What Am I? A Rag?

In a crazy turn of events, I’ve had to move from my rented home in Kalamazoo, Michigan to my parent’s house in Naples, Florida. My parents are reaching (or have arrived) at the golden age of life, where they have difficulty doing for themselves. So, I packed up my things, stuck them in a storage unit, hopped into my little Aveo, and drove the 1300+ miles South.

The trip was grueling, as I dragged along my youngest daughter, her friend, and my dog. I had to leave my pup (who is actually about ten years old) with a friend, as my parents are severely allergic to cats and dogs. It hurts my heart to not have her with me, but I know she is in good hands until I can get her back again.

What’s really crazy is what I’ve been through the last few weeks.

My mother has two siblings in Cuba that are quite ill. My uncle Luminado and my aunt Celeste. Both have cancer and, from what I understand, my uncle is terminal. My aunt is fairing a bit better. My mother traveled to see them for ten days and, during that time, I was left to take care of my ailing father, who had suffered a mini stroke about two months ago.

My father is, at the very least, a difficult man. In our youth, he was somewhat a tyrant. He was intolerant of anything that was outside the “machismo” Cuban way of thinking. I cannot speak for my other siblings, but my experience growing up was hindered by the daily mantra of “you are a girl, you cannot do (insert activity here).” Whereas many of my friends were climbing trees, doing lemondrops off the horizontal bars, riding their bikes through their neighborhoods, and finding new friends at the mall, I was relegated to only playing in my backyard or on the front sidewalk, going to the store with siblings or my parents, or having to turn down invites to spend the night at friend’s houses. All in the name of “girldom” (a.k.a. “weaker-sex-istan”).

What my parents never imagined would happen was that I would grow up into a woman that does things for herself, as much as possible, if only because I refuse to believe the “you are a girl, you can’t do that” bullshit.

A prime example of this is the conversation I had with my father the other day, before my mother came home.

He was sleeping in his bed, taking an afternoon nap (which, apparently, old folks like to do). He comes shuffling out of the bedroom and into the back lanai, where I am sitting, reading a book. He sits down in his recliner, kicks back and raises the leg rest, and proceeds to huff and puff. I throw him some side-eye, because (thanks to my psychology schooling) I am certain he’s fishing for attention. (One thing I’ve learned in all this, is that my father requires attention and validation of his ailments just to feel “alive”.)

Me: What’s on your mind? 

Him: (shakes his head) Hmmm, nothing.

Me: That’s a lie. I can tell you are thinking about something and it’s bothering you. What thoughts have you got running around in that head of yours?

Him: Well, I was lying in my bed, with my eyes closed, thinking. 

Me: Thinking about what?

Him: When I die. I was thinking that your mother is going to need help and maybe, we can bring her sister here (from Cuba) and between her sister and your cousin, they can live here and take care of your mother. 

I have to admit, even using the skills that I have acquired after not only being a single mother of three kids, but also, from my five years of study, I have a tough time dealing with the things my father says in an objective way. But, can you blame me? He’s my father. There’s a long, and varied history there with many not-so-good moments that tend to rise to the surface when I am around him. However, I maintain composure and ask:

What am I, a rag? 

Okay, I lied. Composure was lost. I was a bit upset. To my logical brain, I had picked up in the middle of my life (albeit, a poor life, but I had left my two oldest daughters and my granddaughter in Michigan to come help my parents), left my friends and two of my children and my grandchild, left all my belongings (not to sound materialistic, but, that furniture was mine and I had paid good money for it), and then traveled in a teeny tiny car, thousands of miles, to sit here and basically be told I was insignificant.

He stares at me.

Me: Do you not realize what I’ve done to come down here to help you, but most importantly, to help my mother? (insert litany of all the things I listed above)

Him: (stammering) Yes, yes, I know. It’s just that, who’s going to take care of your mother when I am gone? 

