Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 3)

Friday Night: [Journal entry] Dad talked with Linda and Tia. Tomorrow we are gonna go to Adjuntas to check and see if the travel agency will be open and get some flight info there. This gives me a little bit of hope. God please make it so! Tomorrow, tomorrow—it’s only a day away.

Saturday I awoke at 7:30am—a half hour before my alarm was to go off. Excitement and hope radiated throughout my body. Okay. Gotta pack my suitcase. Today is the day. After packing my suitcase, I greeted my dad and Tia. Tia had prepared some coffee and breakfast. I was anxious to get to town. I was anxious to get info. I was anxious to go home.

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“…we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place…”

Linda showed up about 9am or so…much chatting went on between everyone. Finally the time came when we were to go to Adjuntas; Pecas drove. The trek down the mountain to the small town was usually a half hour drive, that day it took an hour. We weren’t even two minutes down the road when we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place—power lines down and across the roads, trees brushed to the side to clear a narrow but drive-able path.

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“They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground.”

We continued on down, though the destruction didn’t get any less; it got worse. Looking down towards the valleys that were literally green and luscious just days prior were now stripped of everything. They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground. We got to maybe the halfway point when we came across a literal one lane path in the road. So we sat…and waited…and waited some more…maybe ten minutes and like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path, along with our train of around twenty to thirty cars. After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to the small, cramped town. Upon noticing that basically every single building was boarded up, we were extremely disappointed to see the travel agency no difference.

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“…like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path…”

F#@$!#  B^%%$#!t.” My dad screamed into the busy but quiet air.
“Well…now what are we going to do?” I questioned out loud, not expecting an answer.
“I don’t know, Honey. But we are going to go home by Monday. Let’s go find Pecas.” Thus began our slow ascend back to Tia’s…it took longer since we had a few extra stops to make.

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One of the stops we made was at the Panaderia store; across the street from it these folks had to dig their driveway back out. 

When we finally weaved our way back to Tia’s house, a cloud of disappointment hovered over me. Dad talked with Tia and Linda about what they were going to do next. I trudged myself around between my bedroom and outside, burdening a great deal of anxiety.  I sat on the ground, while Asevache used me as a chew toy (my arm never felt so loved!). When lunch was made I had only a few bites of the rice and postale. What are we going to do?

What felt like hours later, but perhaps only maybe an hour, my dad came up to me. “Okay. Listen to me,” he got his usual serious face on, “Tomorrow we are gonna go to San Juan and go to the airport. We will take Linda’s car. They are going to be flying planes out maybe on Monday I think is what they say. We gonna find out all the information we need. I don’t care if I have to buy more tickets, I’m not worried about that. I wanna go home, and we gonna go home.” By this point it was twenty-four hours after we were supposed to say ‘Sayonara’ to Puerto Rico…yet we were still there held as a prisoner by the storm’s devious hands.

A couple more hours pass and Tia begins making dinner for us. Then afterwards, we took Abuelo back to his house. Now he lives the opposite way we go to go to town, so I’m sure my dad and Tia were just as curious to see how the road looked going this way. Trees toppled over as if they were made out of wet pieces of cardboard. There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water. It was a dramatic change to say the least.

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“There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water.”

At Abuelo’s house, we walked around to see what damage had occurred—which was hardly anything. One tree had fallen over and my uncle’s work shed just fifty feet from the house barely remained standing. Abuelo’s house stood strong and untouched. My brother’s house next door ended up getting some shingles knocked off on the porch portion of his house, but nothing else was hurt, not even his car. And then, my dad, though he had a lot of pain in his leg, suggested we go and see Noel (his brother) and Coca’s house (which essentially is across the street, but one has to climb up a steep hill to get there). Noel and Coca’s house was pretty much destroyed. Though the walls stood firm (as they should, they’re cement), the roof had been completely plucked off like a Band-Aid and tossed somewhere far away; 90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable. A short while later we went back to Abuelo’s house and then went back to Tia’s.

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“…90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable.”

My dad and I were outside, not so much talking as we were watching the sky and listening to the night creatures croak out their songs. My dad gasps.

“There’s a plane!”

