Dear Caretaker,

cropped-img_16721.jpgDear Caretaker,

Please be patient.

When your loved one is crying or sad or feeling misunderstood, please just listen to her.

Please don’t tell her to calm down, to relax.

Above all, please don’t tell her to look at the positives in her life. Unless she’s complaining  every single day, be assured that it is more than likely that she can see the positives in her life, it’s just that she’s human and she has bad days too. Only hers are intensified because she’s got that little extra that she’s going through.

Just ask her what she would like from you, it’s very possible that what she wants is very simple. It might be that all she wants is a call at midday or to watch a movie on Netflix on Friday nights or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Sunday breakfast. Don’t complicate yourself trying to impress her with something “better.” If you do that she will not have felt listened to. Only do that “better” thing if you’ve done the simple thing she asked for.

Be a shoulder for her to cry on, that’s it. Don’t lecture her on how she should feel, that will only make her feel worse, guilty even.

Many times she’ll be hard to deal with, she’ll cry for no reason, or at least it’ll seem that way but she’ll know why she’s crying, she just might not know how to explain it

It’s the pain

It’s the changes she’s trying to make that don’t seem to work

It’s that she doesn’t feel understood

It’s the fear of this illness not ever going away, or showing up again in the future

It’s that she’s trying so hard but sometimes it’s all just too much

It’s that she feels her faith slipping through her hands

It’s that she didn’t know it was going to be this hard

It’s the pain, the anger, the fear, the frustration

It’s the sleepless nights, the sleepy days

The side effects,

Sometimes, it may even be happiness

Or sentimental joy

So, Caretaker, please be patient

and know that she is grateful for everything you do for her.

Thank you!

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Post-Surgery

It’s been a week and a few days since surgery. I am finally able to type longer than two lines. I’ve been trying to continue the Shit That Happened story but I’m either too much in pain or too knocked out from the pain killers to stay focused. Yesterday I had my third post-surgery appointment this week, they took out three drains! But I still have two and they still don’t let me sleep comfortably.

Next week’s appointment is the good one, that’s when they take out (hopefully) the last two drains. Maybe it’ll be only one that they take out but if they do one, that’s progress. Right now, the wires wrapped around the tubes keep stabbing at my sides making me want to constantly scratch but of course it’s not possible. For someone who’s never had surgery, all this is new and a pain in the butt.

I’m able to raise my left arm higher now, a bit faster. My right arm still hurts, the underarm especially. The pain is changing as the days go by and little by little I have more sensation in the skin around my breast, although it’s a strange kind of sensation, tingly, nervous.

I’m thinking, hoping, that next week will be a better writing time.

The Shit That Happened will continue next week

In the meantime . . .

 

Today is International Mother’s Day and being that my family is Mexican, we celebrate today and because we are here in the United States, we also celebrate on Sunday. I’ve called my aunts, my mom and my dad because coincidentally it is also his birthday. Nothing much is happening today except that I am happy to be a mother to my three children.

Mayerlin, who made me a mother at the age of 18 is now in college and working. We don’t always agree on everything but we do always find time to spend together. She’s hardworking and beautiful. She is my favorite photographer and has a life plan to work with orphan children is one that inspires me not only to follow my own dreams but to continue to improve as a mom. To try to be the kind of mom who makes her children want to go out and help and be and do.

Nauj, who just became a teenager this year, is the one who makes the rest of us laugh. His lego building is now in the past. As I write this I am brought back to one night when I had sent him to bed. When I got up for a glass of water I noticed his light was on, I quietly poked my head in to see him looking through his lego magazine and his legos spread out in front of him. That night my heart melted, I knew his childhood would not be forever, that one day he would not be sneaking around to play legos. That day has come, the earbuds are in 24/7 and his bedroom door is locked when I wake him up in the mornings.

Gael, the baby of the house is no longer a baby. He is a big boy. His questions about life make me have questions of my own. His love of flowers makes me go out and plant even though most every plant I’ve owned has died. His love of animals makes me want to pursue my dream of one day living on a farm. We share a dream of one day, when we grow up, to be writers and illustrators. He will write and illustrate a 10-volume set and I will write, draw and teach and we will live on a farm somewhere in the sierras of our Mexican ancestors.

My mom, the one who brought me into this world, is always there for me and for that I am grateful. She’s was there for me when I became a teenage mother and she is there for me now that I am going through this cancer treatment.

Feeling grateful to be  a  mother. . .

