I Knew Then


Note: This memory is a gift for Rudy, as today is his HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Long ago, when we were first dating, during the summer of ’84, I watched Rudy as he paced back and forth, back and forth.

“I don’t know how to ask,” he said to me.

I continued watching him, curious and very interested, wondering about his nervousness..

“Just say it,” I encouraged him.

Honestly, I had no idea what was on his mind. I mean, seriously, it was way too early in our relationship for him to propose, and what else he so desperately needed to say, well, I didn’t know. I couldn’t even begin to guess.

“It’s hard for me to ask you this. I barely know you, and well, it’s not something I should even ask.”

I wasn’t feeling irritated at all, more amused in fact, but still, I really just wished he’d say what he needed to say. And I didn’t know what to do to let him know he could trust me.

So, I just said,

“You can trust me.”

He stopped pacing and looked at me, but then began his back and forth movements across the back patio. Suddenly, without looking at me, his head down, as if he couldn’t handle my reaction (in case it was negative, I suppose) he let loose. The words sprang quickly.

“Can I borrow twenty dollars?”

It took me a second or two to respond because I wanted to laugh out loud. I thought it was cute that he was so nervous about asking me such a simple question. But I maintained my composure, held in the giggles. I did not want to make the situation worse for him. I was pretty sure he’d misinterpret my laughing.

“Sure,” I responded.

You see, for me, I considered the question as part of the development of honesty and loyalty, beginning right then and there, cementing itself into our newly forming relationship. The value of knowing Rudy could trust me enough to ask for money was huge at that moment.

“Really?” he seemed surprised.

And then he went on and on about how he shouldn’t even be asking, but he needed money for food and so he could take the bus to work, and he was feeling desperate, and he didn’t know what else to do. And so on.

“Really,” I answered.

I knew then that Rudy was the kind of person I wanted around. The kind of guy I wanted to spend more time with.

Ode to Chris, my Sis

Chris had always been a person in my life, a sister who, no matter what, came through, was always there for me. Sitting here, thinking about her, how she was a part of my life, my relationship with Rudy and eventually the perfect aunt for my kids, I’m remembering when Elizabeth, was born, and how Chris needed to take charge because Rudy and I, both thirteen years younger than her, were very anxious about me giving birth, an unknown territory for the two of us.

Chris, the oldest of 11 children, knew exactly what was going on (not only because she was like a second mother growing up, but because I don’t even know how many times, she helped feline after feline, dogs too, give birth to their new offspring). You wouldn’t know it, but I’m telling you, those lessons she learned were a definite asset for anyone feeling the pains of labor. She could read the situation and help the process move along smoothly. Chris knew the signs of “It’s time!”

When I was in labor with Liz (yet didn’t realize it) and Rudy, assuming I was just a little uncomfortable (because that’s what I told him “Oh I’m just a little uncomfortable”) was grabbing his jacket and heading towards the front door just as Chris walked into our tiny apartment.

“What?! She looked at Rudy, stared him down. “You are leaving? Going to work? Why? She is going to pop this baby out any moment! You can not leave! I won’t allow it.”

My sister. My older sister. My only sister was the boss. At that moment, regardless of any reason, viable or not,  she was not going to let him leave.

“I don’t think so! She’s in labor. Daphne is going to have this baby today,” my sister said, giving Rudy no other reason to dispute her. “You need to call work! Tell them you will not be in.”

“Alright,” Rudy mumbled, which is not an easy task, trying to sway Rudy to an opinion other than his own. But, I think like me, he sensed arguing was pointless. Chris seriously knew her stuff.

I suddenly felt a jab, a painful ache, something more defined than I’d experienced as the days of Lizzy’s birth grew closer.

Chris was right. Rudy needed to get me to the hospital.

Driving there, a 20 minute trek, seemed to take forever. And the fact that the pains grew stronger didn’t help.

We were both anxious.

Nervous wrecks.

“It will be okay. You will do fine,” I heard Chris’ voice tell me. She was in my head.

