You Can’t Buy Everything

I pulled up to the house, the usually clank, clank as I rolled through the gate.


Turned the radio down. Grabbed the wrapper from my breakfast biscuits, half full can of day old La Croix, and gas station receipts, some hard dried up play doh, and stuffed it in a plastic Walgreens bag.

Car Key. Glasses. Purse. Garbage.


My husband opened the door as I stood there fumbling through my Mary Poppinesque bag for the keys.


I adjusted the strap of my blue messenger, switched the bag of garbage I had collected from my car to the other hand.


He smiled longingly at me as I caressed his neck with my free hand.


We kissed softly.

Keys and sunglasses collided with the school pictures of the kids as I tossed them on the table by the door.

Walked around the red scooter the kids left in the hallway.


A shoe box on the kitchen counter caught my eye, but I casually placed my bag down next to it and walked over to the sink to pour out the remaining La Croix before I tossed it.


”Is that for me?” I asked, tilting my head back, not sure if he was in the room yet, but looking for him in the reflection of the kitchen window.


I grabbed the box as he walked up to me.


They were white cycling shoes. Seven and a half.


I had gotten him a Peloton for Valentine’s Day, and had been thinking about trying it, but hadn’t gotten myself a pair of clip-ins yet.


”Happy Birthday,” he said warmly.


”I love them! Thank you” I kissed him and wrapped my arms around his waist, and rested my head on his chest.


”What do you get the girl that can buy herself anything,” he stated.


”Well, not anything,” I said rolling my eyes, smiling.


”I couldn’t buy you… Your love…Our Family… Thank you.”

And we held each other.

Adult Kid

We’ve all heard the tired cliché, “Wait until you have kids of your own; then you’ll understand.”

Usually, we get this from our parents with whom we’ve had some disagreement or misunderstanding, or yes, even a full-fledged screaming match (e.g. with Mom…again).

::rolls eyes::

But how often do we think about when we are old and gray like our parents?

Newborns

Parents of newborns deal with late night feedings, messy diaper changes, inconvenient spills, a barrage of items to tote around (don’t forget to get the baby), and having to adhere to an infant’s schedule.

Babies are so tiny and helpless, AND WE ADORE THEM! You could be exhausted, drained, tired, on the brink of an anxiety attack; and yet you* will still get up each and every time the baby monitor starts lighting up like Times Square on New Year’s. They can’t thank you or call out, except for the crying, and yet you don’t resent them.

*”You” in this case refers to good mothers and/or fathers, where such is the case. Depressingly enough, we all know some lame moms and dads.

::rolls eyes::

 

Not So Newborn

But as the children get older, parents often talk about how hard it is, how unappreciated they are.

The kids begin talking (complaining) and doing (asking you to do) more and more things for themselves, and you begin to notice all the little AND big things you do for them that go unnoticed, and without a thank you. I mean sometimes, you get a loose hug or a forced, “Thanks mom”, but more often than not, your children will take you for granted, and yet you continue to cater to their every need, demanded and unspoken alike.

They think you are a pain, or uncool, and that YOU just don’t understand what THEY are going through, what they want or what they need.*

*Some of you who know me and my family, are thinking, just wait ’til your 9-year-old daughter is a 13-year-old nightmare.

I know, I know. I have a loooooooong way to go before I’m licensed to preach, but I have learned a thing or two from my own parents along the way and from the relationships I’ve been able to observe around me.

And, unfortunately, myself to be included, we are mostly failing, not at parenting our children, but at taking care of our “Adult Kids”.

Adult Kids

What the heck is an “Adult Kid”?

And please don’t misinterpret this as a derogatory term.

As far as your parents are concerned, you will always be their “baby“, but, unfortunately, at one point in their lives the roles begin to reverse and they become an “Adult Kid”.

Several years ago, this short anecdote was brought to my attention by my father. I don’t have the original he showed me then, but there are several versions you can find around the internet. This one is from Snopes.

******

The Wooden Spoon

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson.

The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table.

But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was now served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone.

Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food from when I grow up.”

The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table.

For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family.

And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth got soiled.

Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds ever process the messages they absorb. If they see us patiently provide a happy home atmosphere for family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives.

*******

The Shift

Somehow, as we get older, our responsibility as a parent and adult becomes more important than our responsibility as sons and daughters, or even as brothers and sisters.

