Missing my loved ones in Florida, and thankful for the beautiful memories.
Missing my loved ones in Florida, and thankful for the beautiful memories.
Someone said, crying is a way your eyes speak when your mouth can’t explain how broken your heart is.
We recently celebrated Mama’s birthday. While the company and the food were great, I saw Mama in a different light. It pained me to see her that way. Although she had a smile on her face, her eyes reflected pain and discomfort.
Mama is aging and more feeble with time. She’s more of a shut in these days and she can barely move. Many thoughts go through my head, along with memories of my difficult childhood past. But that was then and this is now. Mama is Mama – and she’s my Mama. I’ll take her anyway I can get her – flaws and all. Hell, I even have flaws! But what troubles me is not what she and I have gone through together; what troubles me is the present. She is fearful of saying what ails her. She doesn’t like the idea of going to a hospital, nor the thought of possibly living in a nursing home one day. She’d rather suffer alone than communicate about her ailments in a doctor’s ear. I don’t know what to do. She’s never been an easy patient and she is stubborn.
I. Feel. Hopeless.
I’m praying that the Lord shows us what to do and for Mama to be at peace. I just want her to know that she’s loved and that we want only the best for her. I need her to feel safe and secure and to know beyond a shadow of doubt; she does not have to fear. Fear has torment. It will consume the mind and crush any hope one might dare to have. Fear troubles the heart and makes one weary.
I believe God is bigger than our fears. I believe He wants us to cast all of our troubles to Him and not grow weary. We are not immune to the sufferings of this life, but because of the Lord there is always hope. All He ask is that we put our trust in Him and lay our burdens down at His feet. He says to trust Him and lean not to our own understanding. Not always an easy feat, I admit.
Words may escape me at times. I may grow impatient and miscommunicate my true intentions; my grit and courage may fall short. But while I have breath in my being I will never give up on the goodness of God! We are a work in progress. I know He will make a way. Look how far He has brought us – He’s not finished with any of us yet!
I. Feel. Hopeful.
I choose to allow forgiveness to remain in my heart. While Mama is still here, I will let her know that she is valued and loved. While it’s true our roles may have been reversed, she is still my Mama. And you know what?
I. Still. Need. My. Mama.
So Mama, I celebrate you. Hand in hand, we will find a way to make everything all right.
I. Love. You.
Note to my fans and followers
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In counting my blessings this Thanksgiving holiday, I can’t help but to think about all of the challenges (See Part One) we’ve experienced these past few months. It’s been refreshing for me to enjoy some quality time with my long-distance familia, especially being with Daddy again. Those of you who’ve read my memoir, you know how grateful I am that my maternal grandmother kept in contact with my dad after he and my mother divorced. I was only three when my parents separated and five when their divorce finalized. I am happy to report that in my adult years, I’ve come to know the love of my heavenly Father, and I am equally happy to report that I’ve come to know the love of my earthly father as well. I know many don’t have this luxury. Even though miles separate us, I am thankful that Daddy is still around and so full of life. I wouldn’t change anything about him; I love him just the way he is – young at heart!
Within a couple of days, we had the pleasure of visiting two of Daddy’s cariñosas sisters whom genuinely exude warm, big and loving hearts. Titi Blanca and Titi Viviana were gracious during our visits. Not to be out done by the other, both can sure cook up a storm. Their specialties were arroz con pollo, a delicious one-pot meal closely related to paella, and ropa vieja, which is shreds of meat, peppers, and onions resembling a mess of colorful rags. We helped ourselves to seconds … or thirds, and chased it down with a warm cup of cafe con leche. Unfortunately, we missed seeing another aunt on this trip, but promised Titi Edie that on our next visit to Florida, she would be the first stop.
My hubby’s busted ribs from his 20′ fall are still healing. He is such a trooper. Although needing to do a lot of sitting, even taking naps when allowed, he still wanted to take part in all the festivities of our mini-vacation. We spent half a day lounging under the sunny Florida skies at Bayside, the shopping, dining, and entertainment center of Downtown Miami. We enjoyed the live music and watching couples dancing to the merengue. We skipped the booze and ordered shots of espresso Cuban coffee (but I like mine with plenty of warm milk,) and we ate pastelitos de guayaba, mmmmm.
