Tag Archives: nostalgic

Run the Race

Hadn’t my grandparents always said, “nothing worthwhile comes easy”?

At the track and field events, I earned each of my awards and ribbons. I’d raced along, my eyes on the mark. Momentum building as my arms pumped with energy and my long legs pounded the grassy field. The warmth from the sun’s rays kissed my face, and the breeze caressed my long, flowing hair. My mind, clear and free from worries, centered my concentration one goal: crossing the finish line.

We took our places and lined up in a row, waiting for Coach’s command.

“ON YOUR MARK . . .”

Nerves hit the pit of my stomach.

“GET SET . . .”

I willed my mind to focus, my eyes fixed straight ahead.

“GO!”

We were off. My foot slipped; two of us bumped. I regained momentum, pumping my arms, elbows high. I needed to pace myself or I’d run out of wind. I decided to hold steady at a comfortable third place. I knew that if I stretched myself, I’d pick up speed and pass them one by one. Needed to time it just right.

Breathe. Keep your eyes on the back of their heads.

Don’t get in too much of a hurry.

Steady . . . Steady . . .

Not yet. Not yet.

Almost . . .

Now!

I passed one girl. Then another. A burst of energy flooded me as I gained a second wind. I closed in on the leader. I heard her breathing. The sound of our feet pounded the ground in unison, inches apart. It was now or never.

We came onto the turn, I moved to the right. Willing my legs to move faster, I passed her up, taking the lead. In record time, I beat her to the finish line!

That was me a hundred years ago. Strong. Perky. Ageless.

If I did it then — perhaps, just maybe — I can do it again, in whatever I set out my mind to do.

(excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)
***   LIMITED TIME OFFER   ***   .99cents   ***   Kindle Edition   *** 

* Amazon UK  **  £0.90  **  LIMITED TIME OFFER  **  £0.90  **  Amazon UK *

“The moment I started it, I had echoes of ‘The Glass Castle’. This is recommended for anyone who loved Walls’ memoirs, as they have some strong parallels.” – Kath Cross (blogger).

© M.A. Perez, 2017, All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Father's Day, Memoir

I Don’t Know What to Do!

I don’t know what to do today.
Perhaps I’ll go outside and play,
or stay indoors and watch TV,
or take a bath, or climb a tree.

Or maybe I’ll go ride my bike,
or pick my nose, or take a hike,
or jump a rope, or scratch my head,
or play a game, or stay in bed,
or dance a jig, or pet the cat,
or drink some milk, or buy a hat,
or sing a song, or read a book,
or change my socks, or learn to cook,
or dig a hole, or eat a pear,
or call my friends, or brush my hair,
or hold my breath, or have a race,
or stand around and slap my face.

I’m so confused, and bored, and blue,
to not know what I ought to do.
I guess that I should just ask you.
So, what do you think I should do?

Copyright © 2009 Kenn Nesbitt. All Rights Reserved.


I found the above humorous poem and thought about my kids when they were small. Outside of TV, the only technology we had back then was on the Atari, playing games like Pong and Asteroids. Anyone remember those? But the most entertainment for me was watching my kids’ aerobic antics while calling out to me:

“Watch me, Mommy.”

“Mommy, look at this.”

“See what I can do, Mommy?”

Today, my grown children each have individual gifting, talents and uniqueness. I still love hearing from them whether they call, text, or email me. My heart skips a beat whenever they excel in their achievements. They still put a smile on my face. We can still laugh together.

Children grow fast. All you have to do is blink. You’ll wonder where did the time fly? Cherish those moments.

Oh, and by the way, I drew the sketch below of my kids, thirty years ago.

Wasn’t it just yesterday?

Image

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

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

8 Comments

Filed under Children, Fun

“I Always Loved You…”

“I always did love you, just had too many problems.”
Ten words on ink and paper.
Handwritten by her.
Pierces my heart.
Quiet pain.

Does she know I exist? Or care? Or want me?
I love her, look up to her; want to be her.
Unspoken. Forsaken.
Isn’t love also a verb?
Hidden shame.

Grandparents notice. Embrace me. Love me.
They say I am worthy and special.
I am not allowed to stay.
Said I might become spoil.
Wounded heart.

I leave home. Searching for Mr. Right.
Run to him at sixteen. Happily ever after.
Young. Naïve. Taken for granted.
Thinks to mold me into his image.
His way or the highway.
Internal screams.

Motherhood. Baby having babies.
Crawl before walk. Stumble. Fall.
Clinging unto a strand, unraveling.
Faded dreams.

Years overlap. Encumbering.
Emotions are numb.
Hubby seeks greener pastures.
Two-timer. Tosses me to the wolves.
Abandon.

Water not missed until the well is dry.
Alone. They’ve aged. Reaching out.
Across the miles, calling my name.
Vowing eternal devotion.
Hollow words.

