A MEMORY FOR FATHER’S DAY

A few months before I left Cuba my mother gave me a gold chain with a gold St. Joseph medal. It had been given to my father by his sister Emilia (Mimí). She had prayed to St. Joseph for my father when he was seriously ill. I never questioned what prompted my mother to give it to me. My father was still alive. I don’t know whose idea it was. I was just happy to wear it.

The day I left Cuba that precious gift was confiscated by the Castro’s authorities at the airport. I was heartbroken to see it taken away. That was also the last time I saw my father.

St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus. How amazing he had to be to be chosen to care for God’s beloved son. My father was very wonderful and I am glad my aunt asked St. Joseph’s protection for him. At the precise time of my father’s death Mimí was praying to St. Joseph for him. St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of a Happy Death so I pray he was there to lead my father’s soul to Heaven.

On this Father’s Day I ask St. Joseph’s loving guidance for all fathers and a special blessing for my own father.

HERE WE GO AGAIN…..

Well, my birthday is here once again. I can’t say that turning 68 horrifies me. Actually, in my mind, I have been 68 for a whole year. Every birthday I start thinking about how old I am going to be on my next birthday and somehow forget my present age. I have done this all my life. This year I want to keep in mind that I am 68 and won’t even let the next number enter my mind.

Aging is a funny thing. Although the image I see in the mirror is puzzling at times and makes me wonder how in the world I got here, I still feel better about myself than I did when I was twenty. I certainly still have lots of hang ups and don’t really appreciate the wrinkles, sagging skin, the freckles morphing into age spots and the thinning hair that seems to be migrating to my chin. However, I am getting closer to accepting the looks that God gave me. But I must say that if I had known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.

From now on I am adopting this verse from a song from the musical Gigi:

The Fountain of Youth is dull as paint
Methuselah is my patron saint
I‘ve never been so comfortable before
Oh, I’m so glad that I’m not young anymore

FLIGHT TO FREEDOM – MARCH 22, 1962

After the stressful events at the airport, we boarded the plane bound for Miami and an uncertain future. I was convinced that the situation in Cuba would soon be resolved and this would be a short, fun trip and we would be returning home within a month.

I remember a man bragging he had managed to get two gold rings through inside the toe of his shoe. Most passengers were still too scared to speak. We were served cafe con leche. This was my first trip in an airplane and it was exciting.  The excitement was immediately taken over by an excruciating earache. My oldest brother Santiago let me rest my head on him as he tried to soothe me. Luckily it was a short flight and the pain subsided as soon as we landed.

Fifty five years later the memories are still fresh. Now, if I could only remember where I put my cell phone!!!

I’M NOT A PUPPY ANY MORE

It has been over 30 years since I had a puppy. We have had plenty of cats and more than a few bunnies, but circumstances were not favorable for acquiring a puppy. As a matter of fact, they are are still not favorable, but as destiny would have it we now have an amazingly lovable and charming Chihuahua.

In January I received an e-mail from my friend Nona who lives in Georgia telling me that she would be getting a Chihuahua puppy. He was born on New Year’s Eve and she would be getting him around Valentine’s Day. She wanted me to help her name him and asked me for the name of a Spanish saint. I thought the perfect name would be Juan Diego. Juan Diego, of Our Lady of Guadalupe fame, was recently canonized. So I actually picked his name.

A few weeks later I got another e-mail. Nona had just taken in a rescue puppy who had been abused and who would probably lose one of his eyes. She felt she would not be able to handle two puppies and her multiple feline friends and asked me to please take Juan Diego.

Due to circumstances that would take too long to explain, my house is still not ready to move in and I and my daughter Elvie are staying with my daughter Veronica and her husband Patricio (both due to be canonized any minute now) so I could not say yes. I presented the situation to them and not only did they say yes, they volunteered to take a road trip to Savannah and pick him up along the way.

Juan Diego during road trip

So that is how Juan Diego came into our lives. A tiny bundle of energy that is wearing me out,  but bringing a lot of fun and joy into my life. But I definitely am not a puppy any more!!!

We could not find a sweater small enough for him – had to improvise with an old sock (it was cold out there)

Juan Diego’s winning smile!

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN

Death is such a mystery. Our hope is that a better life awaits us in a place where we will once again see those who have gone before us. That thought helps us get through the process of grieving and acceptance. But no matter how strong our faith, the loss leaves an empty space in our hearts.