Our oldest, Anna Marie, joined us on this trip, flying in before we did. The last time she visited la familia was on her 18th birthday — 22 years ago! We got to celebrate her birthday again in Miami, which was pretty special.
On our last evening, the hardest part is always saying goodbye. You cannot keep the tears at bay as they start to fall. I still hate goodbyes, especially with long-distance loved ones. After Mark’s accident and in the preparation of this getaway, a lot of prayers had gone forth. There were numerous of times when I wasn’t sure we were going to make this trip for the holidays. But I am so thankful to the Lord that together we made it, and together we are stronger than before. When you’re in the midst of a crisis, things come into focus and the pettiness of the yesterdays take a back seat. We dare not take one another for granted. Look around you. Life is worth living when you begin to count your blessings.
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31
© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved
Challenges, unexpected events, frustrations escalating … ever have them? It’s called life. I’ve titled this vacation “On a wing and a prayer.” And plenty of prayers had gone forth.
Reservations were made three months early. But after my husband sustained a 20-foot fall, which resulted in 13 fractured ribs, punctured lungs and a long hospital stay weeks prior to our scheduled flight, we weren’t certain we would even make this trip. And wouldn’t you know it, the day before we were to head out; I had a fender-bender right after leaving the office. I had just crossed over to the opposite lane, when BAM, there she was! After talking to the police and exchanging pertinent information, I proceeded home with the wind knocked out of my sails, not to mention, I threw out my back and barely slept that night.
My encouraging husband–although still in a lot of pain and discomfort from his fall–was determined to make the flight out to join my relatives in sunny Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Southwest Airlines treated us like royalty. They were very accommodating in providing the necessary assistance for the entire trip. Funny thing though, one of the stewards for our flight out was running late. All passengers standing in line did not board the aircraft until he arrived. My husband and I had another plane to catch and we worried we would miss that flight. Finally, in the distance, we noticed someone running toward us. It was none other than our tardy steward. Not long after he ran inside the plane, did the rest of us begin boarding. An attendant helped Mark from his wheelchair on board the plane to our seats.
Once we landed in New Orleans, an airport assistant waited at the doorway with my husband’s chariot. He hurriedly wheeled him down the corridor with me in tow to our next flight. All passengers on that aircraft were already seated and ready for take-off. Two front row seats were reserved just for us. Talk about feeling like instant celebrities!
We sat by Patricia, a missionary from Thailand. Once we landed, it was she who became our guardian angel. While I went to retrieve our luggage, she stayed behind and waited patiently with Mark. When I returned, she volunteered to accompany me in fetching our rental car, even praying a blessing over the remainder of our vacation. She walked with me back to where Mark was waiting, and then helped me load everything in to the car, and politely waved us goodbye. I truly felt she was an angel sent by God.
At last, in the wee hours of the morning, our tired and aching bodies arrived at the hotel room. It was good to finally sleep in.
After breakfast, we drove straight to my daddy’s house. In no time; we were flooded with hugs, tears and joy with full bellies of my stepmother’s delicious Fricase de Pollo. Due to all the medication my husband was on, he hadn’t had much of an appetite, but I was certain it would return with all the anticipated Puerto Rican cuisine.
The next day after a warm breakfast, we drove into Ft. Lauderdale to visit Big Brother, his wife, and their three strapping sons. While the big boys played a game of chess, we gals went grocery shopping. By the time we returned, Mark was ready to call it a day. The pain from his ribs was causing him misery.
Thanksgiving Day: We never had a late Thanksgiving dinner before, but I guess when you have a lot of Puerto Ricans around to cook for, this is the norm. Soon we were surrounded with love and laughter and picture-taking. The anticipated meal did not disappoint. Although quite tasty, the star entree wasn’t the pavo, but it was the pernil,
which is the traditional Puerto Rican pork shoulder. Not to be outdone, there were a couple of large pans of my stepmother’s delicious arroz con gandules. This was a Thanksgiving feast at its best! I believe we ate until we couldn’t eat another bite; hardly any room for dessert.