“Where?” He points towards the southeast. A tiny yellow speck glittered in the sky. Dad ran inside to go tell Tía, who came outside to look. They talked. I felt hopeful. Very hopeful. After a bit, we saw another one. Tía went back inside and I followed to look at my phone. I knew that I wouldn’t get any text messages and it was essentially useless, but still I turned it on. I scrolled through my messages, wishing something would change. Dad came in to tell me he saw two more planes. That was four so far. We went to the back area and stood and watched them fly towards the west. In total, we saw nine planes. Just as we were watching the last one, I linked arms with my dad. “This means that they’re trying. This means we have something to look forward to tomorrow.”

That night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. I was too anxious and too hopeful about the following day.

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Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 2)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Are you there God? I’m here…still. I pause. Hesitant to go on. I’m tired. Sleeping is the only time where I’m not worried. Yet here I am…awake. Not afraid, just worried. Can you please make it so we can leave tomorrow? I wanna go home. It’s Thursday night, a day after the storm. The song “Say Something” has been on repeat inside my head all day now. Finally, as if on command, my body falls back into a deep rest. My eyelids drop down until I shut out the darkness with more darkness.


When I awoke on Wednesday morning, the storm had already started.  By that point it had been going on for hours. My Tia had prepared breakfast for all of us—sandwiches warmed in a pan and coffee. Tia was able to run the generator for an hour, although by doing so they discovered water dripping through some of the lights—meaning it could potentially be unsafe to run the generator at all (it wasn’t started again until Friday). Afterwards, I went and napped.  I was awoken again for lunch, which was lukewarm sandwiches and lukewarm juice.

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“The wind whistled…Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway…” [screenshot from video]
The wind whistled through the cracks, as it thundered against the house, as if it was trying to pry its way in. Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway where it would slither its way towards the road in streams. Everyone was just sitting around mostly silent (except for the occasional small talk), rustling about trying to be comfortable in the uncomfortable situation. I watched and listened, as I was unable to communicate with anyone other than my dad; I felt so alone. Throughout the day I just bounced between sitting on my bed in the dark, to reading in the living room, to watching the storm, to reading in the kitchen.

I wasn’t scared. No. Anxious is a better word for how I felt. Anxious for how this would affect our trip home. Anxious for how this would affect our communication even more. Yet despite my feelings, the wind howled on, unaware or perhaps uncaring for what lay in its path.

Finally, the time came when we could all go to bed. I lay there silently, staring towards the dark wall. Waiting for the next day to come. Are you there, God? It’s me…again. I cry out into the blackness that had engulfed my entire room. Wind rattles and shakes the trees outside, causing a whooshing sound against the window shutters. I’m nervous about how our flight is going to be affected. A tear slides down alongside my nose and into the corner of my mouth. I try closing my eyes, but they sting from crying. I open them again, and stare ahead into the night.

After a few hours of aimlessly lying there, the wind suddenly was letting up. The storm that whistled and banged outside began to cease. As quickly as it came, and as long as it lasted, the hurricane was over. I hear another bang outside. My eyes close as if the tiredness that wasn’t there suddenly overwhelms my body. And sleep.

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“…her lemon tree in the back [was] broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over…”
Thursday was inspection day. I awoke to my aunt making fire outside my window (as it was next to the back porch), cooking us breakfast and making coffee. My dad and cousin Pecas were going around finding decent scraps of wood and bringing back my Tia’s cardboard banana boxes to keep the fire going. All around outside my dad and I walked around looking at everything that was broken. My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over, her papaya tree in the front yard was shredded. Banana tree leaves littered the ground like a thick carpet.

 

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“My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken…”

But Tia’s house stood strong, barely damaged (except a few paint spots that sagged from the drenching rains) just like my aunt’s faith and strength. She continuously hummed “Alleluia” as she worked throughout the day to fix what Mother Nature had broken. My two cousins and their wives went back to their house, which was just across the street essentially to go and fix up their house. Word from my cousin staying with her brother, Pecas was that my Tia’s stretch of road was blocked to town from either direction. Basically we were stuck there, not that we would go anywhere even if we had wanted to.  I mostly shoved my nose in a book the rest of the day, to keep my mind preoccupied about my flight home. Tia had heated some water for all of us to be able to bathe ourselves; that night was the first night where I could take a quick sponge bath, and how glorious it felt indeed.

Friday: [Journal entry] Our flight was supposed to leave a half hour ago. But here I am…stuck. Anxious. Annoyed. I’m fearful about work. I’m fearful my mom will be waiting for us, but we’ll never come. I feel so alone, except for the licks I get from Asevache (my Tia’s puppy).

