A Stroke Of Love: Dealing With An Aging Loved One

 

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morguefile.com

His eyes fight the strong urge to stay open as I stroke his hair.  He wants to stay awake but the power and comfort of the human touch is too much to bear.  When I stop, he opens them again as if to ensure that I am not leaving his side.  I continue.  

The love I feel for this man is beyond comprehension yet so familiar to a love I once felt for another wonderful man, my father.  I wasn’t there the day my father died but I was there on many other days by his side, giving him all the love I had in me and more.  I left his side on a Sunday to go back to my family and he died the next day.  Thankfully, he did not die alone.

This man whose hair I stroke is my father-in-law; a man I’ve known since my teen years.  The man who raised my husband and who along with his wife, produced six of the most caring, compassionate, and hard-working men I know.   A legend in his community  known for his devotion to the town he loves and to the thousands of children whose lives he touched, while presiding over the town’s baseball leagues. Beloved by many, respected by all.

Watching this larger than life figure succumb to the inevitable and unforgiving force that is aging, is heartbreaking, to say the least.  A sight too familiar to me and one no one can truly prepare for.  

His mind and memory sharply in tact serving more as a burden than a blessing making him fully aware of his daily weakening and decline. A once fiercely active and independent man who now depends on others for all of his needs.  His dignity constantly threatened as he watches his grandchildren treat him differently in their struggle to recognize familiarity and comfort in the grandpa they once knew. 

I find my body shaking sometimes with fear and sadness for what is to come.  Intellectually, I know it is part of the cycle of life, a stage which is often celebrated and thought of as a journey to another bigger and better life.  But right now I can’t find that belief, I only have deep sadness for what was and what is to be.

He is a feisty fighter and stubborn as a mule, having survived recent major surgery to treat his cancer as well as heart surgery years back.  They don’t make them like him anymore.  He lived through the Depression, never complained about his life, hardly took a vacation and was ahead of his time in his ability to accept other’s differences with integrity and respect.  A model citizen and human being.

I cannot help but reflect on two particular memories I have with him.  While my husband and I were dating, true to his farmer background, he informed my husband that I was a good catch because I had good “onions”.  Little did I know that farming references would be a constant part of his repertoire throughout his life.  The other memory is of the time I had to host my first Thanksgiving, as a newlywed.  We are a big family but I did not think we were as big as he thought we were until (after offering to buy the turkey for me), he showed up at our door with a 30 pound bird.  Needless to say, I cried and called my mother for help as I tried to handle the beast.

The weeks ahead will be extremely difficult as we all navigate the ups and downs we continue to face.  I have got to gain the strength to accept what is and to support my husband and his family.  I will do anything I can to be there for him.  I will continue to offer my love and compassion to a man who I feel blessed to have known for so long.  He has loved me unconditionally and opened his arms to me from the day we met. And as long as he allows it, I will continue to stroke the full glorious head of silver hair he has, until he falls peacefully asleep. 

 

 

 

 

 

One Step Closer To Feeling Whole

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brickhousechick.com

Every time I travel back to my hometown, I learn something new about my upbringing and my ancestors.  It feels like a piece of the puzzle, that is my life, fitting nicely into its proper place.  The dots are easier to connect and I can feel myself closer to becoming whole.

Even though I left Puerto Rico at the age of nine, the minute I step off the plane and into the warm and welcoming ground of this island, my heart does a happy skip and I am where I belong.  I feel at home.  The smells, the sounds, the people, the music and the food are like no other anywhere.  A place where the flavor and way of living are as unique as the people that inhabit it.

As I sat with my dear mother reminiscing about old times yesterday,  I learned more about the life she led as a child and the experiences she had growing up.

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Lares flickriver.com

Her family lived about 2 hours from the metropolitan area of San Juan, high in the mountainous town of, Lares.  A small agricultural town in the western part of the island.  Her father (significantly older than her mother) owned acres of farm land where he had a coffee plantation, grew sugar cane and raised cattle.  His farm was a successful and lucrative business that allowed him, his wife and three daughters to enjoy a comfortable life.

I learned that he housed his farmers and their families on the land, in houses he built for them.  As a result, he had incredibly loyal employees that made sure the crops were well taken care of.  My mother remembers jumping in her father’s jeep with him as he surveyed the crops and worked along with his farmers.  She too would join in to help.