Again? Really? Do you not realize you’ve now TWICE said that I am incapable or unworthy to complete this task of caring for my mother if you so happen to die? At this point, I’m shaking my head because I cannot imagine that he cannot see the forest for the trees (yes, I know, a cliche. Bite me, this is MY story!).

Me: Do you not realize that I have raised three kids on my own? (And, they are healthy, intelligent, and kind women.) I have owned homes, owned cars, worked hard, had money, not had money. I have traveled to new places, lived in two states, and, although my current circumstance is not ideal (yup, I am, by FULL definition, homeless), that does not mean that I will not continue to better my situation and that definitely does not mean that I am not capable of caring for my mother if you happen to die. 

Him: I know. I know. But – 

Me: There is no “but”. Do you know that this way of thinking has made me who I am today? You and mom always worried about me “finding a man”. What do I need a man for? I’ve built homes, cleaned shit, have technical and computer skills, can take out my own trash, wash my own car, buy my own things. I don’t “need” someone to care for me, because I am not a “girl that can’t do anything, or shouldn’t do anything” by virtue of being a girl. That phrase you always said to me, growing up, is part of what has fueled me to not let me get in my own way. And, when you say that my aunt and my cousin need to be here to take care of my mother, when I am already here and left everything to be here, that hurts my feelings. 

I left him pensive.

Did it matter what I said? I don’t know for certain. See, he’s not developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, but there is significant cognitive decline happening. Times where he asks a question, to receive an answer, then five minutes later, asks the same question again (presumably because his mind is still processing what he wants to know and hasn’t caught up yet).

This topic hasn’t come up again, but it really burned my cookies. I’ve been through quite a lot with this man as my father. Many of it, horrible. I’m fairly certain I have PTSD because of my childhood under his roof. But, at the end of the day, at the end of my lifetime and his, he is still my “father“. I don’t mean he’s my mother’s “baby daddy”. I mean, he took care of me by providing for my schooling, put a roof over my head, and made sure there was good food to eat on the table every day. He sired me and performed the duties of taking care of his offspring. He is not my “daddy”. That is where he fell short. However, I understand that he is human. I understand that, just as I was subject to the environment in which I was raised, thus was he subject to the environment in which he was raised. I could find fault in his behavior all day long, but if I do not consider that aspect, that he may have suffered something in his youth, as well, then I am no better than any judgmental person who has no empathy or sympathy for others. I would not be able to deal with this situation, without reminding myself that everyone goes through something, that everyone is influenced by the environment in which they are raised, and that many behaviors are the result of that environment.

Until next time –

 

Lisa

 

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My Experience Is Not Everyone’s Experience (a.k.a How -isms shape our lives) Part 2

Another story for you of my experience with “-isms” (ex. racism, sexism, ageism, etc).

When I moved back to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2006, I was sitting pretty on a large sum of cash. Growing up, as I was a girl (and a Latina girl, no less), my role was always defined as “the nurturer”. Back then, even though it is not that long ago, I was implicitly being groomed to be the homemaker, caretaker, wife, cook, maid; all the things that my mother was and that I was supposed to be because, as my father always told me, “you are a girl”.

Yes, I am a girl

Yes, I am a girl

 

However, watching my mother and her submission to my father and her reliance on him, sparked a fierce independence in me. Even to this day, I struggle with the desire to be close to others (males) and yet retain my independence. My mother, at 76 years old, has her driver’s license, but has not driven a car in over 20 years. She knows and can utilize cash money, but does not know how to pay a bill with a credit/charge/debit card or checkbook. She has never had to improve her English speaking skills, because my father can speak English quite well. The big issue for her, however, is that my father is 9 years her senior and beginning to fall to the ravages of time. My fear is that she will not be able to manage things herself once he is gone. I, on the other hand, have no issues paying my own bills, searching for assistance and information in this new technological age, driving a car, etc.