The Shit That Happened (continued)

Henry O’Mally (The white guy)

I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’d say about 15 years now.  When they assigned this job to me I thought it strange, we don’t usually deal with neighborhoods like this one.

I mean, I don’t work with the richest people but I do work in better places than this. There were so many people on the street, I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone. I felt like there were gangsters watching me from every corner, like I’d be shot in a minute. I’ve had friends from places like this before but to actually be where they came from, that was a whole different story.

I got out of my car and pretended like this was nothing, like I wasn’t worried because you know, they say that people can smell one’s fear. I did make sure to stay close to my car though and I had my finger on the alarm button the whole time, just in case.

The address we had on file was completely wrong, the office had sent my colleague weeks before, he was the one who found out that the address was wrong but he was too scared to walk around the neighborhood to try to figure it out so they sent me, as if I wouldn’t be scared of this place. But the reason they sent me was because of my Spanish, you know, high school Spanish, but it was enough to allow me to ask people about Mrs. Isabel Gonzalez, or Doña Chavela as I later found out is how most people knew her.

The only people who seemed harmless around here were the women and their children that’s why I was only asking them. Besides, it was a woman I was looking for, I figured I might get lucky and catch her.

You know what I noticed about the people around here? – which struck me as funny – was that they seemed to be as scared of me as I was of them. Nobody wanted to give me any information, I guess they thought I was the police or immigration or something.

I was about to give up when a gangster came up to me, almost instinctively my finger put pressure on my alarm button. I released it once he started talking. There was something about his voice or the tone, I don’t know, but I just knew he wasn’t harmful. It seemed more like he was bothered by the fact that I was asking his neighbors questions.

“Hey man you need something?” was the first thing he said.

“Yes, hi, I’m looking for a lady named Isabel Gonzalez,” I replied. I was smiling just so he’d know that I wasn’t the police, I was a good guy.

“What about?” he asked.

The first thing I thought was that he was being nosy to want to know why I was looking for this woman, however his body language had more of a defensive feel to it. There was something admirable about this guy whose chest and arms were full of tatooes. He was asking because he was trying to make sure that I wasn’t there to hurt Mrs. Gonzalez. I might have been wrong to do this but I didn’t see any other option so I told him everything – including my name.

“Well first of all, my name is Henry O’Mally, I said, shaking his hand. I continued, “I’m here on behalf of The Belmore Company, the reason I’m here is because Mr. Ignacio Cruz, who is now deceased, left an inheritance for his wife and children. Mrs. Isabel is the main heir, however, it seems as though we have an incorrect address for her and it is very important that we contact her as soon as possible, before the state takes claim of the property. We have been trying to contact her for the past six months but have been unsuccessful. My being here is the company’s final attempt at contacting her. Would you happen to know where I can find this woman, Mrs. Isabel Gonzalez?”

The whole time he was just staring at me as if I had no idea what I was talking about and when I finally asked him for his help all he said was, “Damn! That fool’s dead?” I see sort of a smile on his face. But he quickly erases it and his concern turns to Mrs. Gonzalez.

“So you looking for Mrs. Isabel because of some money?”

I was confused, I had a feeling he thought she owed me money so I try to clear it up for him, “Yes, I have something for her – that her late husband left for her.”

“No shit?!” he says, his comment makes me want to laugh but I remember he’s a gangster and think better of it.

I think he was mostly surprised about the inheritance than he was about the fact that Mr. Cruz was dead. I pay closer attention to him and notice he is just a teenager, not possibly more than eighteen but with a huge weight on his shoulders, as if he’s been carrying it with him from the day he was born. Suddenly my fear of him turned into a sort of respect.

“Yeah man, I can tell you where she lives but she don’t speak English so –“

“Can you translate for me?” I interrupt. “I mean, if you have time,” I say trying not to sound too demanding.

“Damn, I don’t know man, it’s not like I really understand everything you’re talking about but you’re sure it’s an inheritance she’s getting? It ain’t no money she owes right? I mean you ain’t trying to trick me or nothing just to get her to pay right?”

“No, no, no,” I say. He keeps surprising me, he’s looking out for this woman who is most likely not related to him, taking every precaution to make sure she is not getting scammed.

“Look,” I say, “her husband’s name was Ignacio Cruz, right? She has three children with him but he had not been living with them for the past five or so years. However, they never divorced which is why the inheritance was left to Doña Chavela and her children.

