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Your grandpa was awesome! Week #29

Dear Luki,

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.



On his 37th birthday

ton ton blog

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!

Fascist regime

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.

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #28

Dear Luki,

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.



Salt, it's what's for dinner

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.

World Cup dreams

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.”

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #27

Dear Luki,

You’ve been sick for the last week or so. You got your first ear infection and have had a runny nose and a nasty cough that doesn’t seem to want to go away. It hasn’t deterred you from perfecting your new ability to walk, or from exploring the dozens of toys you got for your birthday, but you HATE it when I wipe your buggers, and those coughing fits are really cramping your style, especially when you’re trying to munch on a yummy snack, like strawberries.

If your grandpa were here, he would try to give you a spoonful of honey mixed with lime juice. It was his cure for everything. Sore throat? Honey and lime juice. Cough? Honey and lime juice? Allergies? Honey and lime juice. Skin cancer? Rub some honey and lime juice on it.

Your grandpa was good at taking care of sick people. Even after I moved out of his house and into my own place, he would come over with a pot of soup whenever he heard I wasn’t feeling well. Growing up, he was always the one who administered any medicine I had to take (always followed by a glass of water to get the bad flavor of the syrup out of my mouth). If I had to swallow a pill, he would break it up in two, or crush it into a powder and mix it into something tasty.

When your grandma got sick and was in the hospital for over a month, he spent every single night with her. And when she finally came home, he bathed her, cooked for her, changed the dressings from her surgery. She was thin and frail, a shadow of her former self, and he brought her back to life.

A few years ago, we went to Guatemala to volunteer in a tiny, desolate village our church works with. There was a lady there who was nine months pregnant and had big open sores on her legs. They looked infected. Pus oozing everywhere. Blood dripping from her wounds. It was not a pleasant sight. But your grandpa didn’t care. Right away, he grabbed some of the medical supplies we’d brought, crouched down beside her and bandaged her legs. Just like that.

As you get older, I will definitely carry on the tradition of honey and lime juice as a cure-all. But I also hope to instill in you the patience and kindness your grandpa had for those with ailing health. Taking care of sick people isn’t glamorous or fun, but it is one of the best ways to demonstrate your love for someone. That’s why I keep wiping your buggers.