InTheKitchen2008

In the Kitchen (Where I belong?)_2008

 

This is the backlash to the way I was raised. This has helped me in many ways, yet hindered me in others.

Back to my story….I had packed up my girls and moved back “home” to Kalamazoo. As I stated, I was sitting pretty and had a full time job on top of the money I had. So, going to the store was not an issue. Purchasing those things I wanted and needed was not a problem, as I had plenty of money to do so. So, I did. I wanted my children to have the full benefit of this money, as we had always struggled before. Now, that is not to say that I went hog wild and spent money on fashion items, but it was not uncommon for me to go to Target or Sam’s Club and drop a few hundred dollars on necessities and desires.

One afternoon, my girls and I went to Sam’s Club to purchase some groceries and small appliances. I ended up spending a good $600 on this trip. But, that is not the shocking part of this story.

To understand this experience, you need to understand how I raised my daughters and how they were when we would go out in public.

 

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Jaime bday pic 080507 Tomara, Adriana, and Jaime 2006

My girls were always clean, well groomed, and wearing gold jewelry (this largely in part because of a metal allergy, which did not allow them to wear costume, or fake, jewelry). So, on this particular day, my daughters were nicely dressed, wearing their gold jewelry, and sporting the Ipod’s I had purchased them. See, going to the grocery store with Mom was not as exciting an adventure as it used to be when they were toddlers.

We make our purchases and head out the store. If you have ever shopped in a big box store, you know that they typically have a greeter at the door, who will also inspect your receipt and the contents of your cart, as you exit. This day, there was an older lady, with a short red bob (what I jokingly call “the Midwestern Mom haircut”) standing at the door. I roll my cart towards her and reach out to hand her my receipt. My girls are standing around me, joking and laughing and bobbing their heads to whatever music they are listening to. This lady grabs my receipt with a nervous smile, and looks at it. She then proceeds to look at my children. She sizes them up, her eyes traveling up and down the length of them, inspecting their clothing, jewelry, and Ipod’s in their hands. She then looks back at the receipt. Her eyes travel back to me and she says “that’s very pretty jewelry your daughters are wearing”. I smile and say “thank you”.

Do you see what was wrong with this exchange, no matter how polite it all seemed? She never ONCE looked in my cart to verify that the items on the receipt were in the cart. She only looked at me and my children. Now, why do you think that is?

Yeah, it was racism...

Yeah, it was racism…

I have my assumptions about the manner, which I fully addressed with the manager of this Sam’s Club. You see, I understand that there are people who feel compelled to steal things from stores. Ironically enough, I also am intelligent enough to know, based on empirical fact, that the majority of theft occurs in the White population.

According to the FBI, in 2009, there were a total of 1,056,473 reported thefts (larceny). Of those, 68.1% were committed by White people, 29.0% by Black people, 1.4% by American Indian or Alaskan natives, and 1.4% by Asian or Pacific Islanders (https://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_43.html). Now, I’m not saying that people other than White people do not steal, however, the White people leaving that store before and after me were not attended to with such scrutiny as my daughters and I were.

I understand the desire for someone to do a good job at what they do, and considering what this woman’s job was, I’m sure she didn’t want anyone stealing anything under her watch. I do not understand, however, her scrutiny of my children (who were all minors at the time). She did not perform her specified job, which, I’m assuming, was to verify that the receipt matched the contents of my cart. She didn’t do her job. She, instead, took it upon herself to immediately judge myself and my children, and made her biased presumptions solely on…what? Skin color, perhaps? That is the only assumption I can make at this point, as I did not have time to speak to her, but only to her manager. I took my cart full of items to my car, fuming the entire time, and then I returned to the store to see if I could confront her. I did not want to make a scene, but I was damned sure not going to hold my tongue.

I was offended. Not so much by her scrutiny, but by the fact that she was sending a message to me and my children by her behavior. The fact that a woman with three brown children could not purchase those items, or had the need to steal what the children were wearing, is the very distressing message that she was conveying.