There are so many things I love about getting older. So many of the insecurities of my youth are now gone. I don’t worry so much about what others will think of me or if they think of me at all. There are also many things about aging I don’t like so much in addition to the aches and pains and the old lady in the mirror that just won’t go away. One of them is seeing the older generation disappear and many of those in our own generation leaving us too soon – and it is always too soon. But what pains me the most is the death of those from the next generation, those I remember when they were just babies. We have had too many of those.

On February 21 we lost yet another one – Carlos Jose Deupi. There are no words I could offer to console all those who mourn him. What can I say to his mother, my cousin Teresita?

I will share one beautiful memory I have of a one year old Carlos Jose. The summer I was fifteen I spent a month visiting the Deupi/Santaballa household. One day Tia Irmina was getting him ready for his nap and he realized his favorite blanket was missing. He was devastated would not stop crying. Tia Irmina was in the process of washing his little blanket. Hard as we tried, there was no way to console him. Finally exhausted and tearful he fell asleep.  The look on his face that evening at bedtime when he saw his little blanket was priceless – a look of pure joy. As he embraced his beloved blanket he said “Ahh!”

It is my sincere prayer that the same joy is now magnified in his soul. Rest in peace my little cousin!

THE DAWN OF A NEW YEAR – 1959

January 1, 1959 – The beginning of the end

Early that morning I got ready to go to Mass with Chunita. My parents were getting ready to go out of town to attend the funeral of Mima’s cousin who had lost her battle with cancer.

After Mass as we were walking back to Chunita’s house we stopped at one of her friend’s house where several ladies had gathered and were discussing Fidel’s triumph. I remember some of them saying how they had always been sympathetic to his cause. The funny thing is I had never heard anyone discuss the subject before.

I don’t remember if it was that same day or the day after that Lazara and some of the workers at my mother’s beauty shop got us up on a truck to cheer and celebrate as Castro’s troops began to march into town. The soldiers all had beards and many had rosaries around their necks. I remember one soldier helping me get down from the truck and kissing my forehead.

As young as I was I realized that had my parents been in town, there is no way we would have been allowed to get on that truck. My sister tells me she kept hiding within the truck so no one would see her.

In the meantime  ——-   After the funeral my parents ran into some trouble traveling through the country roads getting back to Matanzas as Castro troops were everywhere. Tia Cary who was with them waved her red sweater from the car window chanting “Viva la revolucion” just to be safe.

The days that followed were full of chaos and confusion as mobs ransacked homes and places of business believed to have Batista connections and firing squad executions began.

ONCE UPON A NEW YEAR’S EVE

December 31, 1958

That year family and friends gathered around our dining room table listening to the radio waiting for the stroke of midnight to welcome the New Year with sidra and grapes. The number one song of the year was “Volare” and they kept playing it over and over.

Shortly after midnight we heard “Ultima Hora – Cayo Batista” (Breaking news – Batista has fled). I was 9 years old and could not begin to comprehend the impact that event would have in my life.

The song “Volare” (To Fly) kept on playing amid updates on Batista’s defeat by Fidel Castro’s revolution. It was the perfect theme song for the occasion.

ON THE DEATH OF FIDEL CASTRO

I very seldom write in my blog any more. Perhaps as I get older I feel more irrelevant each day. Perhaps what I consider the wisdom of experience others see as the rantings of an old woman.

Once in a while something happens that compels me to express what is in my heart. The death of Fidel Castro awakens emotions long suppressed. At this point in history it may change nothing, but it certainly brings to the surface the pain and suffering he inflicted on my country, my family, and my life.

He lived a long life, became extremely wealthy and enjoyed luxury and fame while the people of his country lived in misery and poverty. Do I celebrate his death? Not exactly because it does not erase the damage of the last 57 years. But it does provide a certain relief and a new hope for my country of birth.

It is poetic justice that he died on Black Friday. On such a day in 1962 had not the FBI thwarted his plan, bombs would have gone off in New York City’s largest department stores and Grand Central Station.

God’s mercy is greater than our sins. Let justice be done according to His will.

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Elections – Do we really have a choice?

I have not written for quite some time. The venom being spewed from both sides is overwhelming. We all have opinions and our personal life journey brings us to very different conclusions, but name-calling and disrespect are not acceptable under any circumstances. Personal attacks have taken over any possibility of an intelligent discussion of the issues.

There is also the question of whether or not our vote really matters. The moral standards I grew up with are labeled as intolerance. I respect everyone, but I expect respect in return. We are less than a month away from the presidential election and although I know definitely who not to vote for, I cannot bring myself to vote for the alternative. I continue to pray for God’s guidance.

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