“We” are no longer our parent’s problem, and we’ve got our own problems to deal with. Our parents take a backseat to our own parenting. Suddenly they find themselves with no one to look after them. Suddenly, there isn’t a family unit that can depend on each other; instead, everyone has been broken off into independent sectors. To each his own.

The truth is your parents, grandparents, or even siblings may eventually become as time consuming and/or costly as your own children. They need to be taken care of; perhaps even fed, bathed, or changed; taken to the doctor or market. They need to be nurtured, talked to, and listened to just like your kids do. They need love and attention, even when it is burdensome.

No one will admit that their children can feel like a burden, because they think that will make them sound like a bad parent; however, how quick we are to express how much of a heavy load our elders have become.

Your parents would never choose to put a strain on your life, in the same way a baby doesn’t choose to come into this world.

 

100/100 or 50/50 ?

We demand so much of our parents and elders, whom rarely demanded such from us. No one is saying it is easy to care for either an infant or an elderly person; nor am I suggesting one can’t voice their discontent or frustrations. We are only human. However, we must not forget our Duty. Yes, we LOVE our family, and we should do all things out of love.

But guess what?

Love is about sacrifice, and sacrifice usually means doing something you don’t really feel like doing. I read a quote on Facebook today about marriage being 100/100, rather than 50/50. You have to be willing to give everything; and this applies to any relationship with a loved one, not just marriage.

We have to love and support each other even when it is hard and inconvenient; even when we do not think our actions will be reciprocated.

Often times our loved ones ARE aware of the lack of attention and of just how much of a hindrance they have become in our lives. To the point where some begin to wonder, “is this really living?” and “is this really worth living?”

Life can be difficult enough when you are young, healthy, and independent; imagine how it must feel for your elders, or those who are sick and dependent on others for care.

That short story really touched my heart years ago; it still gets to me every time I read it. Yet I can’t say that I have done much to change. As of late, however, it keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.

And although the main focus of this post has been that we should care for our elderly loved ones, it is really a call in general to not abandon your family. No matter the distance (please do not break out into the Backstreet Boys), no matter what may occur between you and your loved ones; forgive and forget, move on and love on.

1 John 4:20  (NIV)

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

REMEMBER: Kids are like sponges, observing and ABSORBING everything around them. Let them observe and Absorb your good ways.

Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Challenge

I challenge all (10 of you reading this) to take just 5 minutes out of each day for your parents, grandparents, or any loved ones that might need your love and attention. 5 minutes is a mere .3% of your day. YES, POINT 3 Percent. Not even 1 %!

Do the math. You spend a lot more time in the bathroom doing your necessities, so to speak; let alone on useless nonsense like social media and the internet.

::raises hand::

(Guilty as Charged)

Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.

1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NIV)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

God’s Mercy: The Shrimp Boat

5 de Junio 1980
Port of Mariel, Cuba
———-
Many waited in the large room. Among them, my parents and sister—only 10 months old at the time—my aunt, uncle and cousin.

Like pupils, they listened intently for their names, not just to indicate that they were present, but because it meant they were a few steps closer to freedom.

The summer heat only added to the bubbling tension. As each name was called, uneasy looks turned into smiles. Families, couples, men & women headed into another room. Sometimes one after the other, but more often than not, the order didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. 

The room grew empty as people rejoined each other in the other room that may as well have already been called America. 

After some time, my father found himself alone; only a few others whom he didn’t know remained.

He waited, conjectured, speculated, imagined the worst; he prayed; and then he saw my mother and sister returning with a guard. 

They hadn’t called his name. He would not be authorized to leave through the Mariel boatlift.

He had previously been imprisoned for attempting to leave the island, and now, years later despite a wife and infant, it seemed they weren’t going to let him go so easily.

My mother couldn’t speak as she approached him. Fear welled up in her eyes, and in his heart. 

He bit his bottom lip, opened his mouth, then hesitated. 

He told her to take my sister, and go ahead with my uncle.

“Tranquila,” he said and held them close as she sobbed. 

“Despidese ya, que usted no lo va a ver mas,” the guard sneered heartlessly. What joy could he find in separating a family?

She kissed him one last time. He cupped my sister’s face in his hands and kissed her forehead lightly, smelling her hair at the same time, hoping to remember her sweet face whenever he smelled the familiar baby cologne. 

