Here’s a Love Story for You

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Rudy was about 16 or 17 years old, living in Honduras, (long before he met California). He was a senior in high school, a star basketball player, and an overall good guy. A nice guy. Friendly. Sometimes observant, sometimes talkative.

There he was one evening, walking across the only bridge in town, when he sees her walking in the opposite direction. Her green eyes look at him, casually. Her long dark hair rustles in the breeze.

The most beautiful girl in the world.

She’s Honduran with mix of her dad’s Australian.

Rudy gazes at her, shyly, unable to speak.

Unfortunately.

He doesn’t see her for a few days. And then he does. Again. Crossing the bridge.

“Hola,” he says.

“Hi,” she responds.

And off they go, heading in the opposite direction, passing without another word.

He asks friends about her. Asking them about the beautiful girl who speaks English.

“Oh, her? She’s been around. Where have you been?” they say, playfully shoving him.

One night, not too long later, he goes to a party and sees her there. He feels his heart pound, excitedly. Feeling confident, Rudy introduces himself and asks her to dance.

She told him she used to have a boyfriend with the same last name. “Yo tenía un novio con el mismo apellido.”

Bravely, innocently, and boyishly he responds, “¿Quieres otra novio llamado Romero?”

She laughs. As if he’s a joke.

Rudy wants to sink into the earth. He feels stupid. Why did he ask if she wanted another boyfriend with the same last name?

So, he turns, walks away, drags his feet. Feet that seem to take ten years to move to the other side of the room. His head hangs down. He starts to leave with friends. The party is over, for him at least. But, she runs after him, says she can see he’s feeling down and that she is sorry, she didn’t mean any harm. Didn’t mean to be rude.

Suddenly the air filled with music.

Rudy asks, “¿Quieres bailar?”

She grabs his hand and pulls him with her, back to where the party is.

 

 

The Arkansas Way

 

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Several years back I would spend my time off work relaxing in Arkansas. You see, during a three year stint Rudy was living and working there. Not by choice, rather because of necessity. It was the only job he could find when the economy was suffering. A time when choosing where to work wasn’t an option for him.  So, when Arkansas called he left. And, unbeknown to me, I fell in love with a true wonderland. Arkansas is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking.

Though Rudy did come home for visits, I looked forward to flying out, hanging out, walking around and embracing the true meaning of relaxation. Instead of spending my week or a complete summer cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, etc., like I always did (and still do) in California, I’d chill.

My daily routine in Arkansas was so simple, so basic, so enjoyable. After giving Rudy a ride to work in the early morning (I wanted the SUV during the day) I’d plop on the couch and begin writing. I’d spend a few hours spilling my thoughts, constantly editing and rereading until I felt a publishable story was complete. And then I’d walk. I’d take long walks through neighborhoods, walking down paved roads, admiring the architecture and the tall trees. Or, I’d walk the length of a complete hilly golf course. Walking along the golf-cart trail. Which never seemed to be an issue as the course was rarely being used by others – possibly due to either very cold or very hot weather. Not ideal for the players, yet perfect for me. And then, back home, after a shower, Brad would awaken, which meant we’d travel around town finding different scenarios to engage in for the remainder of the afternoon. (Did you know the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is in the middle of the forest in Bella Vista? Or how about the Crystal Bridges Museum, a wonderful establishment full of modern art in Bentonville?) We’d explore places like this until it was time to pick up Rudy from work.

Which brings me to today. Day 1 of Spring Break, Orange County, CA. And how I’ve decided to spend the week. I’m taking the time to embrace relaxation. The Arkansas Way. I will not use the days to clean, organize, paint, repair, etc. This week my routine will be as carefree as possible. After enjoying a cup of hot coffee I will begin writing. I know I will spend a few hours honing in on what I feel is a piece of work that is worthy of publishing. And then I will walk. Whether it’s a walk in my neighborhood, the heights behind our house, or a stroll along the shoreline down south. My mood will guide me. Then I will attend to enjoyable extrusions, whether heading to the store to purchase ingredients for my baking experiments, cruising through a bookstore (just because I love the environment), or any other place that tickles my fancy. I will end my days with conversations with Rudy and, if I’m hungry, eat the food he prepares. Followed by a comfortable bed and a good read.

I Knew Then

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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.

11,686 Days

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ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX 

Sounds like a life time, that many days, but it’s not.

It’s 32 years plus six days.

Thirty-two years of marriage, plus the 6 days after the last celebration.

11,686 days of all kinds of emotions and feelings.

Rudy and I have stood toe-to-toe, face-to-face, arms wrapped around each other.

And endured difficult moments, standing heel-to-heel, back-to-back, arms rigid, avoiding contact.

ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX

32 years plus 6 days of a committed relationship, solidified through loyalty, love, and friendship.

walk

 

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nothing like a good ‘ol evening stroll through the neighborhood, breathing in the cool evening air, and chatting with my mate.

yes, my mate.

rudy.

who never ever, ever (well, except that one time…) walks with me.

until now.

i didn’t even ask. just said i was putting on my Nikes. and that i’d be back in a bit. said it as i was jamming my foot into a shoe.