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flickr.com

The process of growing coffee was an arduous one that required skill and the proper timing to protect the beans from decaying in too much moisture.  Every morning they would spread out the beans on cement glacis (a surface with a slope) to dry them in the sun.  They would rake the beans and turn them to ensure that all sides would dry.  My mother remembers that almost every day at noontime, it would rain.  She would help as the laborers quickly gathered the beans and put them into covered barrels before the rain began.  Once the rain would stop they would set the beans back on the slopes to dry some more.

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archivofotograficodepuertorico.com

Maintaining the sugar cane and harvesting it was also time consuming and hard labor.  She recalls when fires would break out in the fields and the workers would rush to cut the leaves off of the remaining canes in order to save the rest of the crop from burning.  Her father supplied the coffee and sugar cane to various manufacturers around the island.

As the youngest of the three daughters, when she was not helping at the farm, my mother spent a lot of time by herself.  Her sisters were five and six years older and did not welcome their younger sister to join them in their activities, particularly during their teen years when  going to parties and dances was more appealing than playing with their little sister.  As a result, my mother had two imaginary best friends.  Mary and Bette.  She spent hours upon hours playing with them and including them in her daily activities all the while,  entertaining herself.  A skill that helped her later in life and contributed to her being remarkably resourceful in all aspects of her life.

Her mother was ahead of her time in that she had a vision for the modern and the latest fashions and used her talents to do most of everything by hand.  She was a skilled seamstress and would make her daughters beautiful gowns to be worn at balls and grand events.  She tells me of days when her mother would wait for her father to leave the house in the mornings, so that she could secretly make her daughters’ gowns in preparation for dances he had yet to give them permission to attend.  She kept a hidden trunk filled with her sewing machine and fabrics and would get to work as soon as he left the house.  As the event neared and the sisters waited for his permission (sometimes not until the very day of the event), if he allowed them to go, they had beautiful gowns ready and waiting to be worn.  An unspoken and unplanned agreement her mother and father had among themselves, each feeling satisfied that they had gotten their way.

Pasteurizadora

equindeca.com

Fresh milk from their cows was on their dining room table every day.  Unpasteurized and hard to swallow, the sisters would beg to pair their mandatory drink of choice with some sort of a sweet treat.  At times, their father would not allow for such sweets and watched to make sure they drank their full glass of milk.  My mother remembers being giddy with joy the day her father showed up from a trip to San Juan with a pasteurizing machine to be placed on their kitchen counter for their use.  Alas they could enjoy their milk.

As I listen to more accounts of my mother’s childhood, I cannot help but feel a deeper understanding of why I am the way I am.  I have a better grasp as to the influences that shaped my mother and in turn, her children. The stories leave me wanting further insight into the lives of my ancestors who left their mark on this beautiful island by contributing to its growth and livelihood.

No place is perfect and God knows Puerto Rico has its problems and challenges, but in spite of the uncertain economic future it faces, there is a past and a present that cannot be overlooked.  A land rich in culture and pride where family comes first and where outsiders are welcome with open arms so they can share in the beauty and uniqueness that is, Puerto Rico.

I have another week left of my visit and I look forward to learning more about my past and getting closer to understanding what has made me the person I am.

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Gay Men

i.marbella.com It's Raining Men

i-marbella.com
It’s Raining Men

Who doesn’t have that gay friend/relative who is so much fun to hang out with?  I hope you do because let me tell you, I love my gay men.

I have always instantly bonded with gay men.  For some reason they love me.  I can’t explain why that is but I immediately love them back.  The gay men I know are like the bffs you always wanted without the competition.  Girlfriends rock too but there is nothing like a gay friend.

When I am in the presence of gay men I can let my guard down and completely relax.  I know they are not “checking me out” and don’t have an ulterior motive (like wanting to get in my pants.)  At least I think they don’t – although some have been questionable.

Of course, my all-time favorite gay men in the world happen to be my brother in-laws.   Mr. B’s brother M, is the most loving and caring soul you will meet.  Cultured, hard-working, kind and always willing to step up when needed. I always joke that I married the wrong brother because M is always watching out for me.  His husband, G is quite the character.  He lights up a room as soon as he enters it.  I am in awe of his positivity and happy demeanor.  He doesn’t have a shy bone in him and is a Jack of all trades.  There is nothing G can’t and won’t do.  They have both worked hard at getting our family together and love us all to the moon and back.

