Sunday, December 19, 2010

Legacies

The word "legacy" can be applied to several areas. One of them is that history which creates us, as who we are. Our culture and traditions passed on to us by those who came before, leaving a definite imprint on our lives. What happens when this continuing line is broken? Those who follow the break point lose much.  


I have often thought about the concept contained in the word “legacy”. Those of you who have read these entries from the beginning know that, outside the occasional meandering, my thoughts tend to focus on events of a lifetime. Many come from those memories which make growing up possible. In the full sense of the phrase. Times which despite all the issues lived or, perhaps because of them, have deeply etched a life story into the psyche; in other words, what makes one whatever one is today.


What makes me think this? It is neither depression nor the beginning of a bout of melancholy. The cultural story-line of a family should not end with any one individual, especially when there are children who follow. No matter what circumstances may be, that line should be continued with each generation being able to add its own chapter and leaving the door open for the following ones. In my case, my belief is that this continuous line will, sadly, end with me. If circumstances had been different and on a more normal plane, this would not be the case. We (family) would most likely be in Cuba, my children having gone to the same schools to which I went, and through the same cultural learning; also enjoying the guidance of grandparents, uncles, aunts and the company of many cousins and friends who would have been, themselves, the sons and daughters of my and their mother's (whomever she may have been) friends, thus continuing the story while having a chance to create their own as part of this ongoing line.

Whenever there is the need, I can think back and am able to surround myself with my family's stories and memories, and these have an anchoring effect on me. They are a reminder that regardless where I may physically or inimically be, or what I may be living through at the time, my mind and a heart can reach back more than 4 generations and benefit from this accumulation and wealth of emotions, thoughts, teachings, and just plain living and survival.

For many of those who come to this country, there is a feeling that many of our customs and cultural basis become eroded within a system and structure which demands that all be set aside in the pursuit of an ever increasing income requirement. Our children become less interested in the family history and in the “old country”; for them, it is more important to pursue their own issues within their own circles and thus, begin a new “story line”. When these differences are greatly enhanced by a divorce or parental separation, then they become more defined and underlined. There is an additional incentive not to become overly concerned with the family history of the parent who became separated from the unit. In my case, this has come to be so. Interestingly, the mother of my three younger children is herself born in Cuba. She was, however, educated within a restrictive and very judgmental system and this gave her the wrong impression that her beginnings had to be denied. So, no help from that quarter. The sad part is that her own family goes back several generations in Cuba, and many rich traditions were lost in this exchange.

My First Born (I don't think she took too kindly to being labeled "Oldest Daughter"...) is, on the other hand, very interested in the family history and whatever bits of information can be passed on to her. She tells me she has read every post and enjoys doing so. Especially when these relate to my earlier life and to any type of stories relating to the family.

In a way I believe that these posts along with a couple of other projects which I am (too) slowly developing, will become a sort of legacy. Perhaps these will allow my own children to get to know more about their roots and yes, about their father as well. Each generation will indeed write their own story line, this is the way it should be; however, it is my belief that when this is done within a continuum, it will make more overall sense.


What do you think?


Be Well... Be Back!!











Friday, December 10, 2010

Detente...

In my childhood, there were defined rules of behavior. Children were children and not "young adults"  Therefore, each person(s) would do whatever it was that those of the same age would do. And, every once in a while, a pesky child would have to be removed and/or kept away for a while. This is where the concept of "detente" would come in. It usually worked...

Back in my early days, in the sunny and beautiful island of Cuba, I was raised with teachings which I have, in latter years, understood to be an eclectic mix of many of the old time customs coupled with a, for the times and place, forward looking philosophy of life.

However, there was “DETENTE...” Literally the word's translation means “STOP”. For me, as a five year old, it meant something entirely different. As a child, my luck was riding high. What to many in our then society would have been a “disgrace”, for us became a blessing. My sister and I lived with our grandparents as a result of the divorce of our parents. Beyond the love and care our grandparents always gave us, we had an extra grace: my great-grandmother (mother's grandma) lived with us as well. Dearest “Abuelita Irene”, Granny Irene. Years later, whenever I saw “Beverly Hillbillies” on TV, I would see “Granny”, and think of my own granny for, at least physically, there was a strong resemblance: small and frail looking (but far from being so), always neatly dressed in a long period skirt and white, starched blouse, her hair in a tightly pulled bun and her intelligent and always smiling blue eyes framed by, what else? Granny glasses.

