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Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

My nephew almost died last week. He’s still in the hospital but he’s much better and should be going home in another three or so days. He presented with what appeared to be an ear infection but turned out to be viral meningitis. Had they not drained the fluid around his brain when they did, he would have died within just a few hours, according to the doctors. Pretty scary.

I spoke to my sister-in-law earlier today and she was frustrated because they wouldn’t let her visit him because of the fear of the flu and her age. She’s in her seventies and not in the best of health so if she were to contract the flu, it could be fatal. We’re having such a bad strain of it this year that it’s not a good idea to tempt the fates. She said she felt like having him walk to one of the windows where she could see him from outside, just so she would have the satisfaction of seeing him for herself. That’s what mamas need.

It reminded me of when that same sister-in-law was in the hospital with the birth of my second niece (from that brother’s side). My first niece was staying with us. I was in high school. My sister-in-law wanted to see her but the hospital didn’t allow children, not even siblings, in to visit. So we did the next best thing. My brother and I drove my niece to the hospital. He went up to my sister-in-law’s room and wheeled her to the window where she could see the car we were in. Then I pulled her out and held her up so her mommy could see her and pointed out her mommy to her. There were tears on both ends but they got to see one another and luckily it was only a couple of days before they were all together in the same room, at home.

Those are the little things that we forget about until years later when they come flying back into our memories. Little things. Little things that mean so much at the time. Little memories, but so important.

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When a priest’s mother dies, all the clergy in town show up. This funeral had 65 priests in the procession. Fourteen or so are bishops. About nine are cardinals. And one is an arch bishop.

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coffee2
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If we were having coffee this week, I think I might have to try some tea. Since my surgery, I haven’t been able to enjoy coffee. First I couldn’t even think of having any then when I did, it just didn’t taste good anymore. I think I have had two good cups of coffee in over three weeks. And they were only partial cups because I couldn’t finish the rest of it. Oh well, it’s a good think I also like tea. I think I’ll try some mint or some chamomile. They both remind me of growing up. We always had mint growing in our yard, wherever we lived. When we needed or wanted mint tea, it was there for the picking, nice and fresh. I also love cold, iced mint tea in the summer time. Yum! My mom always reached for the “manzanilla” tea, which is chamomile, whenever we had anything wrong with us, headache, cramps, stomach ache, anything. The cure for all was always manzanilla.

If we were having coffee today, the day before Mother’s Day in the U.S., I would ask you about your mom. Any favorite memories? Anything funny? What about something that irks or used to irk you about your mom? I miss my mom. She lives in way, way, southern California (Hemet, CA). I haven’t seen her since last summer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2013. From then on, I made it a point to go down there and spend a week or two every two or three months. However, because of my own health issues, I haven’t been able to go. I miss her. She has lived a long life and is a fighter. She’s 83 and has had two mastectomies, chemo, and radiation, all in the last 18 months.

If we were having coffee today, I would tell you that it’s a pretty nice day outside. At least it looks like it. I haven’t been out since Tuesday when I went to the hospital for my post-op visit. It was raining then. It seems like the nice days only come when I am confined to quarters! I’m getting stir crazy. It will probably be another couple of weeks before my abdominal muscles are strong enough to drive. And I’m still too weak to go for a walk. I’m thinking I am going to try to take a short walk with the walker today. Just a couple of houses down and back. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do much more than that without a problem. I hope the weather holds up long enough for me to do that.

Well, if we were having coffee today, I guess I would check with you and see what your schedule is. I don’t want to keep you too long. I know everyone is busy, either with work or with enjoying leisure time. I don’t want to keep you from either. What do you have going today? Tomorrow? Will you be celebrating Mother’s Day?

If you’re a mom, or a dad who has/is raising his kids without a mom, I celebrate you! I wish you a wonderful day!