“i’ll go with you,” he said.

‘say what?! yes!’ i secretly cheered.

“oh, sure,” I said aloud. trying to sound like it was no big deal.

but, a big deal it was. it was relationship worthy.

me. rudy. and a conversation. about nothing in particular. the kind of nothing that means everything.

 

Adventures within Adventures are What Memories are Made of.

Nine years ago Rudy took a job offer in Honduras, Central America. He had been working there for several months when the Winter holidays arrived. It was December. The kids and I were beginning our school break so, rather than having Rudy come home to us in California, we decided to venture into his native land and explore the country where he spent his youth.

One place Rudy really wanted us to see was Roatan, one of the Islas de la Bahia, so we jumped aboard a charter boat off the mainland, anticipating an exciting trip that’d take us across the sea.

All I could think was,

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Honduras.

Unfortunately,

The. Boat. Trip. Was. Awful.

For me, anyway!

I mean seriously, there I was, hardly ever sick, can handle pretty much anything… vomiting. It was so embarrassing! And I was so obvious, sitting in the front of the boat stumbling to the rear every 10 minutes, to the same bathroom, over and over, during the entire excursion.

Rudy and the kids?  Oh, they were fine! …Okay, well, maybe Roberto had an issue as well. But he did a better job of holding himself together than I did.

Two and a half, three hours later, we stepped onto a wooden dock. I was feeling a bit shaken, but the solid ground helped ease my vertigo.

Our rental car was waiting for us curbside. We were off to our destination (for the next four days). The resort was an almost untouched paradise. Almost, because it was under construction. Once we got past stacks of plant-less planters, still needed painting stucco, and an empty not finished by any means manmade pool this is what we saw:

After we tossed our packed things onto the huge beds, checked out the supersized bathtub, opened and closed every single kitchen cupboard (stocked full of useful items), and turned on, then off, the big screen TV, we ran Outside. Our toes clinched the warm, finely-grained sand as we ran to the water’s edge, where we then frolicked in three versions of blue water. The Caribbean Sea was splashing into a private alcove, a place of complete serenity. Pure bliss!

We spent those several days enjoying the uninhabited land, on the far side of the island. Seriously, it felt as if we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, like it belonged to us.

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Roatan.

As days always do, ours came to an end.

On the winding road back towards the wooden dock, to our departing boat, we made a quick stop for some Dramamine. You know, the anti-motion sickness pill. No way, no how was I going to let the extreme rocking of the boat ruin my trip back to the mainland. So, I popped a few pills, as did the kids. Rudy had no need for them.

The drug did the trick. We all felt energetic and content, happy even. The boat was bouncing up and down, sailing along. I took it in stride, observing what I missed on the ride out. I watched Brad as he stood outside the door, stood with some tall guys and just seemed to enjoy the water’s spray as it licked his face. His exhilarated expression told a story of its own. Liz and Roberto were playfully being sarcastic with each other, laughing.

At the same time, people were screaming every time the boat lifted its nose into the air. The kids and I laughed. We thought it was actually pretty fun. It seemed, to us non-Spanish-speaking foreigners, everyone was having fun on the amusement park kind of ride.

Suddenly, it started raining outside, lightly at first, then progressively harder. I began to notice the faces of the people, at least those nearby enough to observe. Their pained looks said they weren’t screaming for the fun-of-it, they were scared. I looked out the door, towards Brad. The ocean was getting out of control. Rudy grabbed him by the shirt sleeve, quickly yanking him inside.

We were no longer laughing, or joking. We were quiet. Rudy began listening to the people, to their panicked concerns. “It’s bad.” he said. They only thing we could do was watch the people’s expressions and wait for Rudy to explain what was happening. I stayed calm, hoping it would help calm Liz, Roberto, and Brad.

All of a sudden someone piped, “Land!” We breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realized… it was definitely land but not the mainland. The boat, for safety reasons, had returned to the island, to Roatan.

We, again, stepped onto the wooden dock.

The  weather worsened. It was windy. It was rainy. It was stormy. It was loud. We had to stay in a bug-filled room for the night. Needless to say, none of us slept. Rudy found a local guy to drive us to the airport way before the sun rose, where we had to sit and wait out the storm before boarding a 12-15 seater plane. A plane that was old, small and loud. Water dripped from the ceiling. I found myself smirking at the entire situation. Part of me thought the whole adventure had been kind of cool, in a extreme way, while the reasonable part of me wondered if that was the day of our demise. It sure felt like it could have been. But, that was a thought I kept to myself.

Late into the afternoon, our wobbly old plane safely landed. We had made it back to La Cieba, the small town where our boat should have docked. And where the kids and I hugged and kissed Rudy goodbye before returning home to sunny California.

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.