M & G are exactly the kind of people you want to hang out with.  They are fashion-savvy, love theater, fine dining (and drinking) and will complement you all day long.  I always feel fabulous when I am in their presence.

Did I tell you the time they invited all the sister-in-laws (5 of us) to their beautiful home in DC for a weekend? They greeted us all at the airport with a single rose for each one of us (the producers of the show, The Bachelor, obviously copied the idea from them.)  As we settled into our bedrooms we saw that there were gift/swag bags (like at the Oscars) for us.  Get the hell out, right?  Inside were gift cards to spas, restaurants, shops and tickets to a show.  The menus for the weekend were printed in nice paper and posted on the fridge for all to see.  Can you say completely pampered and spoiled?  As a bonus, some of their gay friends came over for dinner one night and I laughed so hard that my cheeks were in severe pain for several days following.

There are other gay men I have bonded with.  Like the waiter in a fine restaurant that was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my life.  I asked Mr. B permission to tell this waiter exactly how beautiful he was (in the event he had not realized this fact about himself.)  He thanked me for the compliment and we flirted all night.  Oh, I forgot to mention that this was a special dinner and anniversary Mr. B and I were celebrating.  Oops.

Then, there was the time at a gay bar in Provincetown when my new buddy, Madonna The Transvestite, introduced herself to me and told me how much he/she loved me and wanted to party with me, that is, until she looked down at my feet and saw that I was wearing Crocs.  The look of horror in her face said it all.  She informed me that we could not be friends after all because she did not “do” Crocs and was clearly appalled.  She did have a point.

Dancing to my favorite song, Brick House inside an elevator with a hilarious gay guy I had recently met is also up there as one of my most memorable gay-men experiences.  

The new memory to add to my gay-men collection happened a couple of days ago while on vacation with family, including M & G.  It was the last night of vacation and there were only four of us left at the house.  M & G had made reservations at a fabulous restaurant they had been to before.  This was a new quaint farm to table restaurant only serving two seatings.  One at 5:30 and one at 8pm.  We arrived right at 8:00 and were given complimentary Prosecco as we took our seats.  

Every seat was filled including a large table that seated a group of about 14 men.  My ears perked up as I listened to them talk.  As we ate our seven exquisite courses each paired with the right wines, I had to visit the ladies’ room.  Low and behold, can you believe that I had to walk past the table of gay men to use the facilities?  On my way back I stopped at the table and commented on their good looks and fun gathering.  That was it.  It was love at first sight (with all of them) and I instantly became their bff.  They greeted me, serenaded me and took selfies with me.  Mr. B came to my rescue ( though I didn’t really need rescuing) and he was also given a warm welcome followed by some…catcalling.  Oh, they LOVED Mr. B and he was a great sport about it all.  By the end of the night, we all were hugging, kissing and taking more pictures together.   Another wonderful evening with M & G and the other gay men.

As an aside, I also love gay women and have my share of fun stories with them, but today is all about the men.  In particular M & G whom I absolutely adore.  

As new laws are passed and walls are torn down along the journey to a more loving and accepting society, what really matters is that we love the person for who they are, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.   I am blessed to have met wonderful people along this journey and am a better person because of it.

Do you have a gay bff?

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias

mipequenosanjuan.com

mipequenosanjuan.com

Apologies for being MIA, for I have been busy hosting my Big Fat Hungry Happy Alcoholic & Dysfunctional Puerto Rican Family all week, in preparation for the Thanksgiving Holiday!

I am cherishing every Gin & Tonic second of our time spent together and enjoying their company.

I am eternally grateful for my loved ones and the many blessings I have.

I am also especially grateful for all of you and the gracious friendship and compassion you bless me with, always.

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias

Comes Home A Young Man

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He is born one month early, a bit underweight.  His eyes are wide open, his apgar score an 8.

A content precious infant,  sleeping away.  Cries only heard when he needs us, smiles and giggles most every day.

Belly is filled with oodles of love, legs try to bounce and hop.  Curiosity takes over his hungry mind, questions bombarding non stop.

Wants to be just like his daddy, but adores his mom just the same.  School is a new adventure as he starts to “play the game”.