My mother’s heart ached, but even at 19 she was obedient and loyal. 

My father watched them go, towards an uncertain future, but better nonetheless, even if the sea would forever lie between them.

My aunt held my sister for the majority of the trip, while my mother vomited over the edge of the boat that brought them to the United States. She was seasick the entire voyage, perhaps heartbroken and distraught by her decision as well. 

———-

Thankfully, with the help of God and the support of our families, my father was able to leave Cuba a few days later. The boat that brought my father to the United States on June 10, 1980, and would eventually reunite my father with his family, was named God’s Mercy; and so has it carried us ever since. 

———-

This is just a piece of the story of my parents exodus from Cuba; however, the sacrifice they were willing to make that day is not unlike those they have continued to make over the last 35 years. They always put their families’ needs first, above and before their own desires. My parents have been amazing examples and pillars of instruction my entire life. I am so grateful to have them both. More than anything though, I am grateful to God for his mercy and the blessings he has bestowed on our entire family.

How to get away with Mur…MARRIAGE!

How to get away with Mur…RIAGE!

Ha! Marriage!
Yes, I almost said Murder; but both go hand in hand if you ask 40-50% of the population.

MARRIAGE: It’s supposed to be a “Merry-Age”? But for a lot of people it’s more like a slow torturous death.

The plus side is you can always just pull the plug and get a divorce, RIGHT?

NO!!! This totally annoys me.

If you inherently believe that you are gonna fail at something the whole while you are attempting it, don’t you think that negativity will filter through? At the first sign of trouble, you just throw in the towel and bail?

Gosh, we’d probably still be pushing boulders around and beating each other over the head with clubs if we gave up on everything so easily.

Yes, some issues arise because people get married for the wrong reasons, or without getting to know each other well enough, and so on. But for the purpose of this blog post, let’s assume both parties are in love and genuinely believe they WANT to spend the rest of their lives together.

I always hated the phrase “Marriage takes work.” If marriage takes work, then I guess parenting is unpaid overtime, with no breaks or benefits?

I only kid (if you are single and not a parent yet).

If you ARE married and/or also in the parenting phase of your life/relationship, have Faith; be Steadfast; YOU CAN DO THIS!

How? How can I get through another day, you ask? How can I be happy, make my partner happy, and be a good parent at the same time?

Well this post has all the answers you’ve been looking for, you just have to read the whooooole thing to find out.

Okay, I lied.

It’s not easy. It takes a lot of slapping yourself in the face, and saying “Snap out of it!” And “Stop whining like a lil B—-!”

Hi. My name is Carmen.

I’m 17 years into my relationship; almost 11 years into my marriage; and 8 1/2 years into the parenting phase.

And I’m very happy with my life, marriage and family up till now. Many will say I’m happy because I haven’t gotten to the bad part yet. Why do people always wanna have a worse story than you? Wether it’s relationship stories or the horrific labor stories women tell, we are always trying to one up with the bad vibes or bad news.

Well, thankfully, we passed the “7 year itch” without a hitch. We’ve got four kids, all natural labors, 3 with epidural. And although our oldest is only 8, she is frightfully maturing at the speed of light.

Unfortunately, there’s no epidural for marriage, but you shouldn’t need one.

Here are 10 other things you can do be happy in your marriage. I say other because there are so many factors that contribute to a happy marriage.

1: Play hide & seek.
Or, as I like to call it: randomly hide from your husband and scare the crap out of him.

WARNING: while this is EXTREMELY fun, and HILARIOUS, be warned that I cannot be responsible if you get punched or kicked in the face by your frightened significant other.

Whenever I hear him coming down the hall, I find a quiet place to hide and then wait… And wait… And wait. Sometimes for several minutes.

Sounds sinister, I know, but it makes for a great laugh for the both of us, after the initial scare that is. Thankfully he seems to forget to get me back.

2: Serenade each other randomly. 

You don’t need a fancy guitar or Mariachis. Just sing in the car or at home when “your song” comes on. Or text them randomly if you hear your song or any other romantic song on the radio. And don’t discriminate if it’s “Bump and Grind”; it’s the thought that counts.

3: Say I love you when you’re just going to another room.

Say I love you a lot! NO, it does not take the meaning away! Sometimes we don’t say it enough to avoid overuse.

Are you kidding me? Do you know how many times we use the word “the” or “and” everyday? Try taking that out of   rest of this blog post see how odd it would be.

