Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Goodbyes and Balances…

This is a longer entry than usual. I debated (a short debate) whether to break it into two entries or not and the "not" won out. Maybe I just wanted to "get it over with" since it was not easy to put on paper... 

One morning, not long ago, started with some news I had been afraid would come at almost any time.

As I was getting ready to leave for my first morning class, the phone rang. I saw the name of my sister in law on the screen and, at this early time of the morning, the thought of some negative news immediately came to mind. Her voice was a little shaken when she said

 –“Rafo”, “your mom passed away last night”.

I saw her last some 34 years ago, when she was given the opportunity to come and visit us (my sister and I), after 20 years of not seeing each other. This is the very high price paid by all who leave their homeland searching for a better tomorrow or because, simply, there is no choice. It often means the past is left behind, to be retained only as a memory expected to create the background and basis for that “better future”.

Random memories came to my mind for several days. They have, as I sit here and revisit them, helped me weather the moment. It was not unexpected; in fact, the last pictures I saw of my mother -already at age 93 and suffering from advanced stage Alzheimer’s, showed me a physically diminished woman I had known to be strong and full of fight, but now at the end of a long and not too easy life.

My mother, as well as her sisters and mother, came from fighting stock. None of them would give up easily when a goal was set and visualized. I wish I had inherited more of this but it seems that it is not only a gene pool issue, but it comes also as part the makeup of upbringing. Here is where I lost out when my family was left behind at a relatively early age of 15. I understand circumstances made it so that there could be no delays but I also understand that I, like many others in similar positions and of similar age, were deprived of a very important learning period in our lives. The final family-led formative years of our growing process into young men and women.

(continued)…  It’s now been a few days since the start of this entry. It’s tackling an emotional issue which has many undertones, without being sure which of those are honest and which are veneer.

To say we had a very close mother-son relationship would be brushing on a coat of whitewashing. I was brought up by my grandparents while my mom was working and trying to bring her life back into the “right rails”. We lived in a traditional society where single working moms were not appreciated and she wanted to have a second chance at having a traditional home. A lot of her time and emotional efforts went into that. I remember moments when we (my sister and I) wished some of that emotional involvement came our way.

Unfortunately, as life developed, we didn’t have the time that perhaps she thought we would have downline. We were separated by external issues stronger than us as individuals and as a family, and were sent off to live in parallel universes, as it were. Not to touch, see or hug each other again, save for a very brief period in the summer of 1983 when she was allowed to come to the US and visit. My own personal issues precluded my being able to visit there once the ironclad restrictions (especially the ones that applied to those of us who had left Cuba in the early stages of the Castro Govt) began to relax a bit in the mid 90’s.

Now she is gone. I don’t think she suffered physically, for she was in good caring hands. But I do think that emotional distress was doled out and handled -as well as she could- over a lifetime. Through her actions more than her words, I had a glimpse of what life was like in Cuba in the mid 80’s, during our interactions when she had a chance to come and spend a few weeks here.

At the beginning of her stay, If we went to a restaurant she would never finish her dish, saying “but… we have to save some for the next meal, no?” “What are we going to eat next?”. At another occasion, when entering a supermarket in the US for the first time, she quietly began to cry. When I asked her if she was alright, she just looked around and said: “don’t worry, I’m OK” “I cry not for me, for I had all this growing up; I cry for your brothers who have never seen such wealth of food in one place” “They don’t know what an apple is, or what it is to have so many choices of food”.

At another time, in our living room, we were talking about the situation in Cuba and she was -hesitantly at first- telling us about all the negative issues everyone had to face on a daily basis. Suddenly, in mid-sentence, she stopped cold and looked around. “Disculpa m’hijo” “Sorry son”, “A bad habit we have; we need to make sure nobody is listening, because there are gov’t ears everywhere” These reactions could tell me more than anything she could have said. A grim picture of what had been not a problem free, but well developed and relatively easy going, middle class oriented society.