Bathroom words are hilarious, he can’t stop reciting them at bay.  As parents we try to be serious but laugh because, what can we say?

Balls, swords and bikes are a plenty, as he figures it out on his own.  Soon the pimples start showing and maybe even a broken bone.

Deodorant is a blessing in a house that is quite small, dirty socks on the table, underwear in the hall.

Car keys go missing and worries increase, he prefers his friends now and tries hard to please.

Twelve years of school soon come to an end.  Who is this young boy graduating, wasn’t he just ten?

The time has now come, to leave the cozy nest.  College is upon him and all of the rest.  He leaves apprehensive, anticipation is high.  He loves his family but it is time to say goodbye.

His parents and sister mourn his sweet presence, dinners are quieter, dirty socks missing.   He appreciates his family and becomes their biggest fan.

He leaves as a teen and comes home a young man.

Extreme Couponing and Re-u$ing Dental Flo$$

morguefiles

morguefiles

A$ I help my daughter fill out college application$ and navigate through her $enior year, all I $ee are $$$$$$$$ $ign$!

My $on will be a Junior in college next year and my daughter a fre$hman.  GULP.  Thi$ college thing co$t$, mucho dinero!

It’$ time to tighten my belt and $ave wherever I can.

I decided to check out couponing – of the extreme variety that i$ – becau$e well, I love extreme$.

OMG.  Have you people watched the Extreme Couponing $how?

depositphotos

depositphotos

Thi$ i$ how it work$:

Fir$t, you clip (make other$ do the clipping) thou$and$ of coupon$ including one$ for $tuff you don’t u$e or need.

Then, you go to the $tore feeling extremely excited and nervou$ a$ you go ai$le by ai$le filling at lea$t 2 huge cart$.  

If the coupon $ays, “$ave 75 cent$ on 20 can$ of $pam”, you get tho$e 20 can$ of $pam – damn it.

You al$o want to make $ure you go on “double coupon” day $o you can get more money off.

Once you are fini$hed filling the cart$ with hundred$ of item$ you will never u$e , you go to the check out.

$oon enough, the un$u$pecting  & innocent ca$hier will wi$h $he had choked on her corn dog at lunch, $o $he wouldn’t be alive to have to $can the 500 item$ in your two cart$, to then $can coupon by coupon.

The excitement from the beeping of the price $canner, will be too much for you to handle and you will feel like you are going to pa$$ out.  What if you made a mi$take calculating? What if, God forbid, you have to $pend $10 on your $700 total?

If you are a $ea$oned extreme couponer, mo$t likely you will not make any error$ calculating and after that very la$t coupon get$ $canned, you will owe 93 cent$!

If you are a real pro, you may even end up with a negative total, in which ca$e the $tore will owe you money!

At thi$ very moment, you will feel the be$t high and euphoria you have ever felt in your life (well, $ince your la$t vi$it to the $tore – ye$terday),  reinforcing once again, your extreme addiction and leaving you hungry for more.

The next $tep i$ even more confu$ing to me.  You get home and you put away the mad amount$ of product$ (you will never u$e) in your new $tock room (formerly known a$ your living room) for di$play.

When company come$ over, you cannot wait for them to $ee what a bad-a$$ $aver you are!

Hmmm.  I will have to give extreme couponing, clo$er con$ideration.

Not to worry my friend$,  TLC channel’$, Extreme Cheap$kate$ provide$ u$ with more idea$ for $aving $$$.

Perhap$ I $hould implement $ome of the$e in my hou$ehold.

I could in$i$t that my hu$band and I $hower together to con$erve H20 – that $ound$ kinda fun!

I could al$0 implement the, no flu$hing if it i$ ju$t #ONE, rule! Heck,I could $tart feeding them le$$ food $o that #TWO, is not even an i$$ue! I think I’m getting the hang of thi$.

Hanging our u$ed paper towel$ to dry in our dining room is another po$$ibility. A$ i$ $eparating our 2-ply toilet paper to make two different roll$.

How about refilling my condiment bottle$ at home with free packet$ from fa$t food re$taurant$?

Many of the$e idea$ are intriguing.  But I am $orry.  I will ab$olutely without a doubt,

 NOT re-u$e dental flo$$!!!!

I could ju$t not $end my daughter to college…

What extreme $aving$ tip$ do you have?