Wow, I can’t believe this year is already 30 weeks old. We are more than halfway trough 2010 and before I know it, it will be the anniversary of your grandpa’s death. Time has gotten twisty since that horrible day. In part, I feel like I was sitting in his hospital room yesterday, praying with all my might for a miracle, but, on the other hand, each day without him is so difficult to endure, that sometimes it seems like time is made of a stretchy, taffy-like material.
I am so glad that I started (and have continued) this project, Luki. I know that, when you get older, these letters will help you understand who your grandpa was, but they’ve had a much more immediate impact. When I sit down each Wednesday to tell you about him, I feel his presence. And as I write about the kind of man he was, I am inspired to work harder towards becoming the kind of person I’d like to be.
There are so many things I want you to know about him that aren’t necessarily material for an entire blog post. They’re little things — details, random memories, lessons he taught me.
Things like: He wore polo shirts more often than not. He tried sushi for the first time a few years ago and loved it. He got more speeding tickets than I can remember.
He had a funny idiom for every situation in life. He spoke in a deep funny voice and made up nicknames for others.
He taught me to ride a bike and to swim. And when we were in Cuba, he made your uncle and I wooden toys.
He had a mustache, but shaved it off for my 10th birthday and never grew it back.
He laughed loudly.
He never sat at the dinner table without showering first.
His bedside clock always had the wrong time on it and he never wore a watch.
He whistled all the time…
I realize these aren’t significant qualities, there’s no underlying lesson for you in these tidbits of information. But I want you to know these kinds of things so that you have a complete picture. Because I hope that, just like I feel his presence when I write these letters, you too can have a similar experience when you read them.
I am in New Orleans for a work conference this week and I’ve been missing you and your daddy like crazy. New Orleans is a fun, beautiful city, but everywhere I go, I think about how much fun we would have if the three of us were here together. Just today, I had a yummy strawberry popsicle while strolling through the French Quarter and imagined how delighted you’d be to enjoy such a snack.
Being away from you is hard, but I will be home soon to nibble on your feet and blow raspberries on your belly until you run out of breath from all the laughing. I only wish your grandpa could do the same.
When I was growing up, a couple of years after we moved to the United States, your grandpa spent a few months apart from grandma, uncle Ani, and I. We’d been living in Miami and my parents wanted to move to a safer city with more work and educational opportunities, so, while they figured out our next permanent destination, the three of us temporarily moved to upstate New York to be near one of my aunts who was pregnant at the time. Your grandpa continued to work in Miami until we decided to make Charlotte, NC our new home.
He visited often while we were in New York. We didn’t have a lot of money back then, so he’d either drive up all the way from Florida or take the Greyhound bus. Neither of those were pleasant experiences, to say the least. When he drove (in an old, not always reliable Hyundai), he’d make very few stops in order to maximize the amount of time he spent with us. He’d drink lots of coffee, park the car in rest areas to take quick naps and, if he was feeling really sleepy, stop at gas stations in order splash water on his face. He often made the 1200+ mile drive in 24 hours.
The bus was less tiring but it took longer. Plus, it was always full of eccentric characters with unpleasant habits and smells. Whenever he traveled on the bus, we’d spend hours laughing at all the stories of the people he’d met along the way. Like the guy who made the unwise decision to eat a giant bowl of beans on the trip. A decision that not only affected him, but everyone else around him.
What I remember most about that time is the excitement I used to feel those few minutes before he arrived, as I looked out the window of our apartment and waited for his car to turn down its street. Grandma, uncle Ani and I would run downstairs to greet him with hugs and kisses and huge smiles on all our faces.
It hurts to think that I won’t ever greet him again.
But today, as I sit in my hotel room in New Orleans, I have a better appreciation for all the sacrifices he made, for all the hours he spent on the road trying to get to us. And I understand that, no matter where in the world we were, when the four of us were together, we were home. And home is worth doing anything for.
I can’t wait to be home again, my son.
To the one who mops our hardwood floors and picks up my shoes when I leave them scattered all over the house. Who always remembers to fill up the soap dispensers and buy toothpaste and toilet paper. Who gets out of bed to fetch Luki every single morning, and lobbies for just a few more minutes of playtime before we put him to bed every single night. Who cries with cheesy chick flicks and not-so-cheesy life experiences. Who has patience with my mother. Who values my opinion and seeks my advice on everything. Who tries to do things right the first time, but can admit his mistakes. Who checks the mail and pays the bills, gets us to planes on time and prints out hotel confirmations. Who doles out wholesale portions of kisses and cuddles… To the one who has made the extraordinary an every day occurrence. To my Ton Ton, Happy Day!Continue Reading
No, he’s not auditioning for a role in a Shakespearean tragedy… he is simply reacting to our policy on the dishwasher. Namely, that IT IS NOT A TOY!
