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.

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.

Roberto William

roberto baby

He was born with an abundant amount of hair. From the beginning I knew this small boy-child of mine was, and is, mine. He definitely possesses my looks, so I say. Everyone else seems to think he looks more like his dad. “Think what they want,” I tell myself. “He’s me.” Not only was the dark, newborn hair like mine, except for the fact that Roberto’s would stick up straight like blades of grass, but as the years passed, more and more of me – shrug it off-one day at a time-go with the flow-if it can’t be changed then move along-attitude flowed out of him. The way he thinks. About the world, and the people in it. Of course, his eyes match mine, only his somehow look more brilliant, and the shape of his face is definitely inherited from me.

Aside from Roberto’s mostly not completely predetermined mom’s DNA personality, he is himself. His own unique person.

roberto youngster

One of the most obvious stand-out physical attributes he has are his eyes. His blue, blue eyes. The stops and stares began way before he could understand the compliments people tossed his way, admiration of his Paul Newman eyes. “He has the most beautiful eyes…,” they’d say. I agreed with all those wow compliments, yet I always made sure to tailgate them. “He also is such a nice boy, and so smart, too.” I didn’t want him to grow up thinking it was his handsome face, his pretty eyes that would take him safely through life. No. I wanted to ensure he knew how to stand strong. As a person. Less so as a look. As he grew, began to understand what people were saying to him, he also began to roll those baby blues. He’d heard enough. He wished he could paint them brown. Just to stop people from saying anything.

When he was about four and a half years old, I would drag him along with me to watch his only sis cheer for the local pee-wee football team. I soon realized that it wasn’t a drag for him, it was the beginning of a booming talent. Entertaining people, without trying to.

While the little girls were dressed to the tee in their white and dark blue cheerleading outfits, standing in front of all the adoring parents, he stood off to the side. Far enough away so that the crowd didn’t spend their time confused wondering if he was part of the cheer squad yet, close enough to copy exactly what moves the girls made, the shouts they cheered.

Roberto stood there. Or, no he didn’t. He really moved to the music. He never just stood. It was the girls who should have been pumping up the crowd but it really was him who brought smiles and laughter to the field on those fall mornings. The cheerleaders spun, bent, jumped, shouted, tossed, ran, raised arms, clapped. They did what cheerleaders do. Cheer.

roberto

So did he. He cheered. Wearing his jeans and a neatly tucked in t-shirt. Little did anyone realize that during practices, before the big game, he was watching every move. Every must do it right move. He practiced. And practiced some more.

He was the entertainment. Sometimes even more entertaining than the game itself.

roberto2

Not much later as a group of girls danced to the Spice Girls in the garage, he would take over the show. Steal the limelight. Not intentionally, he just did. He was Mr. Personality. When the youngsters decided to perform for the other families in the neighborhood he was center stage, singing and dancing. The girls dancing and singing behind him joyfully laughed along with everyone else.

roberto's shredded pants

I remember once upon a time, Roberto was just a young 6 or 7 year old, when he decided it would be cool to shred the bottom portion of his jeans. Let his personality take over, I believed. Creative, artistic, funky jeans were all the rage for him that year. So creative. So cool. So him. He wore them everywhere. I thought it was fantastic. His ingenious idea.

bano roberto

The garage bathroom door needed to be painted. “Let me do it,” he said, the lilt in his words told me it was really a question. I took the door off its hinges. Removed the doorknob. Lay it flat on the ground. After I painted the background an ocean blue and let it dry he began drawing using a pencil. For whatever reason, I never asked, he drew a picture of his dad and his sister holding hands. He wrote the word el baño on the top portion. For his dad. He speaks Spanish.

Roberto has always been an interesting character. A unique one. Someone everyone should be so lucky to share their life with. I watch him. Admire him. Am proud of him.

roberto4

As a young adult now, he truly does appreciate his good looks, his big blue eyes yet it’s his kindness, his spark for life, his energy, his personality that he really likes about himself. I do too. While he is lovely to look at, it’s his concern for everything that I am most content with.

roberto3

 

My Daughter, My Friend

Elizabeth Cecilia

me and liz, 2011

“Who are you looking for?” the unfamiliar preschool teacher asked me. “Elizabeth,” I responded. Miss I can’t remember her name checked me out, looked me up and down, and stated rather bluntly, “Are you her babysitter?” Surely, you pale-skinned and overly-done blond-haired person belong to some other kid, she seemed to be thinking. “I’m her mom,” I said, with a smile. “She’s mine. Definitely my daughter.” Elizabeth ran toward me wearing clothes full of dirt, her dark hair dangling into her face, her small hands pushing it away. Elizabeth’s olive-toned skin glistened in the sunshine.

elizabeth, baby girl

The first time I took Liz out into the world it was her spirit and her happy smile that caused people, generally women and young kids, to claim “She’s so beautiful” and “She must resemble her dad”. I laughed and wrapped those compliments around my expanding heart and admitted that, Yes, she got her father’s Honduran looks. Little girls and boys would hold Elizabeth’s hands, touched her baby-soft skin and coo to her. All she had to do was smile and the people fell in love.

little liz

When Liz grew into a toddling child I had purchased a variety of my style clothing. 6 outfits in all. I figured if she didn’t look like me, maybe she could at least dress like me. I put one outfit on her after another. And click click went the camera. There was something dark-purple with polka dots and lime green tights, pin-striped blue-and-white overalls, a light pink like cotton candy sweatshirt dress, a barely there pink jumpsuit, a second jumpsuit, this time green, and turquoise shorts topped with a tie-dyed all the rage t-shirt.

