck at times, and even lose my train of thought. I confess I don’t know what you see in me; I certainly haven’t forgotten from whence I’ve come from. I still notice my flaws. Don’t laugh, but I don’t even like watching myself on video, let alone listening to myself by audio.

This is all still a learning curve for me. You see: there’s a huge difference between writing and public speaking. In writing, I can structure sentences and reword phrases and paragraphs without interruptions to my heart’s content with pen and paper, or on the keyboard. I would venture to say that I am not the only wordsmith who feels this way. There are many other writers and authors out there just like me. We are not all best-selling authors. The truth is an author’s life is not all glamorous. Neither will there be warm and fuzzy feelings in reading a not-so-good book review about your work, (ask any author about that). We are mostly normal individuals–some more successful and polished than others–but none of us are perfect. We all go home and try to maintain a decent life in every way possible.

My life isn’t always about sitting pretty on top of the world riding high horses. My husband is a general contractor whose hands are rough because he prefers doing the majority of the projects himself. This line of work is abased and abound. Although his knees and back suffer the consequences and take on a beating, he takes pride in his craft. He is meticulous and thoroughly enjoys the work. Our eldest daughter is his faithful assistant. When she is not out on the field with him, she assists me with my writing projects in promoting my book. She is quite savvy in the social media department, as well as being my traveling companion to monthly book signings. I appreciate her. She is the lady behind the camera who makes me look good.

I myself hold a full-time, 45 hour a week sales job answering calls all day. My mind sometimes wanders wishing I was writing or vacationing, but alas, reality hits me in the rear and I have work to do! Believe it or not, my family and I also provide 24-hour care to a precious 105-year-old saint of God. In caring for her, we definitely don’t want to cause her any additional discomfort or needless pain. But as we tend to her personal needs such as in lifting, bathing and changing an adult, much more fragile than before, it’s neither easy nor always pleasant. Some years ago we made a pact. We promised Elizabeth we’d care for her to the best of our abilities until the end. Not everyone can do this. I believe God gives us the grace to do so. I’ve written about Elizabeth before. She teaches me about life. She is God’s gift to us, but she swears it’s the other way around.

So what am I saying? An author’s life is not necessarily all glamorous. What is it then, you ask? I will tell you since becoming a published author; I have found it quite rewarding and so fulfilling.

While sharing my story, time after time I’ve noticed that many are brought to tears. And then as I listen to their heart, my own tears flow. Is it planned? No. It just happens. Tears bring a sweet release and cleanse the soul. Oh, it’s easy to laugh with others (and I do love to laugh). But when was the last time you wept with someone? When was the last time you’ve impacted someone and knew you’ve made a difference in his or her life? I have also shed tears of joy. Then my makeup runs, which leads me having to freshen up before my daughter happily snaps away with her camera.

Yes, my life may not be as glamorous as you would think, but my life has been enriched.

This is my joy. This is my passion.

I remain grateful for all who have been part of my journey.

© M.A. Pérez 2016, All Rights Reserved

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

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Filed under Author, Book Running in Heels, Memoir, Thankfulness, writing, Writing Journey

My Story

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One of my cousins from across the miles posed a couple of great questions, giving me food for thought. He asked:

Why do you write? And why do you write about the family?

My answer to him:

First of all, I write because I know I have a story to tell. As a kid, eventually I discovered we were dirt poor. In my teens looking back, I realized that I was neglected and forced to grow up too fast. I was ashamed of my childhood and bitter for being my mama’s mother. As I “matured,” settled down, married and had children of my own, along the way I found I was a stronger person because of some of the things that I endured as a child. Once I embraced the God of my grandparents, I became a much better person, too. NOT that I had it all together; I still had a few things to learn. But I learned that it was much better to let go of the bitterness and to forgive, than to hold onto the junk. I also learned that I didn’t have to be a product of my environment! I could rise above the ashes like a phoenix and become so much better. That was my freedom — still is — and God has called us to liberty, not to be in prison. Sure I made some mistakes along the way, but I learned from them as well. It starts with a made-up mind! While I’ve managed to confront my past, I believe my past hasn’t spoiled me, but has prepared me for the future. I may not be perfect but whenever I stumble, I can wipe the crud off and walk on. I share my story that I might help one person – and if I have done that then I have done a good thing and God gets the glory.

I mention family because the little girl growing up — although she may have felt like she was all alone most times — was not an orphan and did not live on an island unto herself. There were others around who helped to nurture her in one fashion or another, even, the antagonists in her story. And yes, some were heroes. She cannot tell her story without mentioning those she looked up to. For it to be truthful, she had to address some real and raw emotions and mentioned the flaws — the good, the bad and the ugly.