My discussion with my White, male friend included this concept. That it is not the tangible, explicit things PoC deal with on a daily basis, but rather those covert, or hidden,  “-isms” that pervade our society. Quite possibly this woman thought she was not doing anything untoward, however, in my eyes, she was. She was saying “you aren’t the right color/type/culture/gender/what-have-you to be able to shop and spend money in this store.”

True Story!

Comment below on whether you’ve ever been faced with a situation where someone conveyed this type of message to you, without the exact words even being spoken. Or any other story you have of racism, sexism, ageism, etc. that you would like to share.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

 

Read Part 1 here.

“Don’t tell so and so…”

My biggest pet peeve ever…well, aside from people who lie and cheat.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Imagine you have someone in your family who falls ill. Maybe nothing very serious, but, let’s just say that it lands them in the hospital. You find out that they are ill and you make a phone call to speak to them or someone with them at the hospital. Let’s say you are also part of a very large family. So, you tell them that you are going to make some calls and let everyone know that this person is in the hospital and what is going on. The response you get from the one you are talking to? “Don’t tell <insert name of family member here>, because I don’t want them to worry.” I HATE THIS. (Sorry for the use of caps, but this really bothers me, and I will tell you why.)

When I moved to Michigan, it was on September 8, 2006. It was a really stressful time, because when I left, my house was in the process of being sold, but had not been sold yet. I needed to get my children enrolled in school and I couldn’t wait much longer if I was going to make this move. I finally sold my house and bought a new one, which I closed on on October 16, 2006. About a week or two later, I am on the phone with my mother and she says to me “Oh, by the way, your grandmother in Cuba died.” I ask when. She says “oh, about a week after you left. But, I didn’t want to worry you, so I didn’t say anything.”

I hung up the phone with her and wanted to punch something.

Now, am I foolish for feeling this way? Does it make any difference that she waited over a month to tell me something that I could do nothing about? I think it does make a difference. Even though I was going through a stressful time in my own life, I felt as though my ability to say goodbye to my Abuelita (even if it was with an unrequited conversation) was somehow robbed from me. Now that it was too late, as she was quite dead and buried, I felt as though I couldn’t say anything to tell her I loved her and would miss her. Granted, I know that those unspoken words would never reach her anyway, as she had passed, but it isn’t about how she felt or whether she would actually hear them, but rather, how I felt and still feel today.

So, today, the same thing happened. Someone I know is in the hospital, and although it may not be anything serious, I want other family members to know. If for nothing else, then for them to call and inquire on how this person is doing. What was the response I received? “Don’t tell <insert family member’s name here>, they are working and I don’t want them to worry. Besides, it’s not that big of a deal and they might get upset or worry.” Seriously? And, what if it DOES turn serious? What if it so happens that the moment is gone and that one person cannot say anything anymore, because you thought it was best to wait for…for what? A better moment to say a few words to someone, whether or not it is a serious matter?

Now, I am sure that the person doing this has everyone’s best interest at heart, but what they are failing to see and understand, is that they are robbing other people the chance to say something, anything, to those they care about. Because, as we all know, life is short. And, it is always best to talk to those you care about, but life gets in the way, and we sometimes can’t. But, if a moment arises where you can put the troubles of life on the back burner, to speak to someone who is ill and maybe would appreciate a kind word, why would you deny that to them?

MeBlackWhiteSad

A Tale of Two Cubans

It was the best of times…okay, who am I kidding?

I present to you a Tale of Two Cubans and how our lives diverged.

blackwhiteL_A

I was born in Michigan, to Cuban immigrants who came to this country over 40 years ago. They met in Michigan (go figure) and after some upheaval in their own lives, came together as a couple to raise my father’s seven children and have two more, my brother and I. I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and spent most of my childhood here. I attended a good Christian school, went to church twice every Sunday, not to mention Catechism every week, and Youth Group every Wednesday  night, and even attending a Methodist church (because it was in Spanish) every Sunday afternoon, after morning church.