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Asevache: Tia’s Puppy

I have faith that God will take care of us…yet I question. Why couldn’t we have known about the hurricane a day earlier? I would rather not have come had I known. Ironic though, isn’t it? I always wish to have so much time, and here I am, with so much time, and now I’m wishing I could be home, where I have little to no time for anything. God, is this your way of showing me how much time I’ve wasted…You wait for me, but sometimes I ignore that time that’s given to me. Now you’ve given me time, as if saying “See…now you have time.” Grandpa has been here since Monday. He has been asking since Monday night when he is going home. The answer is always the same—we are in a critical condition, it will be some time yet. He feels out of place I’m sure, being that he’s blind and can’t walk anywhere without assistance. He can’t talk to anyone because everyone is outside. I sit with him but I can’t talk to him. He misses his son, Isidro, who lives with him and cares for him. He misses his dog and chickens I’m sure. He’s lonely; him and I are alike in this given situation….Why is it raining so much today?

Whistling down
it plops, in multitudes
splashing on the hard cement.
A puddle, dirtied by
red clay, welcomes the new
drops, tossing rings to the side
as it does suddenly a wind whips it
in swirls
causing a mist to swell.
It falls harder, as if the clouds
cry harder,
just like the tears on my face.

Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 1)

Are you there, God? It’s me…again. I cry out into the blackness that had engulfed my entire room. Wind rattles and shakes the trees outside, causing a whooshing sound against the window shutters. I’m nervous about how our flight is going to be affected. A tear slides down alongside my nose and into the corner of my mouth. I try closing my eyes, but they sting from crying. I open them again, and stare ahead into the night.

Oh where do I go from here? And then suddenly, the wind let up. The storm that whistled and banged outside began to cease. As quickly as it came, and as long as it lasted, the hurricane was over. I hear another bang outside. My eyes close as if the tiredness that wasn’t there suddenly overwhelms my body. And sleep.


The day the hurricane was announced was the day my flight arrived in San Juan. September 16. A Saturday. The sun beamed down on a cloudless day, allowing the heat that had already saturated the air to feel immensely thicker. My uncle and dad conversed back and forth, I listened. I was always listening, trying to grasp at the few Spanish words I could filter out between the words I didn’t know. A few hours later, after a full day of travels, we finally pulled in my Abuelo’s driveway. I greeted my Abuelo and Tia with a peck on the cheek—a typical Puerto Rican greeting. Some more conversation, where I pretended to understand more than I actually knew, and then we drove back to my Tia’s house.

More conversation. I think my dad and aunt were talking about all that was new since our last visit, 2 years prior. I caught on they were talking about trees, and dogs, and at some point chickens. Finally, my aunt signals it’s time for bed, and after only a few measly, uncomfortable hours of sleep on the airplanes, I was more than okay to find a bed to sleep in. Frogs screech out their “co-kee” sounds all around outside. And after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…

Then blackness.

I was greeted the next morning by sticky heat, dogs barking, and people talking loudly. A knock on my door, “Angel. Time to get up, okay.” My phone declared it was 9 o’clock. So 8 o’clock in Wisconsin.

It was a typical vacation day for me in Puerto Rico. It consisted mostly of reading and enjoying the little bit of sun that I could handle while my cousin and a few other guys were working on slicing the banana plants to fit them in a box (my aunts husband was a banana farmer, and she still continued the business with her son after my uncle passed away).

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On our way to Lares; 3 days prior to Hurricane Maria

The next day is when my aunt, dad, and I went to Lares a town about half hour away. My dad had to get something at Walgreens, and so my aunt said we should just make a day out of it. We stopped at a place to get food; I ate arroz (rice), bistec (steak), and pescado (fish), and then we went to Walgreens. Sometime during that afternoon after we got back from Lares, I went to go use my dad’s phone and discovered it had no service. Hmmm. That’s strange.

“Dad, your phone isn’t in service.”
“What do you mean?” And I showed him. He said something about it to Tia and the conversed back and forth a few minutes.
“Auntie says that there is supposed to be a hurricane to hit on Wednesday.” He looks at me with concerned eyes.
“What? Well, dad, how is that going to affect our trip home?”
“I don’t know, honey.” And I felt a bit nervous thinking how this could affect our flight home, and how I had no way of communicating with anyone to let them know. As serious as I thought it was, to me it seemed like it wasn’t as big of a deal for my family. My cousin Pecas (his nickname which means freckles) was chuckling and saying, “You’ll see things flying in the air.” My thought process was how they handle things so differently than the United States. It’s like they already knew and accepted that they wouldn’t receive help from the mainland, and would make the best of the situation and what was thrown at them. The rest of the day I was numb.