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Hair

When I turned 40 in December of 1995, my oldest daughter started telling me that I should cut my hair because I was too old for long hair.  I didn’t like the idea of short hair.  I’ve always had long hair.  Almost always, that is.   For a short while, during my second year in college, I cut my hair short and had it in an Afro.  That was about as daring as I got.  I let it grow out for a long time then cut it short again, although not as short, when I was a very young mother of two.  Short hair was so much easier and quicker to handle so I did it for convenience, but I haven’t ever liked short hair (except the Afro was kinda cool and it was the 70’s).

Now, all these years later, my hair has been on my mind.  I feel it’s time for a change but what change should that be?  I’ve thought of letting it go gray.  I have to dye it about every four to five weeks or it’s way, way, gray.  However, because my hair is naturally so dark (just this side of black) that letting it go gray will put it in a very awkward condition until it goes completely gray…I’m guessing months and months to let it go sufficiently gray.  That’s too long to have it in limbo.

Recently, I wondered if maybe cutting it short and letting it go gray would be easier because the short hair will turn gray much quicker than the long hair.  Or at least that’s what I was thinking.  I decided to go down to the salon where I have gone for hair cuts (really just a trim) since I moved here four years ago.  They have a senior discount day on Tuesdays so it’s much cheaper.  I’ve had my hair colored there before, too.   This time, the girl that has done it previously was not in but the manager was there and I showed her the picture I had found with short but not too short hair and told her the color I wanted.  She seemed to understand and I knew she was the person that everyone there called with questions about hair color when they couldn’t figure it out so I figured it would be okay.

Then she started cutting my hair.  She was fast.  Very fast.  Before I knew it (like in less than a minute) my hair was about three inches shorter than I had asked her to leave it and it was wet which meant that when it dried, it would be shorter.  Ouch.  I told her it was short enough.  Don’t take any more off.  Then came the coloring.  She turned my chair away from the mirror so I never saw what she was doing.  When she had finished and combed it out and dried it and styled it, the color was not right.  The lighting was bad in there too so it was hard to tell.  She told me she would re-do it for me at no charge if I didn’t like it after a few days.  I walked out of there and to my car and on the way home, the sun came out and I could tell in the rear view mirror that the color was awful.  Awful.  A.W.F.U.L.  It was a very light brown with a kind of pink tint to it.  Horrible.  Hideous.  Barf-inspiring.

Not only did my daughter look at me funny but my grandson wouldn’t go anywhere near me that afternoon.  Even when I talked to him it didn’t seem to register that it was me.  He stayed away from me that day.  I was so upset I didn’t want to be seen in public with my hair that color.

I was the first one at the salon when they opened the next day and within minutes she was working on my hair again.  She dyed it again and got it the right color and she fixed the hairdo so that it wasn’t all one short length.  I had her layer it so it had some kind of shape and style to it.  I left there much happier. 

I know it will grow out; maybe not as soon as I would like but it will grow out.  As far as the color, I think I’ll keep dying it.  I’m not ready to go through the drama and stress of all this hair business yet.  Not yet.  Not quite yet.

So much for listening to my daughter, who by the way, now says I should keep my hair long even if I’m too old for long hair.

 

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Yesterday was a really stressful and emotional day.  I ended up having to take my daughter to the Emergency Room and sitting there with her for a little over three hours.  In the end, she’s okay and the baby is okay.  She’s just under too much stress.  I think it has been building up over the past four months and the last week has been particularly bad.  I guess I’m glad she ended up in there because maybe now this will serve as the warning she needed to slow down, think about her options, herself and her baby.  Of course this is easier said than done and it is her life so I won’t add to her stress by trying to influence her.  I just have to be there to support her and stand by her.  If I had my choice, I’d rather go strangle a particular neck but that’s not going to happen.

When I finally got home about 9 in the evening, I read the news about Patrick Swayze’s death.  It came over a friend’s post on Face Book.  I knew it was coming.  I just didn’t know when or how it would hit me when it did.