I left home for good when I turned 17 years old; I was pregnant and getting married. I left Michigan when I turned 19, as the marriage was on the rocks and I hated being in the place where so much betrayal had occurred. But, that’s a different story.

Throughout the years, after moving to Florida, I continued to attempt to lean on my parents, to help me get ahead. Very rarely, if ever, did I get concrete assistance from them. The excuses were always the same “we are too old to watch your kids” (they were in their 60’s), “we have no money” (they are retired, living off of pensions and social security), “we have no time” (they cleaned houses in their spare time, when they weren’t running off to Miami to visit family or going to church). What does this matter? Well, it doesn’t, not really. Hell, I grew up with all the advantages of being in the United States, right? All the opportunity that a mixed-race Latina mother could scrounge together on her own, after getting a Class A education at a private school. Which, I hate to say, isn’t much opportunity. I had too many strikes against me: bi-racial, Cuban, a woman, not to mention, a single, divorced mother.

But, even with all that adversity staring me square in the face, I managed to work long hours and even moved up into a prominent position at the company I worked for. I sacrificed a lot to get there, however. I worked ridiculously long hours, neglecting my children in small ways (missing their first steps and first words, because they were in daycare. Not being able to help with homework, because I was on my computer, running reports and managing servers from my home computer), but we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and my children always were dressed decently.  They lacked for nothing – well, nothing but a mother’s time and attention. I gave up trying to get any assistance from my parents many years ago, because they were obviously not willing to help me out. They hadn’t really helped any of their other children, why would I be different? So, I struggled. I made my own decisions for me and my children, which weren’t always the best ones. I depended on myself and learned to ignore anything my parents had to say – what could they say?

Where did that leave me? I’ve had some awesome Ups and some serious Downs. I’ve had lots of money, I’ve had no money. But, the worst part of it all was not that my parents wouldn’t help me – hell, it’s my life, I have to live it my way, right? No, the worst part was that I never felt as though I had “support”. This concept of support, from family and friends, is so important. It’s not the monetary support that is important, but the realization that you have someone who you can talk to, who will listen, who will, if not dip into their own pocket to help you, at least point you in a good direction where you can find any assistance that you need. I didn’t get that from my parents. I’m not sure if that was due to my being their youngest child, or if it was because I was a girl (in their minds, the only thing I really needed was to find “a good man” to “take care of me” and then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything) and goodness knows, girls can’t do anything on their own! (Yes, that is heavily laden sarcasm coming at you through this computer screen!)

So, here I am. Currently unemployed, but of my own choosing. I finished my Psychology degree in December, 2014 and am proud of myself for having stuck with the studying to accomplish this goal. I had worked for a company that treats children with autism, but left that employer due to administrative issues. I’ve reached that point in my life where overworking your employees does not set well with me, and I’m unwilling to compromise on my time – especially after what I went through when my children were young. Now that I’m a grandmother, I do not want to lose that precious time with her as she grows and learns new things (particularly how she came into this world). But, that is yet another story.

Now, my cousin, the other Cuban, has only been in this country for a little over a year. He escaped Cuba last year by traveling to Ecuador and then procuring a “coyote” to take him all the way across the US – Mexico border. Say what you will about undocumented people, anyone who does that shit has BALLS. Period. Whether they come from South/Central America or the Caribbean. It is a harrowing journey that not everyone has the courage to undertake, and one day, I will tell you his full story. But, I digress….

So, my cousin hopped a bus from Texas and traveled to Florida to live with my parents. During his stay with them, they provided him with a bed and food, they bought him clothes, they helped him get his paperwork in order. I even gave him the van I had left with my parents, so he would have a means of transportation. In the course of a year, this man has managed to obtain his CDL license (he had experience in this working in Cuba), worked for a trucking company almost continuously (returning home only once every 20 days or so), and saved over $18,000 to purchase his own semi. Which he now has. I don’t even know how much he has saved in total, but I know he is doing much better than I am (by far).