Since she was always at home, she became my port in any storm, and there were many!! She was always ready with a hug, a smile, a word of encouragement. Such as it could be told to a 5 or 6 year old boy, who was always flirting with trouble. I do not know how old she was then. My own grandmother, her daughter, had been born around the turn of the century. My best back looking guess is that Granny Irene must have been around her mid 70's or so at the time of these happenings.

But... what did she have to do with “detente”? You may ask. Well, we have to understand what this word meant in the context of a 5-6 year old in my family. You see, whenever a child was becoming more obnoxious to his/her currently accompanying adults or whenever those adults in nominal charge wanted to have some time off, or wanted to go out without the joyful company of said child, one of them would turn to his/her charge and with the sweetest smile say: “dile a abuela que te de detente” or, go ask granny to give you detente. At this point, the unsuspecting 5 year old (namely: me) would go to Granny and ask for the aforementioned “detente”. Granny would then proceed to put my head on her lap, cover my eyes and begin to soothingly speak to me.

Of course, while this happened my mother or grandparents would sneak out to wherever they were going. Usually, when I realized what had happened the tears would begin to flow, along with the corresponding tantrum. Granny would take it all in stride and we would usually end up in a parlor game or in some story which I guess was loosely based on her own experiences. A six year old today would fall for this little scheme maybe once. The second time would not work. I was an innocent in an innocent age.

On the other hand, those detente moments have been imprinted in my mind and heart, putting Granny's presence there until the day I die. She was a sweet and loving lady, but with a very well defined backbone. During the few years I had the fortune of having her company, she told me many stories and taught me to begin to understand the concept of patience and the fact that, much to my dismay, I was not the center of the world. Everyone needed a little space and respect. Along the way, she also gave me a lot of love.

Granny, wherever you are, I hope that Our Loving Father is giving you all the "Detente" He can muster.

Back soon!!
Until then, Be Well... Be Back!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sex and The Mingle Guy

I am not sure what brought this one on. Being over 60 (although fairly"liberated") has allowed me to live in simpler times, when intimate experiences were just that: intimate. The concept of physical love was to be respected, looked forward to and cherished. I'm not saying "virgin until wedding night" The Good Lord well knows that after three marriages, what is expected of a relationship is the ability to share and to truly enjoy the other person's love, company and offering of her (or his, as the case may be) physical love.

Everywhere one looks there is a veiled and/or very direct reference to sex. As human beings we are fast becoming a pack of wild dogs, being reduced to smelling the other animal's behind, so as to know whether or not an invitation will be accepted. It seems that more and more whenever two people meet, the immediate concern is “will he/she be good in bed?” and “can I get him/her there tonight?”. The idea of spending some time getting to know the other person has been relegated to a lesser priority in the pursuit of instant gratification.


An admission to be made: I belong to the “old” generation. Meet her, by chance or by choice, talk (remember that concept?), get to know one another, establish a base relation and then, take it from there.

As I sit here writing and listening to Simone (actually a stream in the background) sing some of her/his best love songs, of which there are many, I think I may influenced in what I'm writing. But, no matter what the influence may be, the base feelings or beliefs cannot be changed that easily.

The sex act is overrated. This is just a physicality which may last for a while. Pitifully short for some of the more selfish kind. Then, after the required comment of “You are the best, baby” (that's now a two way requirement, you know) each goes his/her way, swearing that next time it will be better.

Sensuality is far more enjoyable than sexuality. Bringing all of our given senses to play brings the opportunity to enjoy a simple look... or a light, brushing touch of that beautiful skin... Sensuality is about the senses which allow us to exist on this plane of ours. They heighten the moment's feeling and slowly bring all into a beautiful crescendo of joy, emotions and pure living.

The senses allow you to not only look, but see the other person as her face and expressions change in her enjoyment; to hear and to intently listen to what is being said and meant in response to your comments... it is the taste of want and fear as your lips brush together for a first time... the smell of not only the perfume which she may have dabbed on, but of the body itself; a special aroma which only belongs to that person and which you could identify anywhere. Last... the touch... first as slight brush of fingertips on her face and her arms...followed by other, more telling and demanding caresses... When the moment of sex is preceded by this, then it becomes an explosion of pleasure and joy to be truly shared by both.