“Yeah poor Doña Chavela’s been having it hard . . . So you’re for reals then,” this sounded more like a statement than a question, I think I’m finally gaining his trust so I ask him again if he can translate for me.

“Alright man, but you better not come up with some crooked shit or I’ll fuckin’ bust your ass,” he tells me, I don’t know what to think.

He walks me to Mrs. Gonzalez’s apartment, he translates for me and I watch her go from surprise to tears to a smile and back to tears again. She seems to be a very nice lady, hard working. There’s something about her little apartment that makes me feel at home. I don’t know if it’s the tiny old sofas, the altar at the front of her one window or the load of laundry sitting on her bed or the smell of homemade food coming from her kitchen but I feel like I could stay here for hours and she wouldn’t mind.

I don’t usually associate my job with my feelings but when I have to tell her that the paperwork will be brought to her by her husband’s girlfriend, per Mr. Cruz’s request, I almost feel like punching my fist through the wall for her. I had found this request on his part not just strange but more than that, disrespectful. According to the file his reason for doing this was because he wanted his girlfriend to explain Mr. Cruz’s reasons for leaving Mrs. Gonzalez. I think he wanted, in a strange way, to make sure Mrs. Gonzalez forgave him for leaving. Poor lady didn’t know what to say when this gangster – whose name I had not gotten – translated this to her. I was expecting her to cry but she just sat there staring at either the window or her saints. Finally, as if defeated, she nodded her head and simply said okay.

We left not long after that. Outside, I shook hands with the gangster and finally asked his name.

“Just call me Speedy, man.”

“Okay…uh…Speedy, thanks for everything, I really appreciate it. Here’s my card,” I say, remembering I forgot to leave one for Mrs. Gonzalez. I give him two and ask him to give one to her, “if you need anything just call me, if I don’t answer you can just leave me a message and I’ll call you back.”

“Alright man, thanks,” he say, I notice his guard is down now.

“Thanks again,” I say and walk to my car feeling satisfied with myself and just as I turn the key on the ignition I notice the stereo is missing.

The Shit That Happened (continued). . .

El Speedy

Ignacio? Fucker was a loser. Left the family for some young bitch that dressed like a slut. Yeah, I guess she was cute but she didn’t need to be messing with some married fool. I guess it was mostly fucker’s fault though right?
One day I see this guy on the streets, some nice suit man, don’t know what the hell he’s doing here but he sticks out like a fucking grain of rice in a bowl of frijoles. So I watch him, gotta keep an eye on the territory you know. He’s standing next to his car, probably scared someone’s gonna take it or something. You know how the gringos are. Anyways, he looks like a cop or something so I make sure not to do nothing stupid. He tries to stop a lady but she don’t understand English so he just smiles and moves his hand like a idiot, then he stops the next lady. More people walk by but he’s only stopping the women and now I’m starting not to feel so good about this fool so I get up and walk to where he’s standing. He don’t stop me so I turn back around and ask him what the hell he wants. I’m like, Hey man, you need something?

Yeah, he says and then he starts explaining all this shit to me. Some words I don’t even know what the fuck they mean. But whatever, in the end all I know is I’m taking him to Robert’s mom’s apartment. I’m knocking at the door. Doña Chavela! I’m calling, but she can’t hear cause she’s cooking, the blender is going full blast, sounds like she’s blending rocks or some shit. After three hard knocks she finally answers the door. Hola m’ijo, she tells me, she always calls everyone m’ijo but I still feel special when she says it to me. Wish my moms would call me that…Anyways. The gringo in the suit is standing behind me waiting for me to introduce him, like he’s a friend or some shit. I just kind of ignore him and tell Doña Chavela everything he told me and when I finish she starts crying and I’m wondering if she’s crying cause she’s happy or cause she’s sad.
Then I’m standing outside my apartment one day when I see the slut walk into Doña Chavela’s apartment building. It’s been like a month. I’d been looking out for her but I hadn’t seen her, thought I missed her. Actually, I thought the bitch wasn’t gonna show up. She don’t look like a slut no more though. She still looks good but her jeans are decent and her boobs ain’t hanging out of her shirt like they used to. She’s holding a envelope in her left hand and dang! I feel happy for Doña Chavela, it’s the least she could get from the dead ass motherfucker.