What is the point I am trying to make?

peter-steiner-you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be-no-limits-new-yorker-cartoon

Peter Steiner – The New Yorker

 

Here you have a tale of one Cuban that was born and raised in this country, with all the opportunity it has to offer. And another who was born and raised in Cuba, where there is no opportunity for advancement, much less opportunity to have regular food, clean water, etc. Yet, thanks to support from my parents, he has managed to surpass me in the “American Dream”. To the point where he is starting his own company. Do not misunderstand me, I am not envious of my cousin. I only want to point out how our environments and the supports available have shaped our present lives. How being a male determines how others will approach and attend to you. How other people’s perception of you, can have an affect on the decisions you make and can have far reaching effects into your future.

I can only speculate on what my life would have been like if I’d been born in Cuba. What my life would have been like if I’d been born a boy. What my life would have been like if I’d received more familial support from all my family – parents and siblings – rather than being shunned. What my life would have been like if I’d never had three children. What my life would have been like if I’d never married, but had gone straight into college. I could sit here and do this all day. “What if” my life to death. But, I won’t.

I just wanted to present you a story of two people, who were raised with similar culture, but in different environments, and how that environment shaped our lives.

The holy trinity exists (it’s not what you think)

There are many things I’ve discovered in my 40 years of life on this Earth. Some of them have proven to be true. Others, not so much. For example, the statement that “everything happens for a reason” is a lovely platitude that I used to recite to myself whenever some things just didn’t go my way. But, I call bullshit on “everything happens for a reason”. This phrase is meant to excuse away things that do not go as planned. Do things actually all have a reason for occurring? Yes, they do. At least, according to physics.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

But, when people use this phrase to say “something or someone f*cked up my plans, so there must be something greater behind it”. Well, that’s just plain ol’ crap. Physics aside, some things just happen because life can be shitty and people can be shitty. People will die on you or move away or stop talking to you. Is that because of some grand plan? Nope. It’s just the way life is.

Another thing I’ve learned about life in the past 40 years is that there IS a holy trinity. There are three things that are absolutely necessary to live a fulfilling life, however, the difficulty comes in having those three things together at the same time. That, my friends, is the crux of the issue. And these three elusive things, I have found, very rarely are able to co-exist in time together. You either get one, but not the others. Or you may get lucky enough to have two, but then one just slips away from you. You’re probably wondering what those three things are? Well, they are…..

The holy trinity

The holy trinity

Yes, folks, the holy trinity is made up of LOVE, HEALTH, and WEALTH. I suppose you could say that these things combined make up what we love to call the “American Dream”, however, I think that these three things are what everyone is attempting to capture and hang on to.

So, what is LOVE? When I’m talking about love, I’m talking about a relationship with another person. A significant other. Yes, there is love that you have for your children, or your pets, or your extended family. But, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about that meaningful relationship you spend your entire life trying to find; the pursuit of another person that will put up with your quirks, your bullshit, your good days and your bad days. Now, I’m sure not everyone feels the need to have love in their lives – at least, not in the form of another person – but, best believe that the idea of love is still prominent in their lives. Maybe they really love money and the love of money, along with the money itself, make up two of the sides of the trinity. Either way, love is definitely a player in this holy trinity.

franklinpjones142113

HEALTH. This is a big one. I’m talking about being sound of mind, body, and spirit. If you have a toothache, you get it fixed. But, at the end of the day, there is nothing that is going to immediately kill you and you are, overall, healthy. Not everyone has this luxury. Some people suffer from silent illnesses, such as mental illness. They appear to be sound on the outside, yet you have no idea of the amount of agony they are suffering on the inside. Or, someone who suffers from diseases such as cancer or celiac disease. They seem okay, as the problem is on the inside of their bodies, but they do not have true health.

