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Archive for October, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #43

Dear Luki,

This is not going to be a real letter. I am in Greensboro for a work conference and it’s 11:40 pm on Wednesday so I don’t have much time to write up a whole narrative about your grandpa. But I want to tell you something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week. It’s something your grandpa used to say all the time, but, until he died, I never really understood it.

Here it goes:

There is a solution to everything.

Your grandpa always used to say it when we were stressed out about anything. “In life, there is a solution to everything, except death.”

Death gives you the sharpest kind of perspective, Luki. And, ever since that terrible day in November, every time something is worrying me or stressing me out, I ask myself: “Did any of the people I love just die?” And, when I realize that the answer is “No,” that I’m just fretting about money, or my boss, or the fact that I forgot to defrost the chicken I planned to make for dinner… I feel so much better.

And maybe you won’t understand this until someone you love dies. And I really, really, really wish you didn’t have to go through something like that. But I know you will, because people die. They die all the time.

And it seems like this letter just took a really depressing turn, but that wasn’t my intention. My point is, Luki, that most of the crap life throws your way is no big thing. That you can figure your way out of it. That everything will be alright, no matter how bad it looks. Because people die. People could have died. And when they don’t… well… you should be happy. Even if you’re broke, or in jail, or your girlfriend just left your for your best friend. Even if you got an F on your Economics final, or your car won’t start. Even if you missed your flight or got caught in the rain without an umbrella. It’s no big thing. Because all the people you love are alive. And it’s the people that matter most.

Remember that, always.



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Your grandpa was awesome! Week #42

Dear Luki,

My birthday is Sunday and for the first time in my life, I am not that excited. I usually love my birthday. LOVE IT. I celebrate the entire month of October. I send out emails with suggestions for possible presents. And I ask for several festivities in my honor (one with friends, one with family, a dinner, a lunch, a happy hour, etc.). This year, I haven’t done any of that. I’m not sure what’s going, but this is a completely unrecognizable side of me.

Maybe 27 is the age when you stop caring. The age after which you have to stop and think about how old you are when someone asks you. Maybe I’ve reached the point where only the “big” birthdays will matter from now on. You know, 30, 40, etc.

Or maybe it’s because I know that no birthday will ever top the one I had two years ago. The one in which I peed on the stick that announced your arrival. At the time I was way more freaked out than excited, but now, in hindsight, those two pink lines are the best present I could have ever asked for.

But probably it’s because this will be my first birthday without your grandpa. And even though many days have passed since his death, the important days are always the hardest. And the fact that I won’t get an early morning phone call from him on Sunday is incredibly difficult to process. He used to be one of the first people who’d call me. Usually waking me up with his rendition of happy birthday over the phone.

If you look at old pictures of your grandpa, pictures from his wedding day or from when your uncle Ani and I were really small, you’ll notice that he had a big mustache. The night before my 10th birthday I asked him to shave it as my present. I’d never seen him without it and wanted to know what he’d look like. That morning, in my dreamlike state, I could barely recognize the man who woke me up with a birthday cheer. He’d shaved it and his face looked so different! I told him how much I loved his new, clean, fresh look and after that, he never grew it back.

It’s a silly little story, I know. But telling it just now made me realize that your grandpa permanently changed his appearance simply because I asked him to. For my birthday.

And that realization — and its underlying lesson about what it means to be a good parent — makes a pretty good present for my 27th.



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Your grandpa was awesome! Week #41

Dear Luki,

An amazing thing happened in the world today. Thirty-three Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for over two months were rescued. One by one, the men were brought up from the depths of the earth and reunited with their families. It’s a wonderful story. A miracle. And every time I saw one of those miners hug his relatives on the surface, I got a bit teary eyed. I am so happy for them and their loved ones.

But also, I must admit, I am a bit jealous. Jealous that their tragedy had a happy ending and our family’s didn’t. That they got the miracle they prayed for and our pleas to God went unanswered. That a simple fall from a simple ladder meant the end for your grandpa while these men, who were put in a much more difficult situation, got a second chance at life.