Say “I love you” often as you can.

4: Make time to be Intimate.

This should be number 1, but the order doesn’t really matter.

This is especially true once you have kids, but even before. You get married, and have jobs and responsibilities, and before you know it you could be in a slump! Do not give in to the slump. As tacky or unexciting as it may sound, set aside time to be intimate. Literally, count the days and plan for it.

As boring as that may sound, it will still be fun and exciting once you get around to it! So book your calendars just as you would a mani, pedi, or gym-time.

5: Leave little love notes for each other. 

This one is more for the ladies.

Ladies, don’t read this and say, “my guy never does that.” You see THAT is YOUR biggest problem. Stop comparing your guy to someone else’s. AND stop expecting things from him just because you do them, or want him to do them. Men are totally different animals than us. They DO NOT think the way we do. So you have to learn to interpret and appreciate the little things they do for us.

Like what?

Well, how about when they fix something around the house; deal with your car problems; maybe they let you pick a movie. Okay, maybe it’s just a show between the commercials of the football game; okay, maybe you just hold the remote. FINE! Who am I kidding, we barely have remote rights.

Also, ladies, men are terrible guessers. Just tell them what you want and stop expecting them to “know” everything.

6: Compliment each other.

Naturally, as time passes and you start to settle into the relationship, you get so comfortable you forget how attractive you once found each other. You forget about the chase because you already caught each other, and even though you still have the hots for each other, you stop saying/showing it.

This sort of goes back to number 4/1, but also leads to #7.

7: Be confident.
Too often we don’t give ourselves enough worth. We get down on ourselves because we don’t like what we see in the mirror and we ASSume the other person is unhappy with us as well.

Well, NEWSFLASH, men are easier to please than you think. NO they are not blind; you ARE NOT Miranda Kerr or Sofia Vergara, and yes they find these women very attractive. BUT nevertheless, your spouse wants YOU! So ACT like you look like Miranda Kerr, just don’t talk like Sofia Vergara (that’s just annoying). Put on something sexy no matter what you look like, and your spouse will be happily surprised!

8: Never keep track of who owes who.

Marriage is a give and take (this also goes back to number 4/1).

It’s about compromising and sacrificing.

Sometimes you will feel like you are giving more than the other person. But you aren’t supposed to keep tabs. It’s not a math equation.

You don’t give in hopes of receiving, although the saying goes “you rub my back, I’ll rub yours.” And who doesn’t love a good back rub?

You have to love the person more than yourself. If you are both truly in love, then it all balances out.

Ask my husband and he’ll confirm, “Happy Wife; Happy Life!”

9: Don’t worry about other people’s relationships.

NOBODY is perfect. No matter how “happy” people seem.

You know what makes for a great marriage?

Discretion.
Keep your problems between the both of you. Work them out together, whenever possible just between you and your spouse. Because your unconditional love will forgive many things, but your friends, family and Facebook will not be as understanding or forgiving.

10: Articles about Marriage are like Fad diets.

Their advice WORKS! But the second you atop dieting, you gain all the weight/problems back.

You see marriage is for a lifetime. There is no quick fix, or one time remedy because life takes it’s own course. You have to face obstacles and challenges as they came. It’s impossible to plan for anything.

I hope this post is somewhat helpful. If I have to pick one out of the ten as thee most important, I would go with number 4! 😉

Like Nike says,“Just Do It!” LITERALLY!

Carpe What?

When I was 5 years old, I didn’t have many aspirations-aside from laying on my back on the living room floor, drinking a bottle of yoo-hoo chocolate milk, while watching the latest Woody Wood Pecker cartoon or Chilly Willy. Seriously, who didn’t love singing, “My name is Chilly Willy. I’m frozen through and through.”

Ah, Youth!

Those. Were. The. Days!

When my biggest concern was missing the clown at the end of the year party in kindergarten, because I had caught the chicken pox from my sister. Mrs. Rodriguez had been talking about the party for weeks. It was a big deal! ::rolls eyes and grumbles:: I can’t believe I missed it.

Can you imagine the impact those last two weeks of school would have had on my life?

**********

Moving on.

I had my first crush in 3rd grade. He was funny and cute… Dumb. As. Rocks, though. He brought his dad’s credit card to school one day. He was so cool! It said his name right there on the card.