IMG_6835The next two days were preparation day. We went to town to get gas. The lines were long. We waited maybe 20 minutes for gas (which to me was crazy), which in reality was nothing compared to after the hurricane. At home, I watched my aunt and cousin take boards and covered the glass windows and front door. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I read and watched and listened.

Tuesday night, my aunt and I shared a room, while my dad shared a room with Abuelo, and my two cousins and their wives each had their own room. We boarded ourselves up—all the shutters were closed and the back door was latched. The power was still on, the heat was still strong, but the darkness encompassed all around. I stayed up as late as I could to avoid sleeping, because sleeping would mean that the storm would come. But sleeping meant I could avoid the day; sleeping would make the time go by faster. Finally after a couple hours, my aunt came out and beckoned me into the room to go to bed. That would be the last time I’d see electricity for the next 5 days.

The Bad Man Never went to Jail

The first time the bad man touched me, it was the summer before my 8th birthday. I can’t recall exactly how it all began, but I can remember that his overwhelming power of affection tricked me into believe that it was ‘okay.’

His greasy, long gray hair was always pulled back in a pony tail, while the top part of his head, slightly bald, was always covered by a red hat that bore the band name Slipknot. I didn’t understand what was going on, except that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. I was never threatened, but it made me giggle to keep a secretwhich I knew later on was bad.

For a whole year or possibly two this man proceeded to abuse me. Since then, I’ve blocked out a lot of my childhood to the point where I hardly remember anything between second and fourth grade. I do remember the time when I received a C on a project about the Pilgrim’s voyage that took me weeks to complete and how disappointment filled every nook and cranny of my body. Other than that, I don’t remember a lot.

Eventually, the man left the house. Literally one day I came home from school, and he was gone. Vamboosh with a clump of cash he stole from my mom. Cops were called, they took the story of his theft, but my lips were sealed on his other deeds he did because I was afraid in that moment that my mom would be really mad at me. Looking back that was silly of me. The bad man was never caught. The bad man never went to jail.

I’m okay now. See, a few years ago I heard a life-changing message about how we can’t truly experience all of God’s blessings when we have old junk, like hurts and bitterness, overcrowding our hearts. In that altar call, I said I forgave the man who touched me in inappropriate ways. I asked God to take away that burden that I carried around for years. I never found the courage to tell people what happened because, well honestly it was hard for me to trust anyoneespecially men. The first person I told was one of my best guy friends at the time (who I actually later dated for a month or so before we decided that we were better off as just friends). He hugged me and told me that he was sorry for what happened to me. We really bonded in that moment.

I’m not writing this for sympathy, please don’t give me any sympathy because it makes me feel awkward. But I’m writing this because I know there is someone out there who has experienced what I have, I know they’re probably scared to talk to someone about it, but let me say that telling someone trustworthy is the first step to dropping that unbearably high burden. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone, anyone, how much hurt someone has caused you. I lost a part of my innocence in a way I never wanted to, and I’ll never get that back.

This reminds me of the term kintsugi, known as the Japanese art form for repairing broken pottery. According to Wikipedia, when a piece of pottery is broken a mixture of gold, silver, or platinum is created to form bondage, or scar if you will, along the seams which basically “stitches” it back together. This treats the breakage/repair as part of the history of the object verse something to disguise.

Someday, if it’s meant to be, I’ll find someone who’ll see my battle scars, my golden cracks, and will still find beauty (but if not, I’m not too worried about it either).
Don’t let your scars define you. Let those golden cracks shine your inner beauty.

October Twenty-third

It meant they were talking about one and only one thing possible.

“Grace?” Jeanie asked.

I turned back to face her and Molly. The two other girls that rode my bus. I was good friends with Jeanie, since first grade. And me and Molly had our moments where we were friends. Other times we couldn’t stand each other.

“Hmm?” I asked, turning to face her.

“Why are those three up there?” Jeanie asked, wondering the same as Molly.

“Yeah, Sting, Mae, and Jon?” Molly asked.

I turned to face the three conspirators again. “I don’t know…”

Lie.