Ignacio’s son, Robert, we call him Shorty cause he’s so fucking short, acts just like his dad, couldn’t stand him with his big ol’ stank. Always with some nice shoes though. Used to go around saying he got’em at the mall, but everyone knew they was “gifts” from the lady his moms worked for. Bitch was loaded, the owner I mean. Robert’s moms was broke as hell, cause you know everyone’s broke around here, but Robert’s mom, she had it hard with her three kids including old ass Robert who wasn’t no help, don’t know how she did it. Every fucking day I seen her come home from work with her purse, a plastic bag for her lunch and another plastic bag that she filled with empty soda cans, but mostly beer cans, she picked up on the streets. Poor lady needed help and son of a bitch Robert never did shit, always walking around only talking shit, acting like he was better that his moms. She would walk right in front of us and I would always say, Buenas tardes, but Robert would act like he didn’t even know her. I’d tell him all the time, help your moms man, she’s tired. But the fucker just acted like he didn’t hear.
Who knows? Maybe now that his dad’s gone he’ll man up and look out for his moms right?

 

Me and My Crew

I had read somewhere that we are not our thought and in some way it had made sense but recently, talking to Nina and her having me name my thoughts has really helped make that message clear, that we are not our thoughts. Let me explain. So this is what I’ve done: I’ve named my thoughts and their names are some of the Chespirito characters.

For example El Chavo is the fearful one, he feels lonely and misunderstood. When I talk to him, I let him know he’s not alone, that he’s got a family that loves and cares for him and most importantly that he’s got me. I have to remind him that it’s okay to be happy. It’s all gonna be okay 🙂

Then there’s Doña Florinda, she thinks she’s better and criticizes everyone, including me. Talking to her is a little hard because I tend to want to put her down so she sees that she’s got flaws too but then I remember that by putting her down she’ll only scream louder. What I try to do instead is to tell her that I love her. I hug her and tell her she’s got a good eye for detail and to please help me see all the pretty things she can find. She loves doing that.

Don Ramon is the angry one, he gets angry very easily and the only way he releases it is by throwing a tantrum. He thinks he’s tough but in reality he feels very scared. In Comm 103 I learned that anger is actually rooted in fear: we are either afraid of losing something we have (i.e. respect, family, house, etc.) or we’re afraid we won’t get something we want (i.e. respect, family, house, etc.) So when I talk to him I have to ask a lot of questions. I ask him what it is he’s afraid of and why. Whatever the answer is, I try very hard to reason with him because most of the time, it not all of the time, his anger (fear) is not rooted in reason. Then I tell him I love him.

El Profesor Girafales, he’s cool but he thinks he knows everything, he has a hard time asking for help. I still have a hard time hearing him when he speaks but I’m practicing.

All these characters can be very stubborn, especially because I just started talking to them, they’re not used to it. It’s a conversation I have to remember to have when they start speaking up. Sometimes I forget and they slowly start taking me into their world where it becomes a little hard to get out. Once I’m in there I have to really put my conversational skills into practice so that they’ll let me out. Other times, I catch them just as they’re starting and as stubborn as they are, they do eventually listen. I threw Cantinflas in there because he translates for me so that I don’t take them too seriously. When Cantinflas translates, things seems funnier, like not such a big deal.

And then there’s my baby, Lancha. I love her. She’s the one who loves to sit and read a book, she likes to draw and paint and take quiet walks all by herself. She has a very wild imagination which is why she loves to write, so she can get all her ideas down on paper. She’s not held back or worried about what people think. She’s just happy to be herself. Lancha has a very big heart, she makes me feel tender and loving, I feel like hugging her all the time. Sometimes she just feels like singing and dancing but she’s still a little shy about coming out of her cocoon so I have to gently give her a little push. She does come out but only where she feels safe. I remind her that the world is safe, she can be Lancha or Sexy-Chimoltrufia-Lancha whenever and wherever she wants. She’s practicing.

With all of these, I’m practicing on being loving and patient, it’s a practice, it’s hard work but it’s very worth it.

Love,

Mom

 

The Shit That Happened

Sandra

She walked down the street, that old one she knew from long ago. The familiarity about it, that something she felt but didn’t want to accept. The smell of liquor that was so penetrated in the air filled her nostrils and haunted her. A dark room, the sound of flutes and drums leaking in from somewhere far away. A pain she couldn’t or didn’t want to put into words.

The pain of hiding didn’t let her see the beauty of the streets she walked on. The overpopulation of old potted plants that blocked the gates to every apartment. Geraniums pushing their way out through the cracks on the sidewalk. Bikes and balls, Barbies and GI Joes, jump ropes and half-filled plastic pools shouting out signs of the lives of the children who lived there.