He held it up to me gleaming. The plastic coating that made the card shiny, rather than just a dull matte blue, was slightly peeling off one corner. It was just a little bit, but naturally, I pulled on it and a huge piece flaked off. It’s like a scab, and who can resist picking a scab?!?
My eyes opened wide, as did his. His face turned a bright red, and his eyes welled up.

He ignored me for weeks! Okay, so it was just a few days, but it seemed like forever. Our desks were arranged in groups of six, and ours faced each other.

We didn’t have twitter or hashtags back then, but seriously #FirstWorldProblems.

One day, when we were on speaking terms again, he said, “Meet me at the big tree after school.”

Oh my God! He likes me! I thought giddily, but somehow contained my excitement and only let out a mild, “Sure.”

I hesitated on the sidewalk that day—to the left was the field with the big tree, to the right, the pick up line.

Decisions. Decisions.

I was 8.

I pulled nervously on the black straps of my backpack and waited at the pickup line.

It was the last week of school; my last week at that school.

He didn’t say anything about it the next day.

I imagined that he had waited by the tree, and watched me drive off in my uncle’s red Buick Regal.

**********

5th grade

Another crush…

He was older, and a writer…

Stephen King. LOL! I bet you thought this post was taking a dark and twisted turn. But no, I simply fell in love with his writing and with reading in general.

I started writing poems here and there. At school we learned about Haikus. HaiWho? HaiWhat?

First they were senseless,
But with time I did catch on;
I wrote more and more.

My best friend and I would write short stories, mostly murder mysteries. We haven’t published any just yet, but any day now we’re gonna dig through those boxes of journals and notes and yearbooks, and I bet we have some real gems in there!

I also loved Archie’s Digest. My mom would always pick one up for me in the checkout line at Publix.
I always thought my best friend and I were Betty and Veronica. Her name was Veronica, but I wasn’t blonde. Well, neither of us were. Ah the point is they were best friends, and I identified us with them. Das it!
**********
7th grade

This is beginning to read more like one of my journals, and boy did I have tons of them!

Thirteen, and I’ve decided I’m gonna be a lawyer. It’s more like I was pushed into it by my father. I prepared many opening statements, and filed countless motions before him. Unfortunately, I never won any cases. He was the opposing counsel AND the judge, kinda one sided there don’t you think?

So, what do a budding teenager and her old fashioned father argue about you might ask.

For starters, anything that involves being out of the house with other people, aside from school or work, regardless of the time of day. It was harsher than it sounds.

Whether it was just hanging out at my best friend’s house, going to a movie, or roller skating at Hot Wheels, the answer was an affirmative “No!”, and only sometimes a tortured “Yes”, thanks to my mom’s nagging. Oh, and God forbid I mention the beach, or come home from the “mall” with a tan.

I just wanted to hang out with my best friend, listen to Aerosmith, and talk nonsense (but very important, best friend nonsense) over a slice of Papa John’s and some Chips Ahoy cookies.

Imagine if we had done everything we had planned back then?

We might be running a clothing store called ClothesStop. Or was it ClothesTime? It definitely would’ve been a chain of stores by now. #Forever13

**********

9th grade
Life has gotten so much easier! #SaidNoTeenagerEVER

You turn 15 and your dad turns into an even bigger drag!

My inseparable best-friend and I are now separated by way of about 26 blocks between our high schools. Not very far on a map, or driving time, but apart nonetheless….creating a gap that opened ever so slightly each day, like bolts you turn to stretch a bone. A little pain each day, until suddenly you are taller, or in this case more distant.
**********

1997
I met a boy. Well, if you ask my father, he was a man.

He did have a lot of facial hair, and chest hair, and arm hair, and leg hair.

OKAY, he was all hair, and hair meant he was not a boy. O_o

Beware the hair, mommas and poppas!

OF COURSE, I thought he was “the one”.

Father hates him? CHECK!

PERFECT!

That wasn’t really why I thought he was the one. I was young, but I was in love.
And contrary to all of my fathers…”instructions” let’s call them, I was certain that he was right for me.

I was only 15, but I was right.

***********

2003

I hit the big 2-1! I could now drink “legally”! Woohoo!

My high school sweetheart proposed on my 21st birthday, April Fool’s Day. Thankfully, it was not a prank!