buddha_death_5241

WEALTH. Now, I’m not talking about winning the lottery here. I’m not even talking about being middle class. I’m talking about having enough money to pay your bills, put food on the table, and a roof over your head. That’s it. Just enough to cover the basics. This, I consider wealth. If you can sleep at night, knowing that you’ve got the basics covered, then you are better off than many people in this world.

if-you-have-food-fridge

These three things are the cornerstone to a fulfilling, happy life. Here, however, is what I have found. It is damn near impossible to have all three of these things at once in life. You may find “the one” that you are meant to be with, and then BAM! you lose your job. Or, you are feeling great and healthy, your relationship with your significant other is stable, and you love your job, when BOOM! you get a pain in your side, and after visiting the doctor, you discover you need surgery, which then has you missing work for months on end. These things happen, folks. I know they’ve happened to me.

 

I also like to call it the “other shoe” problem. Although, I think Charlie Brown said it best:

charlie-brown

 

Tell me your stories of your “holy trinity”. Have you managed to obtain this elusive triad and not lose it?

A Goodbye Letter to a Kind Soul

I was very young when I separated from my (now) ex-husband in 1996. I was only 22 years old. That summer, I lived in Florida, and I finally started dating, after being married for 5 years. I went out with my girl friends to the salsa clubs to dance, drink, and enjoy my youth. Many days, however, I felt worn, as I worked full-time (and then some) and I was raising my three girls on my own.  My escape from the weariness of life was my ability to get out, dance, meet new friends.

That summer, in 1996, I met some wonderful people. I danced with beautiful young men, sharing drink, laughter, and conversation. I was carefree, but I was also lonely. I was searching. Searching for someone to validate my existence as a young, vibrant woman – not just as an employee or a mother.

And that is when I met David.

In all my years, I have never met someone who struck me as sincerely kind and sweet, yet rakish. David was only 20 years old when we met at a salsa club. He was Puerto Rican, but he spoke in that Spanish-accented New England accent that, to this day, I find so attractive and endearing.

We started “talking” – that ambiguous term used when a couple is testing the waters to see what type of relationship will develop between them. But, other than many nights of long conversation, we went no further than friends. See, David had a long time girlfriend and he was planning on joining the Army Reserves.

Today, I pulled out my old journals and searched for what I wrote about him.

August 5, 1998 entry excerpt:

“…He was so sweet and innocent and cute. So young. So beautiful.”

August 12, 1998 entry excerpt: 

“…What a f***ing coincidence. Thinking of David last week and the following day I come into work and what do I need to do? Create a user account for none other than L. Armando Monroig…David’s brother! I freaked out!….See, David made me feel pretty and feminine….”

August 24, 1998 entry excerpt: 

“David called me today! I couldn’t believe it! We even went to lunch at Amigo’s….we talked the entire time. I hope he never suffers any hardships. He seems more mature and very sincere, sweet, considerate…(written in journal to David) Think of me fondly! Please, care for me somewhere in your heart. I’ll let you know…one day…how much you affected me……”

September 20, 1998 entry excerpt: 

” Someone called me tonight: David! We talked for four hours and it was just like old times. I don’t think he wanted to hang up. We talked about everything and anything. He’s still funny and cute and a little asshole. I’ve always like him…and it was so nice to talk to him again. The way we used to: flirtatious and silly. There are few people who I hold dear…but he’s one of them.”

I never saw or heard from David again. We went our separate ways, even though I would occasionally ask his brother after him. Then, I moved back to Michigan and, other than learning that he had joined the local Naples police force, I knew nothing about him, his family, his life.

Until the morning of July 9, 2014. The morning David died.

This post is my goodbye. Sometimes, there are people that cross your path, that enter life just for a fleeting moment. To open your eyes to something about yourself, or something about this world and this life. Sometimes to build you up, other times to break you down. They come in like a whisper on a breeze, or like lightening during a storm, and just as quickly as they came, they are gone. But, they leave their mark on your life forever, just by virtue of who they are.