Dirty Dancing is one of my all time favorite movies.  It is probably around number five on my list.  Why?  I think, for me, there were lots of reasons.  It was released in 1987.  I was 31 years old.  It was a time when I was a housewife with two kids under 5 and feeling neglected, ignored, unappreciated, well you get my drift.  Then there was the music.   Wow!  I still want to get up and dance every time I hear the soundtrack, especially I’ve Had the Time Of My Life.  The story was another attention grabber for me.  I was always Miss Goody Two Shoes.  Not doing anything wrong, wild, or fun!  I always wanted to just hit that dance floor and never sit down but that would bring attention to me and my parents raised me to not ever bring attention to myself, either positive or negative attention.  Then there was the story of the love story between Baby and Johnny.   The dancing.  I have always loved dancing.  In college, once I was away from my parents, I learned to dance to all sorts of music that never played on the stereo in my parents’ house.  I wanted to move.  My body wanted to follow the beat of the music.  My spirit craved to be allowed to show who I was inside.

There were lots of reasons.  I think that the movie  is somewhat symbolic to me.  I know it’s the film that makes me smile and sway and want to get up and dance.  It reminds me that just because someone acts in a way that is against the accepted norm it does not make them a bad person.  The accepted norm is not the only  right or good way.

Then there was Johnny Castle…Patrick Swayze.  No one can deny the man could move.  No one can deny that he could act (although many do, okay mostly guys).  He had solid good looks.  He had a wonderful singing voice.  He was, in my eyes, a nearly perfect package.

I think that every girl melted when Johnny Castle walked over to Baby’s parents’ table and said, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”  Who doesn’t want someone to stand up for them?!  There’s a lot more to this reason but I’ll save that for another post.  But when he delivers that line, we all melt (okay, except for the guys).  We all want someone to fight for us.  We all want someone to speak up and out for us.  At least I always did.  I’ve not had that.  I’ve not ever felt that someone was sticking up for me; that someone was willing to fight for me.  Not since my brother David beat up the kids that threw a baseball at my head when I was in first grade.

That’s what this movie did for me.  That’s why it’s more special than Ghost or The Outsiders or anything else he did.

Tonight, when ABC airs Barbara Walters’ repeat of the interview with Patrick Swayze, I’ll be turning ABC off and putting in my Dirty Dancing DVD.

And it reminds me that the next time a certain person messes with my daughter, I will fight for her and I will stick up for her and if necessary, this fat little old lady will knock his lights out.  Nobody messes with my baby!

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Note: For part one, click here.

…My escape route emerged like an early Christmas present.

I was always getting called to the office for Student Body business or some club function.  At times, when the office staff was short-handed, I would be called in to help run the switchboard, which I had done since my sophomore year.  One day, about two weeks after the Junior Miss Pageant,   I was called in to see Mr. Cordova in the office.  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me so I went to the front office to see the Assistant Principal in charge of Student Affairs, which in my case meant my Student Body job.   I liked Manny Cordova.  He was one of my “pals” at school, although I didn’t know him as well as I knew some of the other administrators and teachers with whom I had positive relationships.  Manny Cordova’s  office door was always open and he always said the kindest and most appropriate things to me.  He was the only Latino administrator at the school and as such, he was often the only one who understood me and my family and the cultural aspects surrounding us.

I walked into the outer office and Mr. Cordova stood there with five or six other students, all Juniors.  I was the last one there and they were waiting for me.  He told us all, “I know this is short notice but I have a couple of recruiters from Stanford University in my office.  They want to talk to our best students and you’re it.  They’ll talk to you all together then to each of you separately.  I’ve already given them your transcripts so just go in and listen and ask questions.”

The others started to walk into his office but I hung back waiting to talk to Mr. Cordova.  “Mr. C, I’m a Senior.  This is a waste of time.  It’s too late for me to apply.  Besides, they only want really smart people there and it’s too expensive.  My family doesn’t have the money for Stanford.  I don’t want to talk to them.”