“We are going to be fine. This is it!” I told Rudy, cringing as another contraction surged through me.

Within the next several hours, three to be exact, our dark-hard baby girl was born, using every inch of her lungs to cry out, as if telling us, you did good.

And there was Chris, waiting in the lobby, waiting for the news. Is the baby a boy? A girl? Is Daphne OK? Rudy walked up to her and hugged her. Tight.

“Thanks for making me stay home, for making me call into work to say I couldn’t go in.”

She hugged him just as tight.

He walked with Chris to the baby window, arm around her shoulders. They both smiled. Gazing at Elizabeth, a wee child that Chris would spend a lifetime adoring.

Roberto William – Happy B-Day


A moment in time occurred twenty years ago. A moment never forgotten by Rudy. A memory instilled within his soul of days long ago when he used to drop Roberto off at kindergarten.

Their morning started off, as usual, with Rudy helping Roberto dress, and feeding him a hearty breakfast. Something like cold cereal or a PopTart.™

After sitting in the car, cruising along for a mile or so, listening to music and chatting about living the life of a five year old, Rudy would pull the red two-door Honda hatchback up to the curb, next to the chain link fence, and state Okay, Buddy, which was Roberto’s cue to climb out of the car and walk through the kindergarten gate about ten yards away.

Dad don’t leave yet, Roberto cheerfully commanded.

Rudy always waited until Roberto made his way onto the kinder playground then he’d drive off, heading to work for the day. Yet, on that particular day, for the very first time, Roberto made a request, telling Rudy to stay where he was, in the motor-running car. Suddenly, there was Roberto, backpack dropped to the ground in front of his feet, his teeny-tiny fingers entwined through the links of the fence.

I love you, and drive careful! Roberto yelled to him.

From that day on, this endearing ritual found a place in their private world.

And I love you, Bud, Rudy responded, giving Roberto a thumbs-up. Then Roberto would grab his school bag and run off to play.

An Ode to Rudy’s Youth


After Rudy finished eating breakfast on the morning of his 5th birthday, he excitedly ran toward the front door, hoping to kick around the soccer ball in the front yard. Unfortunately, his mom stopped him before he had a chance to escape, reminding him he needed to dress in his nice clothes. The ones that lay neatly across his bed. Rudy kicked at the floor and scowled.

Ten minutes later he re-entered the living room wearing a short sleeved white collared shirt fashioned with yellow pinstripes, black slacks, and slick black shoes. His hair was neatly combed back, and a half smile creeped onto his face.

“Qué guapo, hijo!” his mom admonished.

After spending the morning visiting family members in neighboring homes and accepting birthday wishes and hugs from everyone, Rudy spent the afternoon hanging with friends, playing games, eating food, blowing out the candles on his cake, and finally watching a soccer match at the local field.

Later, as the sun began to set, Rudy sat in a rather large chair, facing the crowd of people, opening presents. With each gift the boys and girls clapped their hands, seemingly as excited as Rudy was. Suddenly, a huge box was brought over and placed directly in front of the birthday boy. In his mind, all Rudy could think was that this massive box must contain the fire truck that he had been hoping for. The motorized one, with an extra seat for another fireman behind him.

He cracked open the lid. Looked inside. And felt a bit disappointed. There was another sealed box inside, which, in his mind, meant it diminished the size of what the fire truck should be. An adult came over, pulled the second box out of the first box and placed it in front of Rudy. Again, he peeled open the lid of the box, finding, again, another box. This process repeated itself five more times, ending only when inside the final container was a very small black jewelry box.

Rudy held the tiny cube at arms length, considering the gift from some friends of his parents. With coaxing, he finally flipped the squeaky-hinged box open, finding a gold ring. For a second he felt completely disappointed.

He had no idea what to do with a ring. He had plenty of ideas for fire truck uses.

“Feliz Cumpleaños a ti! Feliz Cumpleaños a ti! Feliz Cumpleaños que rido, Rodolfo! Feliz Cumpleaños a ti!”