She takes her recently dyed her and puts it up into a ponytail. She still can’t believe what it cost her, she’s promised herself that next time she’ll cut her hair short and save herself a few dollars. Not that she needs to, work is good and she has more than enough but she’s not the type to flaunt her money – that’s just the way she was raised. Today, however, there’s another reason why she chose to wear jeans and a t-shirt and her five year old shoes: it’s a tough neighborhood, calling attention to herself would not be smart.  She finishes tying her her and begins to focus and remembers why she’s here. Ignacio. The asshole.  There really was no other name she could think of for him.

It had been raining the day she met him. The sun struggled to push its way through the clouds and ultimately failed. It was gray outside and the sound of the rain was a nice complement to the music going from the tiny radio on her desk. Just as soon as she had started tapping her fingers to the music, she was interrupted by the ding of the bell that hung on the door.

It was a man, older than her, the age of her father maybe. Except this man was nothing like her father. This man was light skinned and tall, skinny and loud. “Buenas tardes!” he screamed into the office as if they were miles apart. Sandra couldn’t help but scrounge her eyes, not only at the sound of this man’s voice but also at the vaquero hat that almost fell from his head as it hit the door frame when he walked in.

“Buenas tarde,” she responded in a softer than usual voice, trying to send a message. He did’t get it.

“I want to buy a house, they told me you can help me,” he says, still too loud.

“Yes, I’m a realtor,” she tells him, immediately regretting her response. Maybe she should’ve said, “yes, but . . . ” and made something up but Sandra wasn’t the type to think on the spot. She always tried to be the niña viva that her mom always expected her to be but couldn’t. Sandra was a slow thinker, a slow reactor, the type of girl who always blinked two seconds too late. This time was no different, it was too late to turn back.

“How can I help you?” she continues.

“Well, like I said I want to buy a house and someone told me you know about this stuff.”

“Okay, this is how I work . . . ” she starts pulling out papers and brochures. As she was bent over her filing cabinet she couldn’t help but feel something familiar about this man. Something about his voice, his talk, the way he walked into the office, as if he was confident in himself but for all the wrong reasons. Actually, it wasn’t even confidence it was more like an air of ignorant snobbery. From her bent over position, she could see his alligator skin boots, they were pointy but not too much.

“You like them?” her search of both brochures and memories was interrupted by Ignacio’s ego. He had noticed her looking at his boots, although he had no clue about the real reason for her interest. And honestly, neither did she.

“No,” she said, “I mean yes, it’s just that . . . um . . . it reminded me of something. But here, look, I have these papers that are full of information for you.” She went on explaining everything to this man who seemed to know nothing about buying a house. The whole time, in the back of her mind, she’s lost in his features. The way he wrinkled his forehead when he didn’t  understand something, the deep creases around his eyes, his dark brown hair and receding hairline and the way he moved his fingers around the table while he talked as if trying to make everything clear for her through an invisible graph on the table. Every little thing about him, she studied but still she couldn’t figure it out. The doubt was still there. She kept wondering if he felt the same about her because he acted as though he was meeting her for the first time. Yes, she dressed differently now that she was a realtor but her features were still the same as always: big dark brown eyes, long thin pointy nose, thin lips, cleft chin and of course the birthmark she eventually stopped covering with her hair. There was no sign that he noticed any of this as they neared the end of their new client-realtor conversation.

“Okay, I’ll wait for your call,” he said standing up and putting his vaquero hat back on. They shook hands and as he turned to walk to the door she noticed that she carried with him the smell of Obsession, a perfume that had always made her uncomfortable. The bell on the door dinged as he walked out and she couldn’t help noticing that the sound of it didn’t match anything about this man.

It has been months since that day, looking back Sandra can’t believe she didn’t know who this man was. But there was no time for that now, she’s here to get things done. The gate is locked when she reaches the apartment building she’s been searching for. Old and rusted, the numbers hardly stand out from the brown of the building. She leans into the gate trying to see if anyone’s around but nothing.  Everything’s quiet until she hears someone call, “Ey! Speedy!” She leans in to the gate again, it’s him: black, perfectly creased dickies, white t-shirt, Nikes, a slick back hairdo and a walk that, if it weren’t for his clothes, would make her think he was an athlete. But he’s not, he’s a cholo and he’s now on the other side of the gate.

“Hi my name is Sandra, can we talk?”