“Go listen to them.  Please.  As a favor to me.  It’s not too late.  The deadline is January 5.  That gives you the Christmas break to fill out the application.  Your counselor and I will help you, even over the break.  And as for money, haven’t you ever heard of scholarships?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to waste my time.  Mr. Cordova persisted. I couldn’t believe it.  He was usually so easy going but now he was actually kind of strong arming me!  “Come on.  I’ll make a deal with you.  I know you don’t like P.E.  If you go in and talk to the recruiters, I’ll give you a pass so you can get out of P.E. for the rest of the week.  Deal?  That’s three days of no P.E.  Okay?”

“Okay.  You’ve got a deal!  I’ll go in but I’m telling you, it’s a waste of time.”

Within half an hour, the recruiters, who were both current Stanford students, had called the Admissions Office at Stanford and the January 5th deadline to turn in the admissions application had been extended to February 15th and the fifty dollar application fee had been waived.  I still wasn’t sure it was worth my time and effort but I did take the application packet home.  I did not really intend to apply but I had promised Mr. Cordova that I would take it home and look it over. That evening my mother saw the application materials on my bed with all of my books and homework.  She asked me what I had to do to apply and if it cost any money to apply.  I answered her questions.  She said she wanted me to apply.  In fact, she said, I had to apply.  She wanted me to have the opportunity to go to Stanford.  We lived in San Jose, a half hour away from Stanford and we had often driven on to the campus in the past, admiring the buildings and the beauty of the school site.  My mother said she had always dreamed of one of her children going to Stanford.  If I got in, we would somehow find a way for me to go.  Even if she had to sell the house, she would find a way for me to go.  She made me promise to fill it out.

My escape path pursued me and in April of 1974, I got the two most important pieces of mail.  One, the welcome to the Stanford Class of 1978 and the second telling me I had been awarded a full scholarship that would cover 100% of the tuition for my four years.

And escape I did.

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At Seventeen~Part One

December of 1973 was a turning point in my life.  I was seventeen.

At seventeen I should have been having fun.  I should have been carefree.  Instead, at seventeen I was worrying about my mother. At seventeen I was concerned with school and my future but also with my mother’s future.  She cried a lot.  She missed my father.  She hated him.  She loved him.  She was confused about her life and what would happen to it.  She was also enjoying her life for the first time in a long time.  She was finally alone, without my father, for the first time since she married him at age sixteen.  My sisters and I included her when we went places, like weddings and dances.  We were having fun, too.  My father was always very strict and never allowed us to go any place.  We couldn’t date.  We couldn’t leave the house without some kind of supervision.  My father had left months before for what was to be a two week trip and had not returned.  Without him, my mother was a lot less strict.  She let us go places and a lot of the times, she went with us.  During those times that she went with us, she was distracted and less sad and it made us, her four daughters, glad that she was not crying.

When Mr. Flanagan, my counselor called me in to tell me about tryouts for the Junior Miss Pageant. I considered it for just a few minutes, before putting it out of my mind.  But, my sister knew.  She was in the first year Journalism class which met at the same time and in the same room as the fourth year Journalism and Newspaper staff room.  I was on the Tribune staff and my sister knew I had been called to the office for the pageant information.  That night my mother asked me about the pageant because my sister had told her.  I told her if I wanted to do it, there was an application to fill out and then I would have to show up at a meeting for information and an interview the following Saturday.  She surprised me when she said I could go.  I had not even thought of filling out the application.  So when she said that she wanted me to do it, I filled out the application and my mom signed it.

After making it through three rounds of pre-selection, I was officially one of twenty contestants for the pageant and I started to dream.  That month was filled with rehearsals, public appearances, including the Thanksgiving parade through the streets of downtown San Jose.  I was also working part time at Sears, after school and some weekends.  Luckily, I had committed to the pageant before committing to Sears so when they hired me, I told them up front that I was in the pageant and would need to work around pageant rehearsals.  They agreed.  My month was very hectic but it was a happy hectic.