Well, in the end, dressing like me didn’t pan out too well because as she grew older, I quickly discovered, for the most part, Liz’s choice of clothing is the opposite of mine. I wear jeans, t-shirts, and either a sweatshirt or a cardigan all the time. My hair is always pulled back. She prefers dresses. She allows her hair to flow gracefully over her shoulder.

I like the comfort of tennis shoes. Elizabeth? Heels.

How about when it comes to exercise? I love, and I mean love, to wear baggy too big for me workout gear. Liz? Well, of course, everything is fitted nicely and looks so modern. So hip.

So, it may seem that Elizabeth and I are different. In looks, sure. Clothing, yeah. Mostly. But in how we feel about each other. We are equals. I love her. More deeply than she will ever know. She loves me, unconditionally. Faithfully. This world is a better place because Liz is in it. Her smile enhances life as we know it daily. Elizabeth is my daughter. Elizabeth is my friend.

Dear Elizabeth,

I brought you home with me, 27 years and seven months ago. I held you in my arms while you slept. Fed you when you cried. Bathed you, soothed you. Your smile has grown with you, never wavering. You have maintained a kindness I wish the whole world could embrace and make their own. When you were a young girl, you would hold my hand – knowing I would always be by your side, guiding you. You looked up at me with a love I had never known before, a love only a child can give. So innocent, yet full of life. As you grew into your teens, you continued to open up to me, let me be a part of your life. You trusted me, I trusted you. I cherished the fact that you would come to me, talk to me, tell me everything knowing I would help you figure things out. You, Elizabeth, have made mothering a wonderful experience for me. I am very proud of the road you travel. The calmness you possess. The friendships you hold close. The love you share. Everyone should have an Elizabeth in their life.

I Love You truly,

MOM

P.S. Hug me all you want. Warmth is a wonderful feeling.

I am the Mother of a Gay Son

rainbow flagI heard my 7 year old child quietly crying. Roberto was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, a sweet innocent person, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.
“Some kids said I was gay.”
“Gay? Doesn’t gay mean happy?” I asked, allowing him to control the conversation.
“Yes, I think so, but… they meant boys-like-boys, girls-like-girls gay.”
“Why did they say that to you, why do you think?” I wondered.
“I don’t know. One of them said that the color of my eyes were not like theirs so I must be gay.”
The adult in me simply said, “They are just uneducated, uninformed”. The feeling miffed person said, “Ignore them.”

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a young child is capable of.

___

I heard my 12 year old quietly crying. Roberto, almost a teen, was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, not so small, not quite a grown person, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.
“Some kids said I was gay.”
Why did they say that to you, why do you think?” I wondered.
“I don’t know. Some of the kids think I am different. One day someone is my friend, the next day they don’t talk to me”.
“How does that make you feel?,” I questioned.
“I feel bad. I just want a friend I can trust, be myself with.”
The adult in me simply said, “Just be patient. Somewhere, a friend is waiting in the wings“. The feeling miffed person said, “Ignore them.”

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a preteen is capable of.

___

I heard my 17 year old quietly crying. Roberto was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, close to being an adult, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.

“I don’t want to ruin the dynamics of a nuclear family. I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” Roberto emotionally forced the words out of rather strong vocal cords.
“Why do you say that?” I soothingly asked, already knowing the answer.
“I am gay,” he stated, voice quivering. He fell to the floor, emotionally overwhelmed.
I knelt next to Roberto, told him to always be true, true to who he is.

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a close to being an adult teen is capable of.

____

I heard my adult son, laughing happily, content with who he is. Knowing his family supports him no matter what, a family who doesn’t judge him based on who he chooses as a partner, but rather a family who embraces his warmth, his kindness, his love, and his life, without conditions.

#selfie

meThumbsUp

I learned early on, without being told, that I had to look out for myself. To be independent. Somehow I knew that if I wanted to get anything done, I had to do it without help.

I was the tenth child born into my family, so my arrival was most likely nothing too exciting for my nine brothers and my teenage sister. They most likely had other things on their minds, something else besides another baby in the house.

As I grew, I learned that anything I hoped for had to happen because I wanted it to occur.

I remember being young, but old enough to ride a bike out on the street, in front of the house. One day, I experienced my first flat tire, and wasn’t sure what to do about it. None of my brothers was around to help, or just didn’t feel like it, so I searched high and low, looking for a patch kit to repair the inner tube. Right there, in that garage of ours, and using my common sense, I managed to pry the tire away from the metal rim by using a flathead screwdriver, pull out the tube, fill it with air, dip it into a container of water, and look for bubbles. I then patched the hole, returned the tube to the inside of the tire, secured it to the rim, and filled the patched tube with air. The tire was bolted back onto the bike’s frame and I rode off. I was so proud of myself for accomplishing something I knew nothing about. I felt very independent and at that moment realized I didn’t need anyone’s help, with anything. Me, Daphne Anne, was very capable of getting things done.

My independence deepened, which affected the way I molded my life, when I found my first job, at age 16. Like any young kid wanting to work, I wanted my own money to spend the way I chose. But more so, I assumed I must have been a financial burden to my parents, and I wanted to ease any stress they may had been feeling, having to find extra cash for this or that. Therefore, I, first and foremost, will always depend on me and rarely ask for help. Which many might say is a fault I should ease up on. But, I’d say, it’s a personal fault I can deal with.

Moving In… Together.

me and rud

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.