I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I know it. But envy is one of my biggest flaws, and since your grandpa died, the grass always seems to be greener somewhere else.

I also know this isn’t what he would want. I can’t recall a single time in which your grandpa expressed anything that remotely resembled jealousy. In fact, it was quite the opposite with him. He never saw anything in his own life that he considered unjust, instead, he was constantly consumed by how he could remedy the injustices in the lives of others.

He was so positive. So content. And he would feel such genuine happiness when good things happened to other people. Utter and complete happiness, without a trace of anything else.

In a way, Luki, I’m stuck deep inside a mine of sorts. A mine of sadness and anger and denial. I still have moments throughout the day in which the fact that my father has been gone for almost a year strikes me like a bucket of cold water. In which I feel like screaming and kicking holes into walls. In which I get angry at every old man I see because he is alive and my dad isn’t. Moments in which my happiness over thirty-three incredibly courageous men is marred by an ugly feeling of why them? why not us?

If your grandpa were in a mine with me, I know exactly what he’d tell me. That I should be thankful to have survived. That everything is going to be OK. That, despite the current darkness, the world is filled with light.

And I would believe him.



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Introducing Chengu, our reptilian sidekick

Introducing Chengu, our reptilian sidekick

A couple of weeks ago the three of us were outside with Luki playing catch (which, with a 15 month old is a lot more like fetch: we throw him the ball, he runs after it, and then brings it back to us over and over. He’s such a good boy! Yes he is!) when our neighbor stopped by to chit chat. And, while Ton Ton was engrossed in training our offspring for what he hopes will be a future in the MLB, the man who lives next door causally mentioned to me that he and his parents were going to be traveling to India for a month. And did I know they had a pet turtle? No? Well, they do, and its name is Chengu. And when he called the airline to ask if Chengu could travel across the world with them, he was told that reptiles aren’t allowed to fly. And he had no idea what he was going to do with poor, little Chengu, his companion for the last eight years.

And then he mentioned that the purpose of the whole trip is for him to find a wife. And the thought of a turtle ruining his chances of eternal bliss warmed my cold as stone, animal hating heart, so, without even consulting my husband, I found myself saying “of course we’ll take care of Chengu! I’m sure Luki will love to have a pet around.”

And that is how we became pet owners for a month.

It hasn’t been bad at all. And Luki really does love that damn turtle. Every morning and evening he waves hello and good night to little Chengu and he even kisses the glass of the aquarium where he lives. This kid and his crazy, incomprehensible love for non-human creatures. I just hope I don’t end up with dogs instead of grandchildren.


The other day I was on Skype talking to my mom and noticed that Luki was chewing on something. It was neither snack nor dinner time so I asked Ton Ton to please check what was in our child’s mouth. Big E heard me and started on one of her diatribes about how we need to pay more attention to the baby! one day he is going to choke on something dangerous! does she need to get on a plane back here to put order in our house? blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, Ton Ton looked in Luki’s mouth and, after realizing that it was jut a cracker our son had picked up off the floor, he said loudly so that Big E would hear:


I could have logged off Skype and would have still been able to hear my mother’s horrified screams.

Oh, Chengu… where have you been all my life?

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Your grandpa was awesome! Week #40

Dear Luki,

Recently your grandma left on a trip. She is trying to rebuild her life, to create new routines, to figure out how to be a functioning, productive human being without your grandpa. It’s hard. I wish you could have seen your grandparents together so that you could understand how much of a close unit they were. How dependent they were on each other. How much they could accomplish together. Without him, your grandma feels like a cripple.

And yet, as disabled and incomplete as she feels, she is taking decisive and significant steps to find a purpose out of this tragedy. She left her home, her comfort zone. She left the place that holds every tangible memory of your grandpa. She left you, the one person that has alleviated her pain more than anyone or anything else.