I knew what was going on. Mae and Sting had told me. It didn’t really surprise me about Sting. He was known for this shit. So was Jon. And ever since I moved back, Mae had started doing stuff I had never imagined my childhood best friend to do…

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I stepped off onto the side walk. Everyone followed me off the bus. I turned to see if Mae was coming, walking inside with me and Jeanie like she did every morning.

I caught Sting’s eye as he walked down the side walk with Jon and Mae to the corner. Every morning I would watch Jon and Sting walk down that side walk. Going to take a hit to try and catch a minimum high from the hell their real lives really were.

I knew a lot about Sting. We had been good friends. We were really close. He had seen me cry at my lowest, and laugh at my highest. We talked to each other about everything. And I’ll admit, at the end there, I kind of liked him. It was something about his charm.

“Don’t get caught!” I yelled, joking but being serious.

So when he looked at me, he smiled and nodded towards the school. As if to tell me ‘Calm down and get to class.’ I just looked at him and nodded, as if to say ‘Don’t get caught…’

Sting had promised me before. “I won’t get caught. I promise”

I learned that promises from a stoner mean nothing if it means giving up their drugs to keep a friend…

I looked over at Mae, she didn’t see me, but I saw the fear in her eyes. I also saw the excitement that quickly swallowed the fear.

She turned her head, and I walked around the corner, making the three disappear. If I would have known that was the last time I saw that crooked smile, I would have hugged him. I would have told him good-bye. If I would have known that was the last time I saw my best friend Mae for a long, long time, I would have told her to stop, and come back.

But I didn’t. I watched Sting and Jon suck Mae up with them. Into the world of drugs…

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I smiled and said, “Ha! No!”.

Jeanie laughed back. “What ever.”

We walked out of the front doors of the high school. Another day in the hell hole, another day of fun on the bus. Laughing and flirting and screaming and joking. My favorite part. Then I switch buses, and sit and talk to Sting or Mae quietly and seriously.

Even though none of us were the same age (Me, freshman, Mae, sophomore, Sting, junior) we got along just like we had known each other forever… Which we basically had.

I stood at the bus stop. Where were they…?

I looked down the street, right in front of the house where they got all of their stuff. The stuff that a week ago, Sting and Jon made a pipe out of a bottle and smoked right in front of me.

No one was there. I looked up to the part of the school where kids would wait for their parents and, I’ve never told anyone this, I saw Sting standing there.

It was a Friday, his Grandma would come and pick him up. So I didn’t question it. But there was a look in his eyes. A worried look.

We had gotten close enough in the past three months, that I knew when something was wrong. I saw in his eyes the worry as he talked on a phone. Who’s phone it was, I don’t know. He had his guitar slung over his shoulder.

I shook my head and looked away. I didn’t want him to see me worrying. Apparently I freaked out too much…

I looked around at the bus stop. I didn’t see Mae… Not even that snake Jon… I had a part of me that made my stomach twist. I knew something was wrong. And I didn’t know yet, but I was right…

_______________________2 WEEKS LATER_______________________

I sat on Holly’s bed, starring at my phone as it beeped. Damn thing was almost dead.

“Shit!”, I said, getting mad.

“What?”, Holly said, drying her hair, coming out from her bathroom.

“My phone. Its almost dead.” I threw it on her bed and went to sit on her floor again, going through some old papers she had wrote.

My mind had been racing lately. I hadn’t seen Mae or Sting in a long time.

According to Sting’s sister, they were expelled. They had got caught smoking. I was so scared. I cried. Two of my oldest, closest friends gone in half a heart beat. The day I found out, I floated through school, waiting for one of them to come down the hall. But it wouldn’t happen. I went home that night and cried.

Tears flooded down my face. No one knew that I spent that night crying myself to sleep.

I laughed and my phone made the sound it does when I get a text. I ignored it, still talking to Holly. Then it beeped again. I went to go shut it off; when I saw the text I had forgotten. It was from Mae.

Hey. I need to talk to you.

Mae?!?! What’s going on? Where have you and Sting been?

I’ve been sick. Don’t tell people I got expelled. It’s a rumor.

My phone died at that point. I wanted to cry. I knew Mae was lying. I knew what had happened. And I knew that Mae knew too. But neither of us admitted that we both knew.

Sophie, Stings sister, said that the court date was Wednesday. I told her to tell me what happened. She said it would be at the school.

That night, my phone started ringing.

“Jeanie?” I answered.