But I wasn’t shocked. I did not break down in tears. Somewhere, there is footage on an old video camera that captured the moment. WHERE IS IT? I don’t know, but the important thing is: I. did. not. cry.

Am I heartless or cold-hearted? Some might say yes.

But I wasn’t. I didn’t cry because I wasn’t shocked. I loved him, and I knew he loved me. I wanted to get married eventually, but we had what mattered the most already- love and each other. So I said yes, slipped the ring on my finger, and we went upon our merry way.

We are now 10 years into the marriage and ready for Divorce…

HAHA! Just kidding. We’ve got 4 amazing kids, and I couldn’t be happier. I do cry a lot more these days, though. Once you have kids your hormones and emotions just spiral out of control. Okay, that could just be me… Moms?
My best friend is still that.

Our friendship was like a butterfly that reincarnated back to a larvae, and metamorphosed again after college. (I totally had to look up that word… Metamorphosed, doesn’t really roll off the tongue.)  We both got pregnant with our first child around the same time, and now our little caterpillars are going to grow up together. #Cliches #Metaphors

**********

Life can be exciting, but unpredictable.

My life is not perfect. It’s great; not perfect. But I am happy, nevertheless.

Do I ever question life, the whos, whys and whens? Yes, I’m only human, of course I do.

But I never regret, and I never wish to go back or relive.

You have to live your life forgetting about the “What ifs?” and instead saying, “What NOW?”
CARPE DIEM!

And that DOES NOT mean act like an idiot; live today, who can speak for tomorrow.

For me It means live for today, because yesterday is gone; what have I learned from my choices and experiences, and what can I do with them now for a better tomorrow.

Seize Change!
And while there are things that I wish had not happened in my life, or perhaps, that had just happened differently, I am certainly glad I never went to the big tree that day.

The First Tears of the Year

Today, I saw the first tears of the year.

Not mine, although I shed them pretty easily these days. Pregnant = a tad Emotional.

They were my father’s.

I have only seen my father shed tears a few times. One of the more memorable times was my wedding day.

It was almost time to walk down the aisle. Everyone left the dressing room to line up. It was just me and dad. We paced around the room quietly and finally sat down on a bench in the middle of the room. Our backs were turned to each other slightly. I looked over at him to say something, anything to break the awkward silence, and then I saw it. A tear on the corner of his eye. I looked away. But it was too late. My eyes were welling up with tears. I looked up at the ceiling and tried to think about something else so the tears would dry up. I had been just fine until then, when I realized how big this really was for him, and not just me.

Somebody came to get us at that moment. We choked the tears away as we walked down the aisle. He kissed me and handed me off to my future husband.

There have been other moments of joy of course. Too often, however, my father’s tears have been brought on by the passing of a close loved one.

My uncle, Julian Rigoberto Valdes Sanchez, passed away almost 8 years ago after a short battle with cancer. He had been sick for months before doctor’s could arrive at the right diagnosis. But, it was too late. I believe he had just one chemotherapy treatment, and then he was gone.

We visited him at the cemetery today. He would’ve been 83 years old.

My uncle was a natural teacher and leader, although many might have only seen him as a servant.

He was a simple, God-fearing soul. He didn’t care about the luxuries of this world—things he knew he couldn’t take with him. He cared about people, his friends, his family.

Tio Rigo did not know how to sit still.

Whenever he came to stay with us for a couple of days, he could never just kick back and relax. He was always in the yard, uprooting weeds, replacing old plants with new fresh ones, arguing with the gardener about the right way to trim the rose bushes. If something needed repairing he just got out the ladder and got to work. We didn’t ask him to do it, it was just his nature.

He was noble and kind, and very wise, but in a quiet unpretentious way.

I remember one day when I was about seven. He was trimming the palm trees in my parents backyard. I wasn’t much help, but ever curious, I hung around the yard, and watched him work endlessly.

He came down from the ladder after cutting a palm branch. He had a nest in his hands. Cute, except it was a rat’s nest.

There were 5-6 little babies just squirming around blindly. I knew he was going to kill them; my father was terrified of rats.

“Please don’t kill them, Tio. It’s not their fault they were born rats. They have as much a right to live as anything.”

Thinking back, I don’t think he was as shocked as he should’ve been by my reaction. He told me he would just release them somewhere else. There was always a goodness and a sincerity in his eyes. I don’t know what he really did with the nest, but he loved and respected me enough to let me believe he would spare them. He was a hero that day.