To be continued …
© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved
As I reflect upon my vacation this year, I center on the glitter to the glue of my family. The stuff that makes them glow through difficult circumstances, yet, not fall apart. It is the Strength in their sails,
the Laughter through the tears, and the Light in the darkness. The waves may beat on the boat called Life, but their faith in God is the anchor that
keeps them from drifting afar.
Through my lens, I observed how one remains playful and young at heart, can laugh at themselves silly and enjoy the simple things in life.
Through my lens, I saw how one so small can love so big; remain warm and engaging, loveable without reservations.
Through my lens, I noticed that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! They refuse to sit down, roll over or give up on life. They know tomorrow is on the horizon, another day for new beginnings.
Through my lens, I got to witness such amazing selfless love. The sacrifices and serving of others: putting themselves last, while thinking of others first.
I heard the cry of their heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Compassion. Thump. Thump. Forgiveness. Thump. Thump. Passion. Thump. Thump. Sincerity. Thump. Thump. Tenacity. Thump. Thump. Love. Thump. Thump. Puerto Rican heritage.
What did I learn in my ten days of vacation? If I can be just one example of what it means to love and to be loved, I’ll overcome what life may throw at me. I’ll face each trial with a certainty that God is still God of the ages and He continues to work on our behalf. No matter what.
Plans don’t always work the way we think. Situations may take a different turn than what we planned. We aren’t always prepared for the what-ifs. We aren’t perfect. But we are family. And the greatest gift of all is family.
© M.A. Pérez 2014, All Rights Reserved
Visiting Daddy in the early seventies, on weekends and during summertime, I remember how he loved to watch Lucha Libre. His favorite wrestler then was Rocky Johnson (the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Also a die-hard Yankee fan, Daddy loved his baseball team.
“¿Vite? You see dat?” Daddy shouted and pointed to the TV, asking no one in particular. “Man, dat Mickey Mantle can hit dat ball sooo hard . . . !”
Daddy and my stepmother Gloria were raising my brother Ruben. Yes, I was a bit jealous. Although Daddy spoke both languages to me, I never became as fluent as my brother had become in Spanish. I understood the language more than I could speak it.
Daddy enjoyed many hobbies. He knew his fruits and vegetables having worked on his father’s land in his prime. He loved gardening and showing off his avocado and gandules (pigeon pea) plants that he himself planted as much as he loved chewing and sucking the juice from raw sugar canes.
Although Gloria hardly spoke English, we communicated well enough. She treated me like her own child, showering me with loud smooches and tight squeezes. When she spoke to me in Spanish, I’d answered her in English and in my broken Spanish. In the mornings, she’d asked if I wanted “Con Fley” because she knew I liked cereal, and then asked if I wanted her to fix me a huevo frito, too. She was such a great cook; we all loved her comida. To see her working in the kitchen preparing mouth-watering delicacies was a common sight. Meals were her priority. She often cooked wearing rollers under a hair net, sometimes in a floral house-dress and always chanclas on her feet.
Back then, feathered friends scurried about in the backyard, a number in cages were nestling on eggs. I liked feeding the ducks and watching them swim in the pond. Not so much with the chickens though, I knew they were for consumption. But I couldn’t keep from watching in agony whenever Gloria ran after one, caught it, and then wrung the poor creature’s neck. It gave me the creeps. Then I’d stay clear from the messy job of plucking feathers. Gloria also chose whatever Daddy planted in the yard to compliment with anyone of her flavorful traditional entrées, whether her arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), or pernil (roasted pork). Each dish was first sautéed in sofrito (a mixture of bell peppers, garlic, onions and capers blended into a paste) in a deep caldero. The aroma alone made your mouth water. Gloria served side dishes of fried sweet plantains, large Florida avocados, simmering red beans with new potatoes, and always with a big pot of yellow rice.
One Sunday after a tasty meal of chicken stew, we drank café con leche, a strong espresso made with hot milk and sugar.