I wish I could have said these things to you before you left us. Rest in peace, L. David Monroig.

Naples officer L. David Monroig

Estero Shooting

 

Officer Luis David Monroig

(from Naples Daily News)

 

Detachment: the 4th of July and Patriotism

I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You know, that little town that was featured in a song back in 1942. It was written and performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. Here’s a great Youtube clip of it: 

Where was I? Ah, yes, Kalamazoo. I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 40 years ago. It’s a wonderful little town. It was even voted one of the best places to raise your child back in 2011.  I have always liked Kalamazoo, and not only for the fun things to do in town, but for the people that live here. However, I’ve always been so conflicted.

I am 2nd generation Cuban-American. My parents came from Cuba and emigrated here over 45 years ago. Funny story, that one. They came separately, from different ends of the island, and both settled in Kalamazoo. My mother worked as an au pair for a local family, helping to raise their two children. My father left the island with his then-wife and their six children. As you’ve probably figured out, that marriage didn’t last the trip from Cuba to a strange land, with its strange customs and predominately Dutch heritage.

My Mother In Cuba

My Mother In Cuba

 

My Father In Cuba

My Father In Cuba

My father came from The Isle of Pines (La Isla de Pinos, now called Isla de la Juventud) which is located off the western end of the island. My mother is from Manzanillo, Holguin, which is on the eastern end of the island.

Map of Cuba

Map of Cuba

Somehow, through serendipity or maybe it was just a couple of nosy, match-making friends, my parents met in Kalamazoo, Michigan and married. Through their union, they produced myself and my brother. We rounded out the already large family of six children and two adults, to an even eight. (My oldest brother was back in Cuba and did not come to the United States until he was in his 40’s.)

What does that have to do with the 4th of July, Lisa?

Well, the 4th of July is a celebration of the independence of our nation. The United States of America. However, as an American with a heritage rooted in both the U.S. and in Cuba, it has been difficult to reconcile the love I have for both countries. Cuba, a country that I’ve only visited once in my life, but which holds so much culture, heritage, and family for me. The U.S. of A., the country of my birth, that reluctantly accepted my family and that Cuban heritage, and which, to this day, holds animosity for someone such as myself. Animosity which is evident in the attitudes and treatment towards the young children that are escaping their native countries and crossing the border to find freedom, and hopefully, new lives.

Now, not to say that my situation was the same as what those kids are going through, because it wasn’t. What I’m alluding to is the fact that, growing up a bi-racial Latina in a predominantly white, protestant area of the Midwest, I didn’t always feel very accepted, which, in turn, affects how I view my country, in general. Now, I have a sibling who joined the Marines, and nephews who are currently serving in both the Army and the Navy. I think that the lack of melanin in their skin, however, has had an effect on how they are perceived and treated, which also affects how patriotic they feel towards the good ole U.S. of A.

It is difficult, in my opinion, to feel a high degree of love and patriotism for a country that makes immigrants and their children feel unwelcome. Thus, my detachment when it comes to celebrating the 4th of July. For me, it comes and goes as any other day, just a little bit louder than normal. Sometimes, I decide to barbecue. This year, I worked. Don’t get me wrong, however. I am heartily thankful that my parents were able to come to this country and escape the oppression of the Castro regime, which allowed me the opportunity to live in freedom, but, it is not an easy freedom that I have been privilege to. It has been a freedom laden with racism, lack of opportunity, criticism, prejudice, and sometimes, outright hatred. Is that better than the life my family in Cuba has had to endure? Most likely. But, my experience is uniquely my own, and I cannot say whether I would have been happier or better off, if my parents had birthed me in Cuba. I can only say that, although I am thankful for the opportunity to have been born an American, I feel detached from what that even means.

Thanks for reading,

 

Lisa