Grown children look back.
Open arms. Nostalgic.
Rebuild the fences.
Dying to live.
Forgive.

In times of happiness, embrace your beloved.
In times of calamity, hold them closer.
Love isn’t love until you give it away.
God grants life.
And second chances.

~  Poem written by Mary A. Pérez  ~

heart-300x235

© M.A. Pérez 2016, All Rights Reserved

 

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

3 Comments

Filed under Love, Valentine's Day

Beauty For Ashes

Beauty For Ashes

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:3
(Photo Credit: forashes.org)

My devotions today is found in Isaiah 61:3. Although this passage of scripture brings me comfort, I wondered …

How can there be a smidgen of beauty amongst rubble? Or ashes?

How is this even possible?

How do we see beauty in the midst of suffering, hopelessness, or despair?

When I saw my baby sister lying in her small white coffin, I didn’t see beauty.

When I noticed my mama with bruises on her body, I failed to see the beauty in that.

My former husband known for his strength, vigor and being sure-footed, morphed into a sloppy drunk after one drink of alcohol was miles away from anything charming.

To see my grandpa become a prisoner in his own body, his barrel-chested physic becoming sunken and scrawny was a far cry from beauty.

For my eyes to caress my grandma’s features, once so robust and plump, turning thin and frail after having lost so much weight due to illness wasn’t lovely.

Watching the back of my former husband after he pulled the rug from under my feet, and left me in the dust while calling out his name wasn’t a picturesque scene.

My 29-day old granddaughter swollen from fluids in a medically induced coma after her open-heart surgery wasn’t attractive to me.

Scars are not beautiful. Neither are bruises on the body or on the heart.

Death is not beautiful; the grieving of loved ones taken from you is never beautiful. Hunger is not beautiful. Loneliness is not beautiful.

Repossession isn’t quaint. Foreclosure is eons away from being delightful.

So how can there be beauty for ashes?

I believe it is found in hope. Hope against hope. Hope that the imperfect will become perfect. Hope that the pain will cease. Hope that there will be a day of reckoning. Hope that the scattered pieces will rebuild. Hope for healing and relief. Hope that the light will dawn and a new day will come. Hope that this too, shall come to pass. Hope in heaven. Hope that the best is yet to come. And most importantly, believing in the Blessed Hope that one day, we shall see our loved ones again who have crossed over.

Thank you, Lord, for turning my life’s ugliness into a thing of beauty.

Out of sadness and hurt, will come strength and victory.

Sign2

11 Comments

July 23, 2015 · 10:39 PM

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. 

6 Comments

Filed under Father's Day, Memoir

Like the Wind

Hadn’t my grandparents always said, “nothing worthwhile comes easy”?

At the track and field events, I earned each of my awards and ribbons. I’d raced along, my eyes on the mark. Momentum building as my arms pumped with energy and my long legs pounded the grassy field. The warmth from the sun’s rays kissed my face, and the breeze caressed my long, flowing hair. My mind, clear and free from worries, centered my concentration one goal: crossing the finish line.

We took our places and lined up in a row, waiting for Coach’s command.

“ON YOUR MARK . . .”

Nerves hit the pit of my stomach.

“GET SET . . .”

I willed my mind to focus, my eyes fixed straight ahead.

“GO!”

We were off. My foot slipped; two of us bumped. I regained momentum, pumping my arms, elbows high. I needed to pace myself or I’d run out of wind. I decided to hold steady at a comfortable third place. I knew that if I stretched myself, I’d pick up speed and pass them one by one. Needed to time it just right.

Image source: thinkstock by Getty Images

Breathe. Keep your eyes on the back of their heads.

Don’t get in too much of a hurry.

Steady . . . Steady . . .

Not yet. Not yet.

Almost . . .

Now!

I passed one girl. Then another. A burst of energy flooded me as I gained a second wind. I closed in on the leader. I heard her breathing. The sound of our feet pounded the ground in unison, inches apart. It was now or never.

We came onto the turn, I moved to the right. Willing my legs to move faster, I passed her up, taking the lead. In record time, I beat her to the finish line!

That was me a hundred years ago. Strong. Perky. Ageless.

If I did it then — perhaps, just maybe — I can do it again, in whatever I set out my mind to do.

How about YOU?

11 Comments

Filed under Perserverance, Race

“I Always Loved You …”

“I always did love you, just had too many problems.”
Ten words on ink and paper.
Handwritten by her.
Pierces my heart.
Quiet pain.

Does she know I exist? Or care? Or want me?
I love her, look up to her; want to be her.
Unspoken. Forsaken.
Isn’t love also a verb?
Hidden shame.

Grandparents notice. Embrace me. Love me.
They say I am worthy and special.
I am not allow to stay.
Said I might become spoil.
Wounded heart.

I leave home. Searching for Mr. Right.
Run to him at sixteen. Happily ever after.
Young. Naïve. Taken for granted.
Thinks to mold me into his image.
His way or the highway.
Internal screams.