“Mary, did you like Mami’s pollo guisado?” Daddy asked, sipping from his cup.
“¡Si!” I answered, practicing my Spanish. “Muy bueno.”
“Oh, yeah? You wanna know somteen’?” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.
“¿Que?” I asked, blowing on my cafesito, too hot to drink.
“Dat’s no chicken you ate . . . dat was un pato.”
A duck? I stared at Daddy, and then at Gloria, then at the leftovers in the pot. I didn’t feel so good. My stomach felt queasy. I raced to the bathroom without a moment to spare when my entire lunch came up.
Gloria helped wipe my face in the bathroom and pleaded, “Ay, Marí. Perdóname.”
I knew she felt terrible about what happened. But when I looked out the window, I couldn’t quit thinking about how I fed those cute, adorable ducks. And I had eaten one!
With no hard feelings over anyone about the duck incident, I enjoyed being at Daddy’s house and forgetting my troubles back home with Mama. I noticed the way Gloria fussed and cleaned house; the same way she enjoyed cooking: fast, thoroughly, and con mucho gusto. She didn’t like dirt. She had every chair in the house, even the couch covered with plastic! When time to clean the bathroom, she threw a bucket filled with soapy water on the floor, walls and tub, scrubbing, mopping and drying until everything was squeaky-clean. She never relaxed until evening when one of her novellas came on TV. Daddy and Gloria were affectionate and called each other pet names. Because Daddy’s skin was brown, Gloria called him, “Negro.” While many knew my stepmother as “Pita,” Daddy called her his “Mamita.”
Seeing their love in action made me smile. Although Gloria didn’t speak English, her hugs and warmth said more than the words from my own mother.
And she could cook.
(Excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace ) © M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved Note: Featured in La Respuesta online Magazine, Dec. 2013 Culture section
I just returned from an accelerating week’s vacation, which was also a surprise visit to my family in Florida. Other than planning everything with my younger brother, I didn’t want any beans spilled, so I gave no clues and left no hints. My ten-year-old grandson accompanied me; his first time on a plane. He was so excited and never at a loss for words the entire flight.
The trip and the family time together were awesome!
My first stop was at my older brother’s. The shock on his face and the familiar choice words that he uttered in seeing me were priceless. His entire household welcomed me warmly. My three tall nephews are strapping young lads. We all talked at once and managed to hear every word. Soon, my sister-in-law and I enjoyed some overdue and much-needed girl talk alone (after kicking out all the boys).
Then we drove to my dad’s home where I was greeted with more hugs, tears and kisses. (Click on the link to a video and listen to my daddy’s exclamation phrases over and over of: “¡Ay, mi madre!” as well as, “¡Ay, Dios mio!”)
Before too long, savory food waft from the kitchen calling my name. I couldn’t wait to sample my step-mother’s Puerto Rican cuisine. She did not disappoint and prepared a delicioso feast of pollo frito (fried chicken), plátanos fritos (fried plantains), and arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). Mmm hmm good! ¡Que rico la comida!
My sister later drove into town (also surprising our daddy – yes, it’s in our blood) and soon we were catching up with the latest news over family, food and fashion. I got to exchanged stories with her fine son, amazed by his sharp wit, then observed he and my grandson enjoying one another’s company with the latest video game. Finally, my dad announced it was time to play dominoes, beating everyone in the game just the way I always remembered.
In the days that followed we shopped, ate to our heart’s content, spent the day at the beach, the pool, and shared pictures on FaceBook (a vast difference from having to pull out dusty album books like the old days). Lastly, we enjoyed taking Daddy to Mai Kai Polynesian Dinner and Show.
I wanted — needed — to be present to help celebrate my daddy’s 80th birthday that Sunday, and so grateful to be able to escape my hectic schedule to make the grand event. If not, I would have been filled with regrets. Now I have wonderful additional memories to hold onto for a lifetime.
With every visit, conversation and reminiscing, we simply picked up where we left off so long ago. It felt good to be “home” again and reunite with my boricuan familia.
© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved