Monday, July 28, 2014

Defining Love

It has taken me a lifetime to learn the definition of love. 
I love my husband, chocolate ice cream cones, and warm socks. I use the same word to describe all three though they do not carry equal weight in my heart. 
When asked which of my children or grandchildren I love the most, I cannot answer that without sounding trite.  I love them all equally, yet I love them each differently.
I could say I love my husband, I crave chocolate ice cream cones, and I hanker for warm socks, but love is the word I really want to use.
The problem with using the word love to describe the object of our affection is that we are assigning a word to emotions, two separate and unlike entities.
We want to make sense of sensations. We want to rule our heads when it is being run by our hearts.  We give it a commonplace name in hopes of controlling a concept. We seek to keep order in our lives when our hormones are running red hot.
We forget that passion is erratic and capricious.  We can try to tame it. We can try to predict it.  We can give it the noble name of love, but it will still bubble to the surface for what it is – passion.
So here is my definition of love: the word is a chameleon:  it is a feeling that changes depending on who or what we love. Because it defies being constrained into words, it comes with color and texture and three-dimensional sound. It has taste and smell.
When I say I love my husband, it is in bold reds and greens. The word love is Christmas with twinkly lights. It is warm cuddly socks and baked oatmeal cookies. It is shared soft chuckles, and a dear voice calling me his Goddess.
When I say I love my children and grandchildren, each love changes into mixtures of colors, textures, sounds, smells, and tastes.
Only then can someone understand when I say I love them all equally yet differently.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Memories of a Lost Grandchild

The two-year-old bombs through the house, headed for the back bedroom where Grandma keeps a box of toys – balls, Hot Wheels, assorted action figures; memories from childhoods the others have outgrown.
He comes out with a toy microphone, one of those cheap, plastic things that echo when you speak into it and it sounds like it is “live.” “Birthday to you,” he sings.  “Birthday to you.”
We all smile at him and he does a little, sideways dance, shifting from one hip to the other to a melody only he hears. He gives a hearty laugh and goes back to his singing.
Our little charmer is growing fast.  He is healthy and robust.  He is loved by everyone.
*   *   *
One other little charmer never reached his second birthday here on earth.  His little hands never got to play with Grandma’s box of rescued toys.
We never got to sing a second “Happy birthday to you,” because a freak, horrible accident took him from us two years ago this month.  He would have been four. All we have are memories of his smiles, his silly dances, and his laugh; yet he still charms us.
He is still loved by everyone.  
*   *   *
My visitors are gone now and I sweep through the house looking for toys left behind by little hands – a two-piece, wooden train set, an orange ball, the microphone. I carry them in my arms, returning them where they go.

I sing into the microphone, “Birthday to you.” 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finding Sexy

Sometime this week, eight years ago, destiny brought HoneyBunch and me together. Back then I wrote a single woman’s column for a neighborhood newspaper, and to create material for it I subscribed to online dating sites, joined several singles groups, and even went speed dating once. After I quit writing LadyBoomer, I also quit all my memberships.  A few months later eHarmony offered me a three month free subscription in an effort to lure me back into the fold.
There are supposedly all these fish in the sea, right? I figured it couldn’t hurt to cast my line one more time. If I was going to do it, it was now or never.  I wasn’t getting any younger.
In three month’s time, very few nibbled, and I cast most of them back into the deep. Only three seemed “safe” – less likely to be perverts, serial killers, or gigolos, so I chatted with them on the eHarmony safe line.  
As the free deadline approached, I decided not to continue the subscription. I was in a good place in my life and it was full.  I was alone but not lonely, and I didn’t need to complicate it with more.
I said goodbye to a widower who was still in love with his dear, dead wife, and I deleted the guy who could not stop talking about how good looking he was. I doubt he even noticed I was gone. He was too busy flirting with his mirror.
The only one left seemed a really nice guy. He talked about his sons, his simple life out in the country, and how he loved to read and listen to music. Since his divorce several years prior, he had put aside his own needs to raise his two sons and see them through college. Now that they were almost on their own, he had decided it was time to see about his own life.   
I saw myself in him and wanted us to stay “just friends,” post eHarmony.    I was looking for tall, dark, and handsome. I was looking for sexy. My friend came from Czech and Polish roots – sturdy, fair, and when he dressed up, cute. He was reliable and nice and honest.  I figured I was safe around him.
Our friendship transferred over from the eHarmony chat line to our own private emails.  It evolved into once a week phone calls and the inevitable first date.  It became a fast developing friendship between two people who had a lot in common.
Somewhere in there my opinion about him changed into something I cannot explain, and it happened quickly. I do not have words to express what I suddenly felt for HoneyBunch.  Imagine my surprise when I found out I was in love but it was so much more than that.  I found romance and safety and respect and trust and kindness and . . . . I could go on and on.
I found in HoneyBunch what I didn’t even know I was looking for. There is no word for it.  The word love does not begin to explain what it is that I feel for this man. I found home.