Motherhood. Baby having babies.
Crawl before walk. Stumble. Fall.
Clinging unto a strand, unraveling.
Faded dreams.

Years overlap. Encumbering.
Emotions are numb.
Hubby seeks greener pastures.
Two-timer. Tosses me to the wolves.
Abandon.

Water not missed until the well is dry.
Alone. They’ve aged. Reaching out.
Across the miles, calling my name.
Vowing eternal devotion.
Hollow words.

Grown children look back.
Open arms. Nostalgic.
Rebuild the fences.
Dying to live.
Forgive.

In times of happiness, embrace your beloved.
In times of calamity, hold them closer.
Love isn’t love until you give it away.
God grants life.
And second chances.

wallpaper_background_sorrow_by_juliefain1024

Poem written by Mary A. Pérez

15 Comments

Filed under Love, Valentine's Day

A Simpler Place in Time

In the mid-60s, as a girl with my grandparents, every Sunday we rode the Metro bus to attend services at First Faith Cathedral. Once church was over, we hopped on another bus to downtown that took us to the Painted Horse, a favorite all-you-can-eat restaurant on Biscayne Boulevard. Adults ate for 99 cents and kids for 49 cents. I preferred the hamburger steak with macaroni and cheese, and even though they displayed Jell-O in every color to choose from, my favorite: red.

After lunch, we would head for the Miami Public Library, near Bayfront Park. Grandpa would walked on ahead, while I strolled along with Grandma under her umbrella. We’d stop by a large pond filled with giant goldfish and feed them crackers. The park was next to a waterfront where fancy boats and exquisite yachts sailed by. As I waved to them, I imagined how the rich folk lived.

Once we arrived at the library, I’d take the elevator to the children’s section on the second floor while my grandparents remained reading in the downstairs lobby. I strolled the aisles running my hands across the binders of the books neatly stacked on shelves. I loved the smell of those books, the textures, the colors, even the different lettering.

11061246_431488480347601_3922693958888414187_n

My imagination ran wild as I’d choose a fairy tale, sit on a nearby stool and read about magical and faraway places. In my mind, I turned beautiful and clever all in one.

signs_princess_cinderella_1

I pretended to be Cinderella, overjoyed that the glass slipper fit my foot perfectly and that my uncle, the tall Prince Charming, singled me out to dance. I imagined my brother as Hansel and I Gretel, hunting for food, and then eating chunks of candy broken off the cottage with no evil witch in sight. I pictured myself as Little Red Riding Hood who saved Grandma from the Big Bad Wolf. While reading, I became all those characters and more—until Grandpa called for me, saying, “Mary, time to go home.”

Image

My real so-called adventures didn’t take me to faraway lands like those in the books I read. My adventures were riding around town on those city buses. If the bus was crowded, we stood while swaying back and forth. Back and forth. Grandpa held onto straps. Unable to reach them, I held onto the bars instead.

“Mary, hold on tight now,” Grandma cautioned. Grandpa stood nearby, ready to steady Grandma or me if needed. I don’t think he enjoyed riding on the bus much.

Suburban-type_GM_New_Look_bus_-_Pittsburgh,_1984

When it was time, I liked to pull the cord to signal the driver to let us off.

“Now, Grandpa?” I asked, not wanting to miss our stop.

“Not yet. Be patient, young lady.”

“How about now?”

“I’ll let you know when it’s time.”

Eventually, the sunny, bright-colored Sable Palms apartment complex came into view.

“Okay, now, young lady,” Grandpa nodded.

I would kneel on the seat and reached for the cord, or sometimes Grandpa hoisted me up. I pulled on the cord fast, once, twice, and sometimes even three times for the bus driver to stop. Then swoosh the rear doors opened, we exited, and then the door swish closed.

Palm tree-lined winding roads landscaped and shaded the path to my grandparents’ home. Often coconuts fell from those towering trees and I’d run to pick one up for us.

I’ll never forget one day when we arrived home, I overheard Grandpa complaining to Grandma about standing too close to so many people.

“¿Tu ves, Ana?” he said, showing her something. “See? They stole my wallet.”

From the hall, I listened.

“Oh, no!” Grandma gasped, staring at his inside-out pocket in disbelief.

“We have to stand so close we are like sardines. Too easy for someone to put his hands in my back pocket; taking my wallet out without me knowing.”

It made me sad to think someone would do something bad to my grandpa, stealing from him as if we were rich. Then again, maybe we were.

(An excerpt from Running in Heels) 

© M.A. Pérez 2014, All Rights Reserved

I loved books then. I love books now. I remember the simple things in life as a child, having a vivid imagination to take me to some wonderful faraway places. What are some of your fond memories as a child?

5 Comments

June 27, 2014 · 11:09 PM

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

13 Comments

Filed under Crossing Over, death, the Challenger