We keep in constant touch. And she is doing really well. But sometimes, she tells me, she stops to think about how quickly everything changed and it makes her sad. I know how she feels. It breaks my heart to think about what things would be like if that day in November had just been another regular day in November. To imagine your grandpa here, tickling you, singing you songs, putting you to bed at night. The way things were supposed to be. It’s devastating to think about it.

But as I look back at the life we lived with your grandpa, I realize that he always had a profound understanding of how quickly everything can change. Of how invaluable the present is. And he encouraged us, always, to take big, bold steps. His biggest dream was to see us fulfill ours. So, while the wives of other newly arrived immigrants took factory jobs, he encouraged your grandma to go to school. Not later when they had more money or were better situated in the U.S., no, she started school right away. And when she hated her job as a high school teacher, he supported her in becoming a professor. It didn’t matter that she made less money at first, or that she didn’t have the same benefits.

And now, as your grandma faces this daunting task of figuring out life without him, he still has her back. I believe that she left because she knew that he would want her to. Because she learned from him to worry little about “what if” and more about right now.

Because, Luki, right now is all you got.



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Here I go again

Here I go again

So I’m going to make a conscientious effort to blog more often. Because I really, really like it, and I miss it, and I haven’t filled out any of the baby books I got at my shower, so this is the only place I’ll be able to look in when Luki is eighteen and he asks me why he’s got random spots of discolored skin on his chest and back. (No, it has NOT gone away yet. I think I may have stained my kid for permanent!)

Anyway, I guess you’re wondering why I stopped blogging so much. And to be honest, I really don’t know, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a bunch of laziness sprinkled with a dash of my-toddler-sucks-up-all-of-my-time and a squirt of Ton-and-I-have-become-obsessed-with-watching-House-Hunters-every-night.

The thing is, though, that blogging is good for me. For my mental health. And this whole time that I haven’t been writing, well, it’s been on the back of my mind, stressing me out. So, last night I set the alarm on my phone for half an hour earlier and put the phone in our bathroom so that, when it rang, I had to get out of bed to turn it off and, since I was already up and in the bathroom, I jumped in the shower with my eyes closed.

I’m using that extra half hour to blog. We’ll see if it works. I won’t make any promises because, well, sleep, particularly my sleep, is a very powerful thing. And I may end up taking naps on the toilet.

For now, let me get you caught up on what’s been going on here:

1. I guess I never really finished telling you about our trip to Venezuela. I’m not going to go into detail because I don’t really remember the details anymore, but know that it was fun, and exhausting, and that, at one point, Ton Ton had to bribe a machine gun toting police officer. We weren’t doing anything illegal. Ton Ton was just driving his mom’s car without a Venezuelan driver’s licence and we got stopped at a checkpoint. Then the officer mentioned that he was “really, really thirsty” and asked us if we had any ideas on how we could resolve the situation. I had some ideas of my own, i.e.: a long and colorful lecture on ethics and the DISASTER that is Chavez’ government, but Ton Ton quickly handed the extortionist a bill and we drove away.

2. Big E is on a trip for three months. I will tell you more about it as things develop, but she is doing great so far. We talk on Skype every day so that she can see Luki. It’s all she really cares about. Luki loves it and has started referring to my computer as “abu.” (That’s short for abuela, the Spanish word for grandma.)

3. Luki is 15 months old. We took him to the doctor for his regular check-up yesterday and our physician actually used the words “extremely stubborn” in reference to our child. He wrestled the nurse when she tried to weigh him, smacked the doctor when he looked in his ears, and kicked the technician who administered his shots. I’d say “extremely stubborn” is too mild of a description.

4. But that seems to be a re-occurring theme with my son. Words always seem to fall short. Words like incredibly sweet and outrageously smart and completely hilarious. Because when he’s not kicking medical professionals, he is blowing kisses to everyone he encounters. Or picking out the duck and the bear and the horse and the goldfish in his favorite book.

5. Or making this face:

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