Now that, ladies, is sexy. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tío Agapito and the Mexican Revolution

My dad loved to tell us about our antepasados, our ancestors, and how our family settled in and around Zapata, Texas before it was a part of the United States.  His family passed down stories via oral tradition and he did the same to us, repeating them over and over until they became part of our memory.
We teased Dad about his obsession with family history and made fun of his tales from “the good old days,” but it only encouraged him to share them with us one more time.
His stories still rumble in my brain.  They still make me smile.  They still amaze me.
My favorite:  Agapito Ramírez, an old great uncle.  He never married, but that didn’t stop him from leaving behind several descendants.  He fought in the Mexican Revolution alongside Emiliano Zapata which made Tío Agapito very old when I first met him. I don’t recall being in school yet so I must have been four, maybe five.
I had heard so many stories about him from my dad that when he rode up on a horse at my grandmother’s house, I wanted to get a really close look at him. We had been sitting on my aunt’s front porch, but the women scurried inside and dragged me off with them.
All I got to see was a tiny man who reminded me of Yosemite Sam from the Saturday morning cartoons.  He wore a holster with two guns strapped to his legs and sported a huge, dark, handlebar moustache. He didn’t look mean but, if the stories were true, he was dangerous.
He owned some property nearby, never owned a car, and still considered himself a Mexican citizen. Under The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexican citizens with land on the United States side of the border could either stay on their land and become American citizens or lose their land and move to the other side of the Mexican border to remain Mexican citizens.  Most of my father’s family stayed with their land, Mexican citizens one day and American citizens the next. For a lot who stayed, they and their children (like my uncle) refused to surrender their patriotic roots.
During the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s, there was no border between his land and his mother country Mexico, and he joined their fight for freedom.
Tío Agapito often talked about his battle experiences and Dad would share the less cruel tales with us - how the winners would loot the dead bodies, how the men would execute the wounded enemies, and how Tío Agapito often escaped death.  
Whenever we made the trip down to south Texas, someone would drive out to Tío Agapito’s property (he never owned a phone either) and let him know my dad was visiting the family. Tío Agapito must have liked my dad because he often made the long ride out on his horse to visit with him.  
Me?  I still got hustled into the safety of the house with the women, but I would sneak away and peek at him from behind a window curtain. He caught me once.  He winked at me and I noticed a smile behind his big bushy moustache.


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Top Five Books Everyone Needs When on a Deserted Island

It sounds good, doesn’t it?  Ah, all alone on a deserted island.  How idyllic is that?  Before you start packing those Beach Reads or the latest Nora Roberts - reality check. Go watch Cast Away with Tom Hanks and rethink that thought.
Book # 1:  You will need a good survival guide.  There are many on the market, but you need one that will prepare you for island life, deserted island life.  If you are anything like me, a city girl and a book nerd, you might be able to catch a fish or identify a coconut, but what comes after that?  Have you ever had to gut a fish or crack open a coconut? 
This is not Sea Island or Joe’s Crab Shack – you are on a deserted island, you are it – chief cook and bottle washer.
Now, I took Camping as a PE credit in college, but we never had to hunt and gather for our meals, everything was frozen in individual plastic, zippered bags, and packed in ice in our coolers.  We learned how to build a fire using two sticks and some tinder, but what is considered tinder on an island paradise? Are there even sticks on a palm-infested island?
Yup, you will need a good survival guide and all the basic accoutrements listed inside that ensure survival – a knife or a machete or both, string, flint, maybe one of those shiny blankets that keep you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather.  Peruse the book wisely and get packing.
Book # 2 – Okay, now that you have thatched a roof, caught a crustacean, and shaved a couple of spear heads into deadly points; it might help to figure out where your island paradise is situated.  You will need an atlas, a map of some sort, maybe also a map of the constellations. It helps to get one’s bearings and figure out what might lie in store for you.  Are you in some typhoon alley?  A tsunami’s path? A pirate’s stopover?  An atlas of the earth and sky will help you decide if you should move your thatched haven to a higher, more secure spot.  You survived this far, it is best to be prepared, just in case. 
Book # 3 – A cookbook.  You’ve mastered building a fire, catching your food, protecting your domain, but just how many ways can one stomach grilled fish, boiled seaweed, and fresh coconut? It might help to have one of those fish and seafood cookbooks or a basic herb cookbook that will help you identify herbs, roots, and non-poisonous berries. Variety is the spice of life.
Book # 4 – A tome of some heft.  Ah, we finally get to the restful part of our idyllic getaway.  Without the use of electronics, you will eventually get weary of “being in the moment,” and looking at the endless panorama of sea and surf.  After a weary day of survival, you will need some form of mental entertainment. 
You don’t want to end up talking to a basketball and giving him a Christian name do you? Bring along a lengthy tome, something like the Bible, the Webster’s Dictionary or Roget’s Thesaurus, maybe the collected works of Shakespeare or a Michener novel.  You always wanted to learn Italian, German, or Chinese, so bring along a language book, any book that will take lots of your time to study. You have it to spare. Why bore Wilson the basketball with banalities when you can have a lively discussion with him on the pros and cons of Creationism versus Evolution? You two can chatter away in Italiano, count to twenty in German, discuss Chinese history in Standard Mandarin. Oh, yay.
Book # 5 – And finally, let us not forget a journal with lots of pages and pencils.  I would not recommend pens because they run out of ink easily and the ink might smudge if wet, so you will get a lot more out of a pencil.  You can always sharpen them with your knife or machete and use them until they are tiny nubs. 
I realize people do not PLAN on being cast away on a deserted island, but the next time you pack for a trip and you grab “a little something to read” while on the beach or resting in between tours of the sights,  you might reconsider which book or books make the trek with you.  Just saying.