She spent time with us, then went to stay with my sister in NYC and afterwards, spent some time with childhood friends on the west coast before going back to Cuba. She chose to go back for her husband was still alive and she also felt her children and grandchildren in Cuba needed her presence more than we did here. Perhaps so. My sister had a chance to go visit in Cuba in the mid 90’s but for me, her visit was the only time I saw her again.

All the what-if’s one could ask would not really give a satisfactory answer to the Why? Questions. There are no answers. As we navigate the often-times rough waters of our lives, we begin to understand that. Even in this understanding, we should never cease to entertain hat question Why? For in looking for an ever elusive answer, we begin to accept that we don’t know, And this, is as true an answer as we will ever get.

Be well Mami; be at peace and, hopefully your spirit will be -in whatever realm it may now exist- in the company of those who were your kindred in this life. My love to you and my gratitude for the not then understood sacrifices you made on our behalf and on behalf of a future we had not seen yet.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


NOTE:  While in the process of doing a compilation of selected blog entries for possible publication, I came across this one which definitely is one of the chosen ones. Came to me from a dear friend almost 2-3 years ago and I thought  it was good enough to republish. Read and think.

A couple of days ago, there was an entry was titled.. “Life isn’t Fair” and a dear old friend who actually takes the time to read and comment, sent me these…

1.Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three R’s:
          - Respect for self,
          - Respect for others and
          - Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful        stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to             correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back,  you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

After reading these there is little I can add, except that with the best of intentions and the best of trying, there is always that bit if happenstance, that bit of not looked for luck or encounter. As another dearest friend also reminded me after reading… there can be unexpected encounters at any given flower shop in the springtime…

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

On Being Latino.

With this electoral “Highway from Hell” we are going through this year, being a Latino becomes relevant… but not always in the right way.

Never before in the 54 years I have lived in this country has an election so polarized people. For the right or wrong reasons. I am Hispanic by birth, a naturalized US citizen, this earned after serving in the army during the VN conflict.

In other years, I always tried not to get involved in political discussions for, after all, it is very rare that a point of view will be changed. If for no other reason that by changing it you may feel you are giving in to someone who is convincing you that what you espoused was and is wrong to begin with.

But, some of my Hispanic friends whose view differ from mine (I am a conservative by life’s teachings and not a supporter of HRC) are hell-bent on trying to get me to change my mind. In doing so, the basic arguments used are:
1- He’s abusive
2- He’s anti Hispanics
3- Will deport everyone
4- He lies…
I try to take my time and explain that I think it is better to have someone who will bring new ideas (for the same ones will not work tomorrow anymore that they did yesterday) than someone who has shown repeatedly that her only interest is to grab money for herself; that the press (usually their source, and a very one sided Hispanic press at that) is constantly maximizing anything that can be said against DT while minimizing or ignoring the many issues for which HRC should be held accountable.

I also try to argue that someone who is used to make decisions and has accomplished much as a businessman, without being a politician, will say things that a polished (read: someone who can shift what he/she says acc. to need) politico would not say. I can accept this. There are things said I do not agree with but at least I know where the guy stands. Hard to say for someone who has shifted position several times.

And when all else fails, the comes the “clincher” –“but you are Latino, you can’t vote for him!!”

And here I say:
-“You are right, I was born in Latin American and am very proud of my heritage. However, when I came to the US, I came to a country which opened its arms to me, gave me a life and an opportunity to have a future, something my own country denied me. When I became a citizen it was to embrace and further the qualities this country offers, not to promote the failures of our own countries and replicate them here.”

Therefore, when I vote, I do so as a US citizen and not as a Latino. I do my best to vote for those who represent -to my point of view- what this country should be. Especially living in a time when outside forces are truly doing their best to undermine everything we stand for. And those forces are very much aligned with one of the candidates. That candidate cannot be my candidate.

God Bless!!  

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
·       Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
·       Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora

·       Any comments please send to rjalcazar@gmail.com

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...