I know, it’s so unfair, right? I mean EVERYONE KNOWS that the train, and the toy phone, and the blocks, and the race cars, and the books he got for his birthday are not nearly as entertaining as pushing the “Start” button on the dishwasher over and over.
Everyone except his tyrannical parents.Continue Reading
A few nights ago, we had a big thunder and lightning storm. Your dad and I were worried that you would be scared from all the loud noises, but they didn’t seem to bother you and you slept right through the whole thing. I, on the other hand, laid awake in bed, looking out the window and thinking about the day of your grandpa’s funeral, tears streaming down my face. During the service, the church band sang a song called, “Peace in the Storm” about how God gives us tranquility, even during the most turbulent of times.
I can’t say I’ve come to terms with your grandpa’s death or that I understand why it had to happen. I still sometimes feel the urge to kick and scream about it. To throw a tantrum and declare that “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!” I don’t know if those feelings will ever go away, but I definitely believe that, without my faith, without my firm belief that your grandpa is with the Lord, I would have dissolved into a million pieces a long time ago. The entire family would have.
Your grandpa was a man of God, Luki. He loved the Lord and had a strong and unyielding faith. As you grow up, you may meet so called “men of God” who use their believes to pass judgement and foment hatred. Who consider themselves better than the rest, and refuse to associate with those who do not share the same faith. I want you to know that your grandpa was not like that at all. Instead, he reflected the character of Jesus by always treating others with humility, kindness, tolerance, patience, and love.
A few days after he died, as the flower arrangements and sympathy cards continued to pour in, we received a note from one of his co-workers, the contents of which I will never forget. It said:
One time, when I was going through a rough time in my life Ulises said to me, “if you keep God in your heart, everything will be alright.” I hope you can find some comfort in those words today.
I did find great comfort in those simple words that day, and I still do. Especially during the storms that come from time to time.
May you always keep God in your heart, my son.
Five things I attempted to feed Luki for dinner yesterday:
1. Fried rice: he took one bite, made his old man face and started swatting at the spoon every time it came near his mouth.
2. Lentils: when he saw that the food was coming out of a different bowl, he opened his mouth expectantly… upon discovering lentils, he started swatting at the spoon with both hands.
3. Apple sauce: he ate a couple of spoonfuls, but upon realizing that the apple was being used as a decoy to sneak in the lentils, he decided that opening his mouth wasn’t worth the risk. He’d rather starve.
4. A cracker with peanut butter and jelly: there was peanut butter and jelly on his high chair, his shirt, his hands, his nostrils, his hair… but, alas, none of it landed inside his oral cavity.
5. A plain saltine: he held on to it for forty five minutes… we went to the grocery store and the entire time we were there he kept it in his hand, putting it in his mouth for a few seconds to suck on it, but refusing to bite.
In conclusion: My son ate the salt off of a cracker for dinner.
I guess this means that the picky-eating toddler years have officially begun. Wow, I never thought I’d say this, but life was so much easier when he was permanently attached to my boob!
P.S. We did manage to get him to have yogurt and some string cheese before bed. Apparently he’s decided to become a dairyterian.Continue Reading
I am going through some SERIOUS World Cup withdrawal.
Yes, I miss the excitement of soccer, the crowding around the TV whenever a player got close to the net and the shouting GOOOOOOOOOOOOL if the ball went in, but mostly, I miss the magic and hope these kinds of events bring to my life.
That, and the GORGEOUS players.
When I was a kid, even though I never played organized sports, the summer Olympics always gave me an irrational feeling of maybe, in four years, that could be me up there with a gold medal.
Then, two years ago, I was hard pressed to find an Olympian who was older than me. I was 24 going on ancient and realized that I would never make it to the Olympic games. Not because of my complete lack of athletic ability (that’s just a minor detail), but because I was too old.
Now that Luki is here, my hopes and dreams are back! And a few nights ago, before the final, Ton Ton and I were watching a documentary about the players who had scored in the big game. They mentioned Pelé, who was 17 when he scored his first World Cup final goal. And I said, “17?? They must have changed the rules since then.”
“What do you mean?” responded Ton Ton.
“You have to be 20 to play in the World Cup now,” I said. “I looked it up. Luki won’t be able to star for the U.S. National Team until the year 2030.”Continue Reading