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.

I. Am. Independent

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When I was 16, able to work, I immediately applied at McDonald’s. A local place up the street. A walk-to-work kind of place. I didn’t have a car (and wouldn’t buy one for another 3 years) but, I really wanted to express my independence, mostly to myself. I also needed to take the burden off my parents (even though they never ever made me feel like a burden) because I was growing up.

Still young, sure. But ready to conquer life. Ready to prove to myself that I could manage, regardless.

I love being able to take care of myself yet, the flip side, the (sometimes – a word given lightly) negative aspect of complete independence is never asking for help, not wanting to be a burden –

(and yes, I do note a theme here, not wanting to bother people.)

Interestingly, and it took a few years, the one place I am comfortable with others helping me is in the classroom. Kids are notorious for wanting to take the burden off the teacher, do small chores, help out whenever they can. I’ve learned to embrace such willingness. Their excitement surpasses my need to just do it all.

But to be fair, I don’t have a huge problem with the fact I don’t ask for help, which stems from my desire to be independent, because taking care of ‘whatever’ myself simply means I am in control, and more importantly, I know exactly what is happening. Which then rewards self-sufficiency.

I can live the life I do, the life I choose, on my own.

(Which, I must say, my mom would be proud. She always, as I began my relationship with Rudy, told me to make sure I could take care of myself, with or without him. That I must be a female who can stand on her own, rather than relying on anyone, especially a guy, to prosper.)

No truer words have been spoken, to me.

I. Am. Independent.

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.

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.

I’m White. He’s Not.

The summer sunshine reminds me of a time, long ago when the shade of our skin was one of a few times color defined Rudy and I.

We made plans to spend the day at Huntington Beach in southern CA. We gathered a few what we thought of as necessary items to enjoy the day: a radio, towels, an ice chest full of snacks and drinks, magazines, and baby oil.

Baby oil?! Seriously, baby oil?!

Well, I’m telling you, at the time it made perfect sense. A quick way to color the skin.

A BIG MISTAKE, to say the least.

For me, anyway.

You see, Rudy has lovely brown skin. I am glow-stick white.

There we were, slathering that oil on, all over our exposed skin. Both of us looking nice and shiny. Feeling satisfied, we horizontally positioned ourselves, side-by-side, each on our own colorful towel, relaxing, to the point of snoozing under that hot sun.

Rudy noticed I was turning pink, said as much, but let the issue go when I said, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m fine. I’m getting a tan!”

As mid-afternoon approached, in the heat of the blazing sun shining brightly in my eyes, it was hard to tell if I managed more than a slight coloring. I felt I should continue to sunbath, just a bit more sun, a bit more color but, it was time to leave. So we did. Plus, we were hot, and tired.

We stopped at a mini-mart on our way home. A cold ICEE, Cocoa-Cola flavor, please! was in order. As I stepped out of the car, my skin – especially behind my knees – hurt. Not too bad. Just a slight irritation.

My reflection spoke to me from the glass of the store window. “Oh, wow, you did get some color. Definitely!”

I looked towards Rudy and noted that he had tanned nicely. He looked all chocolatey-brown, not milk-chocolate but rather dark-chocolate, like Hershey’s Special Dark. He was looking good, real good!

Cold drink in hand, I eased myself back into the car. I could feel the sun soaking in, doing its job of coloring me.

Ah, what a soon-to-be joke!

When we returned home I asked Rudy if he wanted to go to the pool, to cool off before we headed to our little abode, our own personal space. “Sounds good to me!” he said with interest.

The pool was somewhat crowded with other residents living in the apartment complex. The water felt good, soothing. It seemed people didn’t want to look our way, but they did. “Hum, am I looking good with some sun on my lilly-whites, or what?” I modestly questioned under my breath.

Or what? was the answer to my ridiculous thought!

30, maybe forty, minutes later, when we entered our place I immediately walked to the bathroom to shower off the day’s debris. “Oh. My. Gosh!” I sort-of yelled as I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. “I am so red! My face looks like a cherry tomato!”

“You are red. Really red.” Mr. Good-Looking-Dark-Chocolate-Brown casually stated. “Seriously red.”

I’m Red. He’s Not.

valuable values

i value my parents, and how they modeled what it means to be a good person

i value love, patience, understanding
happiness, health

family, friendships, relationships

diversity, freedom, independence

nature

warmth
kindness
smiling faces

children and cats

i value simplicity
living like there is no tomorrow
teachable moments
making a difference in someone’s life

i value laughter, loud cheerful laughter

i value quietness

i value rudy, liz, roberto, and brad

i value me, the mirrored me
public and private

i value honesty
open-mindedness
concern for humanity

kisses
caresses
and hugs

i value life

Moving In… Together.

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There was no reason for Rudy and I to move in together, long ago. We just did. It wasn’t out of necessity. It was simply an opportunity. Rudy had a roommate. I lived at home. His roommate met a girl and moved in with her. Rudy didn’t need a roommate, nor did I need a new room. Yet, one day as we were walking around the apartment complex he was living in we simultaneously wondered, “Why not?”

By the following month, we had signed a rental agreement for a one bedroom, one bath apartment, top floor.

“Why?” my mom wondered.

“Why?” Rudy’s mom questioned.

“What’s the point?” my mom inquired.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Rudy’s mom stated.

It didn’t need to make sense, we both thought, to anyone but us. We just knew it was what we wanted to do. Live together, before marriage.