“Guess who I just saw while I was at the musical.”

“…Who?”

“Sting.”

My heart skipped a beat. Sting. People thought I was emotional through this whole thing because I liked him. Yeah, there was that. But he was so close to me. He was my big, protective brother. The one that flirted with me.

“What’s going on…?” I asked, breathlessly.

“Grace… He’s expelled…”

I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation. I wanted to hang up and cry. I wanted to curl up. I didn’t know if this meant Mae was gone too. Mae, my best friend, might be gone.

I never even got to say good-bye.

_________________________________________________________

I dragged myself up. I didn’t want to go. I waited at the end of my drive way. Not texting like I usually did, even this early. I had started staying away from people. I was sick of letting my trust out, and having people steal it, with out ever bringing it back…

I got on the bus and smiled at the bus driver. I turned my head and saw Mae. She was smiling.

My mouth dropped and I screamed. “Maeee!!!!!!!!” I ran and hugged her. We hugged and I felt like crying. My best friend was back.

Jon came back, but Sting never did. There are a lot of things I never really got to say to him. And I regret that ever single day of my life.

Mae wrote her side. And I thought that you should know my side too. Not as one of the people who were caught, but the one that was affected from the outside…

As I laughed, I turned my head. I was wondering why Mae was up by Jon. Especially when we spent most of our time on this yellow tin box yelling at him to leave us alone. Sting had told me that he would keep Jon away from me, but it was hard when the past two mornings he would slither up to Jon and Mae and talk to them. Being strangely quiet. Not exaggerating things to make people notice his antics like he usually did.

written by Margaret Whitson, life-long friend, childhood neighbor.

Brother Special

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Bub: few months-ish, Me: 4 or 5 years old

Once upon a time, when I was around five and six, I often times would take care of my brother. I changed his diaper. I usually dressed him if he needed to be. Thankfully I never had to feed him (eww to burping a baby). So my brother and I developed our own form of communication     oh yes, whatever he said I understood clear as day, while my mom or any other adult would turn to me after he said something, “What did he just say?” Then I had to translate. See, my brother, who is mentally impaired (mentally handicapped, mentally retarded…whatever you want to call it) had, and still has, a slight speech impediment. His words are…mumbled…that’s the best way to describe it. He was the annoying person who always received more attention from my mom, so I often times envied him, but yet at the same time he was my best friend and it didn’t matter if he was “special.”

As we grew older our relationship always fluctuated. At times we’d do things together as a brother and sister. Other times I’d have to take on more of a parental role, because my mom worked long hours to put food on the table. Then other times I completely despised him because through my eyes, he got all the “good stuff” no rules applied to him, you know things that upset a child. But in the end, we’ve eventually would come together and take on our usual relationship: I pick on you, you pick on me, punch-each-other-in-the-shoulders kind or relationship.

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Bub: about 3 years old

Then when I went off to college, our relationship changed very dramatically. All of a sudden I had no idea what to do without a brother. I had no one to poke fun at. So when I’d come home it was hardcore “meanness.” As I spent less time at home, he started growing up: rapidly. He grew taller than me. His facial hair filled in. His shoulders broadened. He was growing into a man (yes, it does make me sad a little, because that means I’m getting old!).

About a week ago, out of no where I come out of my room dressed very nicely for a job interview. He comes out of his room about the same time to get something to eat. He smiles when he looks at me, “Angel. You look very beautiful.” I’m caught completely off guard, “Why thank you, Bub.” I’ve been called beautiful or pretty by men before, so it’s not like the first time I’ve heard it (shocking, I know!!), but when my brother, who thinks girls are gross, called me beautiful, it was a very vivid moment for me: my brother is growing into such a nice gentleman.

Snapchat--6188996922673124564Then tonight, as him and I took our dogs for a walk to get some exercise in, I told him that we both need to take showers tonight before church prayer tomorrow. His response, “Well ladies go first, so you can have the shower first.” I’m blown away by how sweet he is. My mom and I both have tried to teach him throughout the years how to be a gentleman, like opening doors for folks and always being nice in general, and since I’ve been home for the summer, I’ve realized how much he’s grown up in the last 4 years that I’ve been away at college. I’m so proud of him.

I had someone ask me why I believed in a God when my brother turned out the way he is. I was thrown off by this person blatantly stating there was no God, and that my brother is proof of it. I didn’t have a good response for that person, and I’m embarrassed to say so. But as I’ve witnessed my brother growing up, I have no doubt that there is a God. See, every child is born for a purpose, so every child born is perfect in the will of God. I’m so blessed to have Bub.