The story is not fiction. It is written how she remembers the events that took shape in her life as a child, a teenager and into her adulthood. All the memories do not take her to a happy place. She has had to dig deep to find them. To some, those “happy” places may be simple and insignificant, but to her, they were her life-line.

His response:

I am keeping this to remind me what it takes to be selfless.

 Thanks 

CD

I did not expect THAT answer 🙂

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

 

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

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Filed under Inspirational, Memoir, Running in Heels

My Colorado’s 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?

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.

LovelandPassCO

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

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.

 

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

“Big Thompson River Flood Marker” by Wusel007 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The morning headlines read:

“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. Pérez, 2015, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Bicentennial, Colorado, Memoir, travel

Best Daddy Ever: My Hero

As a young girl, I knew I had the best Daddy in the world. Although my parents were divorced, throughout the years, he’d come for me.

I loved it when he took me to the parks. My daddy may have been short, but he was a big kid at heart and loads of fun. He had a knack for mimicking different sounds. Children laughed whenever he cried out like Tarzan on the jungle gym. He wouldn’t hesitate to push me high on the swing. I squealed with delight when he ran in front and scrambled away right in time before I could kick him. He’d twirl me on the merry-go-round until we couldn’t go anymore and tumbled on the ground from exhaustion. Me from laughing hard; him from running in circles.

Daddy worked as the produce manager in a huge grocery chain store. He was a hard worker, a model employee. A friendly, robust, people-person, he never grew tired of chatting with his customers and telling them jokes. His dark eyes twinkled with glee. The mirth in his thick Puerto Rican accent, combined with his animated personality, charmed all.

Sometimes Daddy caused havoc, but always in fun. He often mimicked the sound of a kitten near the produce stand at work to see the children’s reactions. Once an elderly woman hunted everywhere for the pobrecito. Then another time while whistling like a bird, he had customers looking up for one. He even imitated a newborn’s cry.

“Excuse me, sir, but don’t you hear a baby crying somewhere?” a worried customer asked.

“A baby? No, no,” he answered. “No baby over here.” Daddy chuckled as he related to me how he watched the mystified customer walk away, shaking her head.

Daddy told me the story when a little boy in a shopping cart kept staring at him the whole time, while his mother across the aisle weighed her vegetables.

“I smiled at da boy and asked his name, but he dun say noteen,” Daddy explained. “He just keep lookin’ and lookin’ at me, like I’m ugly or somethin’.”

“Then what did you do?” I asked and chuckled.

“I dun do noteen . . .” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“Go on,” I persisted, knowing of his pranks.

“I just smiled big and stuck out my bottom dentures at da boy.”

“No, Daddy, you didn’t!” I laughed, remembering him doing that very thing before, enough to startle anyone.

“Yeah, but then da boy started cryin’, so I got outta there fast,” Daddy said guiltily. “I dunno where I get these jokes. You got a funny papi, eh?”

“Yeah.” I giggled. “Muy loco, all right. Tell me the story about the goat sucker in Puerto Rico,” I said, wiping my eyes.

“¡Oh, si!” Daddy exclaimed, slapping his thigh. “¡El Chupacabra! Dis thin’ dat went round to all the animales suckin’ their blood dry.”

“Yep, that’s the one,” I said.

“Man, da people get so scared and say it’s some kind of diablo. They say, ‘sierra la puerta’, close your door, El Chupacabra is goin’ to suck your blood!”

“Ya ever see one, Daddy?”

“No, no, I never see dat thin’ in my life.” He chuckled and added, “I dunno if I believe it.”

“Well, it’s sure an awful scary story.” I shuddered at the possibilities.

Yes, my daddy has always been a natural born storyteller. I could sit and listen to him for hours. “Tell me again about the first time you left Puerto Rico on the plane.”

“When I left my home town Utuado in 1952?” His eyes flickered miles away, as he mused. “Flyin’ in dat two-engine airplane made me so scared. I needed to go to el baño so bad. The stewardess want to tell me somteen. Pues, I dunno what she say; I dunno any English then. She talk louder but I dun understand; I just wanna go. I try to make her understand me, so I jell to her, ‘I no spic inglish! I no spic inglish!’” 

As I listened to his broken English, I laughed until my sides ached and my eyes watered.

“Daddy, you didn’t know how to speak English when you were nineteen?”