As I said before by itself, as a simple physical act... overrated. As part of a loving experience, nothing could top it. I truly hope that it makes a comeback as the joyful, beautiful experience that it can, and should, be.

Back soon!!

Until then, Be Well... Be Back!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catholic Schooling and then Some...

My early years were spent at catholic school in my hometown. Those were good, simple years which served as a very strong base for later and latter years. It was not all smooth sailing, there were some bumps on the road. But all was worthwhile; albeit from a much later in life vantage point. Including some very different schooling and some very difficult and rough teachers..


Wherever the Spaniards colonized, it seems that the crown flag was being carried by a priest, followed by a number of acolytes carrying swords. This has resulted in an, until recently, unchallenged tradition of Catholicism in all our Spanish speaking countries. As a child, I dutifully went to Sunday mass. Usually to the 11am mass, since this was the one favored by my friends, including all the girls with whom one would want to speak. Remember: in the 1950's, Cuban society was a very structurally rigid living thing. It watched you, made an opinion about you an freely disseminated the same through its ready made blabber network, with not much thinking about the consequences.

The idea of boys and girls having free time together, was anathema to this established set of rules, closely watched by the catholic hierarchy and its schools. Therefore, we had to constantly figure out ways to be able to be with a girl, even for a very innocent and friendly exchange. And, usually, it was just that. The paranoia was such, that girls were taught not to wear shiny black shoes since these could conceivably reflect an image of their legs and, The Good Lord forbid, even further up the anatomical chain. This would be disastrous and would not speak well of that particular girl. So, the girls would wear almost anything but and, of course, we boys would all wear black and very shiny shoes and do our best to try to get as close to the girl as possible. In the end, unless you wear a very wide and flattop size 16 shoe, nothing really shows. Score one for purity and decorum.

The Cathedral church in my hometown rests on a well raised platform overlooking the main plaza (where does it not?) this plaza being named after the Father of our Independence, Jose Marti. The church occupies one half square block and it is considered to be one of the best examples of asymmetrical bell tower construction. As for myself, I just think the builders ran out of material and made the second belfry smaller than the first. Of course there were other churches in town; no well respected Latin American town of Spanish ancestry could have less than a baker's dozen worth of churches. However, The Cathedral was the place to be and to be seen. Also, this is where attendance tickets were given out after the main masses. Yes, attendance tickets. We, who went to catholic schools,had to turn these into our teacher on Monday morning's catechism class. Those who did not,would receive a demerit in their weekly report. Three of these and your parents would have to come in and convince the director as to why you should be allowed to continue attending classes at this school, since obviously you did not have the honest desire to comply with their teachings. I know, I went through this little scenario. Mind you, in every other category at school my grades were always within the top 3 of a class of about 30 students. But that Sunday mass was all important and had more weight than the rest of the study subjects put together. Interesting, huh?

In my case, matters were more interesting because my grandfather who was my actual guardian and father figure, was a 33rd degree Mason. This was anathema to my teachers, most of whom were ordained brothers just one step removed from being full priests. I had a lot of what was considered a “rebellious attitude” by my teachers and was treated as such although this would only refer to the religious teachings, and nothing else. I do not hold any long standing grudges against them; on the contrary, those years were good, simple and relatively happy years. The general teachings at that and another catholic school where I briefly attended, did form a solid base which allowed me to grow as time went on and I was exposed to many other life teachings which were never part of that original curriculum.

It has been many years since those days were lived. Much has happened during this time and yet, my basic religious beliefs are still there, although somewhat changed from those days. One thing that can be said is that the overall curriculum taught to me during those years prepared me to tackle school in the US, and do so from -actually- a vantage point. I was well prepared and even with or ahead of most of my classmates at the high school I attended. And this was a very good public school, with excellent teachers. So, score one point for the catholic schools and for their very demanding schedules. As long as you brought them that bloody attendance slip.

Back soon!!
Until then, Be Well... Be Back!!

Veterans Day

The working title for a space that should’ve been filled some time ago was “The Power of Words”. Although that “some time” seemed to be cont...