If I didn’t have my brother, I would never have had the chance to learn how to communicate with someone who doesn’t talk like myself. I usually don’t have many issues comprehending accents or speech impediments. Bub taught me to enjoy life at a slower pace. Anyone who knows him, knows he’s slow as molasses on a winter day when he does ANYTHING. Even if he’s told to pick up the pace, he’s still pretty slow. Bub showed me that sticks are great swords, and that dinosaurs are legit. I learned the value of a hug when he hugged me goodbye. Most of all, Bub taught me how to smile at the most trivial things even if I just want to punch a wall    he’s literally the most funny guy I know. God blessed me with a brother that can uplift me when I need it. And even if he is a little mentally impaired, he’s one-of-a-kind-special: brother special.

To Dad: Love, me

Growing up, one of the faint memories of my father that I could recall was him being lugged away in handcuffs by two tall, strong looking police officers, because he was so intoxicated that he started fighting with Linda, his girlfriend at the time. I don’t remember much of that day except that earlier that evening I was riding on Brownie (not the horse’s real name, but I called any brown horse “Brownie,” Black horses “Blackie” etc…). Brownie was one of the many trail horses that was at the stables that my dad and Linda managed [or something like that], and every day Junior or Marco (Linda’s sons) would take me out on the trail rides. It was always a highlight of my day, and at the end of every ride I was given some money to buy myself a grape soda from the vending machine that was placed by the stables

Obvious to say, my dad wasn’t a huge part of my life after that incident. Once in awhile I’d see him, and say “Hi Dad” really enthusiastically, because I was starving for him to accept me into his life and treat me like I was his. I could never comprehend why he didn’t live with my mom like everyone else’s parents did. I could never understand why he didn’t say “I love you” back. And most of all, I couldn’t understand as to why I wasn’t allowed to ever stay with him again. I didn’t know the term alcohol and what it sometimes did to people.

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Feeding the Pigeons, Puerto Rico August 2012

Eventually I just grew numb to the fact that my father wasn’t a part of my life. I didn’t care too much. But I was a rather bitter child towards men. My mom would date a few guys throughout the years, many of which expected me to follow their authority, while not handing out any form of love or warmth towards me or my brother.

Let’s fast forward now.

Puerto Rico Trip 2014 017It was sometime after I started working at McDonald’s that my dad was all of a sudden in my life again. I can’t picture the exact day it happened, but it suddenly did. He was stopping my fairly regularly at McDonald’s to get coffee or a Big Mac meal, all to say “Hi” to me or to ask me how my day was going. I never ignored him. I just accepted him that he was back in my life. I never held a grudge over him, but I finally was able to forgive him for dis-including himself in the early years of my life (if that makes sense).

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Third time in Puerto Rico, June 2015

Suddenly I found myself making plans to go to Puerto Rico with him: this was one of his promises he always made to me when I was a kid, that he would take me to Puerto Rico.

To Dad: I know you weren’t on board at first, but I thank you for coming back into my life again. I know life wasn’t always easy for you, but I’m glad that God had his hand on you.
To Dad: I know you’re getting old, but I still hope that you can walk me down the aisle someday and give me away to a man. But if that never happens, I’ll still think of you on that day. Thanks for having two older sons, and teaching them what it is to be a hardworking man, and showing me that with dedication I can accomplish anything.
To Dad: I’ve forgiven you for everything of our past, and I hope you can forgive me for not loving you at times. I still pray that someday you will find another woman, but if not, I hope you live the last of your days content.
To Dad: I wish you would come to church with me, maybe just maybe, you could overcome your addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. I dislike that you hack up a long from your constant chain smoking.
To Dad: Thanks for teaching me Spanish and speaking to my family members that didn’t speak much English.
To Dad: I wish you could have taught me how to fish or fix a car. I learned from my mom, which I still appreciate, but I wish we could have spent some father-daughter time together. But thanks for fulfilling your promise to me and taking me to meet my other half of the family. I love them all.
To Dad: most of all, thanks for being more than just a biological donor. Thanks for stepping up and taking that role of fatherhood, sometimes it’s better late than never.
To Dad: Happy Father’s Day. Feliz dia de los Padres. Te amo mucho.

Love, me

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