“No hija, I didn’. Later, my cousin in New York explained to me that da stewardess just wanted me to put my seatbelt on. Ay bendito nene,” Daddy laughed. “I didn’ understand noteen.”

“Hey Papi,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Ya know what?”

“¿Que mi vida?”

“Ya still have an accent.”10493030_10204788142091228_5602024329688824434_o

“Ju tellin’ me, man.” He laughed.

Thirty years later:

My world shattered into a thousand fragments.

Along with my heart.

My hopes.

Dreams.

How so? When my former husband blurted, “I’m just not happy.”

After much heated words and screaming fits, I was relieved when he stormed out of the house. I felt ashamed knowing Daddy and my stepmother were visiting and within earshot in the guestroom had heard everything. By the time I went downstairs, Daddy was on his knees praying in Spanish by the bed. I stood by the doorway listening to his prayer, forgetting to move. Daddy, crying, glanced up and reached out his hand toward me. I went to him and collapsed, sobbing.

That day was Father’s Day, 1991.

The following day at the airport heartbroken and devastated, as we kissed and hugged to say our goodbyes, words stuck in my throat. He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure what to do. But my daddy’s silence comforted me and it was enough. He wrapped strong, loving arms around me. I was a few inches taller, but felt smaller. At that moment, I wished I could stay in his arms and be a little girl again.

Today, with Father’s Day soon approaching, I remember how special my daddy has always made me feel. I still feel his love across the miles when we speak on the phone. At any given time when we’re together, I can still feel secure and safe in his arms as we embrace. His eyes still carry that familiar twinkle during his story telling.

Before long, my hero and I are reminiscing, laughing and enjoying the magical moment of father and daughter.

Note: My daddy will turn 82-years old this summer. He is still young-at-heart, full of lively, warm stories and jokes to share at a moment’s notice, and still very much a caring, loving, praying man. 

Te quiero mucho, Papi. 

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Filed under Father's Day, Memoir

First Day on the Job – 1972

“Hold the pickles, Hold the lettuce, Special orders don’t upset us,
All we ask is you let us, Serve it your way.”

Our uniforms reminded me of ketchup and mustard. After riding the city bus to Miami Beach to my first paying job, I’d pasted on a smile, greeted customers, took their burger and drink orders and handled the cash register.

BK - 1972 Chpt 11

“Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace” page 101

#TBT – Yeah, I did that.

 

 

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Filed under Memoir, Running in Heels

My Two Year Anniversary with WordPress

anniversary-1x

Time has flown by! WordPress sent me a message stating that it is my Two Year Anniversary with them. Amazing!

When I first started out, progress was a bit on the slow side of things but steady. I thought, “Not too shabby for someone who has a 40 hour work-week, helps to care for a 104-year old, and writes in between!” Well, let me tell you that things have picked up quite a bit since then! Matter of fact, I feel as if I’m on a roller coaster traveling faster and farther with my hair blowing in the wind and the sun shining on my face! It’s scary, but exhilarating all at once.

I will share a few stats from the last 2 years:

100 original posts
1384 faithful followers – WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin’, Tumblr
9,740 views to date (was 3,220) – U.S. being number one, followed by Brazil, China, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Philippines, with France & Australia tied, India, Spain Netherlands, Mexico …
The most viewed post besides the About Me page is Running in Heels
The second most viewed post is News Flash
And the third most viewed posts is My Sister, If Only
Most commented was About Me Page & The Little Green Dress
Most popular topics were: determination, memoir, perseverance
My top commenter: Sandra DiGiovanni

My followers know that I have recently published my first book, “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace.” The “experts” said that a newbie (yours truly) should have a writer’s platform. So I started a Facebook writer’s fan page and two years ago, began blogging about past and current events.

I’ve been especially happy since signing up with WordPress.com for its user friendliness and it being easy to navigate.

From time to time, I do include short excerpts from my book, and to my delight, you readers are wanting and asking for more. This is good! Since I have started blogging, I have re-connected with friends, acquaintances, and yes, family members from across the miles. I have made many new friends and fellow-bloggers who not only take the time to read, but to leave positive comments and inspiring feedback. This is great!

Bottom line: I feel blessed beyond measure. And I appreciate each and every one of you for visiting my site–new comers and old–and sticking with me throughout this journey to the finish line. My one regret? That I didn’t start blogging sooner.

Feel free to leave a comment about topics that interest you most.

Thank you again for your support and following this blog – from my heart to yours.

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Filed under Blogging, Memoir, Wordpress Anniversary