Another time, many, many years later, one of my pet turtles died. Mr. Turtle, who was actually a Mrs., was 5 years old. My husband had given her to me when we started dating. She was obviously very special to me. I buried her in the backyard, even made a little makeshift cross with some twigs to mark her little mound. It was really very silly.

But, a couple of days later, I walked outside and found my uncle kneeling down in front of Mrs. Turtle’s tiny grave. He was praying. I couldn’t believe it. It was something anyone else would’ve just walked past and ignored, but he took the time to acknowledge it. He lowered himself on his knees to pay respect to my pet.

That was my uncle. He never presumed himself to be above anyone or anything. He was a humble servant, son, brother, father, grandfather… my uncle.

“Not many people can say they had a brother like Rigo,” my father said looking away from my uncle’s grave. We slowly walked away.

My father has lost other siblings, and he has suffered dearly with each passing, but Tio Rigo, I think, was something more. A father figure perhaps, rather than just a brother.

And I can’t imagine losing my father.

Construction

This weekend we attended a destination wedding in Colombia.

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We overcrowded a large chiva bus that drove us around town blasting music. There was dancing in the aisles, and much cheering each other on as we, unsanitarily, gulped whiskey from a bottle we passed around; several bottles, actually. We wore printed straw party hats and colorful thematic necklaces with traditional Colombian designs—elephant masks & bull heads.

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I watched a friend’s husband as he gazed at her from across the torn leather seats of the chiva bus. At some point during the excitement of cheering, dancing and exchanging saliva and liquor, they had been separated.

He searched for her through the people dancing and drinking in the aisle. She didn’t notice him staring so earnestly at her. He smiled. Maybe it was partly his loins that yearned for her. After all, the next night he would jokingly hump our table at the reception after a little borrachera from one too many drinks and cigars. But right now, it was his eyes that smiled, admiring her beauty as she laughed and clapped at those around her.

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We held tight to the champagne bottle bubble favors the coordinator had handed us at the door of the church. We waited excitedly for the moment we could start blowing bubbles. Not so much because it meant our two friends were now united forever by GOD, but because blowing bubbles is fun, Damn it! A few of my friends, okay just one of them, innocently blew bubbles into the aisle before it was “time”. What a rebel! We laughed.

The clear christmas lights adorning the white rose and hydrangea arrangements along the aisle, shone hopefully through the tiny spheres that drifted above our heads.

We listened intently as the happy couple repeated their vows to each other sweetly. The groom stuttered nervously as he said,”Fi.. Fide.. Fi…Fi… Fidelidad.

I think we all wanted to shout the word as he stumbled through it. Fidelity is probably not the part of your vows you want to falter on, but it was innocent nerves.

His bride sailed through her vows seamlessly, but we aren’t gonna read into that. 😉

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Later, I watched my newly wed friends on the dance floor. The bride smiled affectionately as she sang to her husband. All eyes were on them as they belted romantic lyrics to each other, spinning each other around, sometimes fast, sometimes slow; at arms length, then real close. They saw only each other.

They danced throughout the night; and always, love danced in their eyes.

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Another friend, overjoyed for the happy couple, chose Patron for her celebratory toast(s). Her other half watched as she poured another glass on the rocks, then swayed her way to the dance floor where she and other friends danced energetically.

He reveled in how she enjoyed herself—dancing, laughing and taking pictures.

Did she have a bit too much tequila? Maybe.

But he never said a word; he never flinched; he never grimaced as she teeter tottered across the dance floor to use the bathroom. But, he was there to help walk her to their room, to take care of her in sickness, in hangover, and in health.

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Me and my better half sat together most of the night. I’m not big on dancing in general; the fact that 95% of the music was salsa, merengue or other Latin beat, didn’t help.

A chicken with its head cut off has more rhythm than I do.

We shared a celebratory cigar on a balcony just outside of the reception hall. (I took 3 puffs. Spicy is all I have to say. Mouth on FIRE! Adventurous moment over.)

We were alone.

We chatted and gossiped. We laughed and flirted. Looked at each other, looked away. We held hands, we held each other. We kissed.

We didn’t stare off into the sunset. The view was mainly building sites that had just broken ground; other edifices, only 3 to 4 stories into the process; and some, just sites sectioned off for future use.

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Love, like construction, changes and grows; just never stop building.