Finally, the night of the pageant arrived and so did my father.  He had finally made it home with no idea of what was going on with the pageant.  From the moment he drove in the driveway, he was angry.  When he found out about the pageant that night and me being in it, he became even angrier.  He didn’t want me to go.  My mother and I explained all about the pageant.  My mother assured him it was very decent and nothing to be ashamed of.  We told him it was too late to cancel.  Tickets had been sold and we had friends and relatives coming.  My teachers and counselor from school would be there.  I had to show up.  We pleaded with him to let me go.

Two hours later we were on our way and he was seething.  He was so mad at me that he began to back out of the driveway before I was completely inside of the car. I asked him to wait as I pulled my formal length gown inside the car and shut the door.  He cursed at me.

He was angrier than I had seen him in a long time.  I knew he would not like the idea of me being in the pageant but somehow I had not imagined this anger.  He was swearing and he rarely did that in front of us.  He swore in Spanish.  He swore in English.  His driving was reckless, which in itself was nothing new but he was different that night.  He was intentionally driving dangerously and it scared us all.

We were late.  The Civic Auditorium was just a short drive but we had left late and I had already been nervous because of the pageant.  Now I was not only nervous but terrified that we would have an accident before we even got there and it would be all my fault.  His constant barrage of cursing had me fighting tears.  My mother was upset.  She sat stiffly but I could sense that inside she was crying, too.  This was supposed to be an enchanting night for me and instead it had turned into a nightmare.

Then he said it.  He had called me all kinds of names but then he finally said it.  He called me a whore.  He said I looked like a puta in my dress and makeup.  I couldn’t answer.  I couldn’t tell him that I had to have extra makeup so it would show in the audience.  I would be under stage lights and I had to have that extra makeup.  I was shaking and trying to figure out what would happen when I got to the Civic.  I was already late and I knew I would have to wash off my face and start all over with my makeup.  I didn’t want him to see me sitting behind him like a small heap in the corner of the back seat.  I was glad for the darkness of the December night.  I wished he had not gotten back when he did.  I wished he had not ever come back.

Irene sat next to me and gave me a Kleenex.  No one said a word.  I could feel them sitting stiffly.  Gilda was sniffling.  There were lots of silent tears inside that car.  I tried to look at my mother.  She was shaking but she wouldn’t ever challenge him.  What he said to me, his cold, belittling words hovered over us inside the car.  Why didn’t Mom defend me?  Why did she always let him get away with beating us and calling us names?  Tonight had been the worst.  I was the good daughter.  I was the respectful daughter. I was the smart daughter.  I was the daughter that caused no problems and yet, tonight he treated me like this.  What had I done?  It would not be for months and months that I would discover or be allowed to discover why he behaved so cruelly on that night.

We got to the Civic and I asked him to drop me off before parking so I could run and check in.  Without uttering a word he pulled over to the curb.  I got out of the car and as I turned to close the door, I glimpsed my sisters’ faces and my mother’s.  They knew how I felt.  Their faces wished me luck, their voices remained silent.

I checked in and the woman in charge, Ginny, helped me with my makeup and told me not to think about anything that had happened.  I hadn’t told her what my father had said or that he had been angry.  I was embarrassed and so I told no one, but she could see that something was wrong.   She told me to think only of the show ahead of me that evening.

I don’t remember much of what happened that night but in my mind I have a clear memory of having to instantly put on a big, fake smile as I walked through the curtain at the rear of the auditorium.   I joined the procession of girls sauntering down the aisle to the tune of “The Girl From Ipanema” and as I walked I held a single red rose and the stinging memory of the drive earlier that evening.

That night was the beginning of the end of my life at home.  I knew then that I had to get out.  The coming weeks would only strengthen that need.  Two weeks after the night of the Junior Miss Pageant, my escape route emerged.

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