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Remembering Tio Samuel

Today marks my father’s first anniversary in heaven.

Today’s guest contributor is his niece, Rosie, daughter of Pop’s baby brother. As we were planning a memorial service, we invited those who could not attend, to share a memory. Rosie’s was so eloquent that I felt the need to share it with you. This will be read at this afternoon’s gathering.

Hello. Its me, Rosie Rivera (not Adele)

Familia and friends!

I was going to skype but that meant I was going to have to fix my hair and do my makeup.IMG_4049

I am sorry I could not be present for this Celebration of Life for Tio Eli Samuel.  When Eileen mentioned that we can email a remembrance I decided ok, I wont be there, but I’ll be there in a way if I send something in.

 ….I will communicate in  Spanglish and go between both my idiomas, English y “Espanish”.

Remembering my Tio Eli Samuel brings both a tear and a smile. A lagrima because he is no longer with us and a sonrisa because I can hear his laughter. When growing up, I respected him. Lots of us, lo respetabamos even with a little fear. He was the only person, besides his mother, that my dad, Raul, respected. If my Tio was around, the cigarillos/cervezas were hidden. If you know my dad you know that was RESPETO.

I was raised by his “mama”. Therefore, I always heard los cuentos of their upbringing. She would always say how she thought while pregnant that he was going to be a girl; she said that when he was born  “he was mas lindo than a girl with his curly blond hair and his beautiful ojos azules.” Every time she mentioned him I could see how orgullosa she was of her son. She added his title when she would speak to anyone about him. “Mi hijo Reverendo Eli Samuel Rivera, ejecutivo de la Iglesia Metodista.” As a mujer cristiana she was proud that one of her kids had become a Reverend. 

After my grandmother passed away, our family stayed in contact and we would always meet up at my dad’s or my grandfather’s apartmento. That is where I really got to interact with my Tio. We would sit around my Abuelito and start to tell stories from the good old days. At the beginning I would watch what I said or if I was going to tell a chiste/joke. I would make sure it was a clean joke. Until that one day, I said Tio I heard this really funny chiste but it a little colorao, he laughed and said…cuenta, cuenta. OMG, I was given “la luz verde” and from that day on, every time we were together we would laugh so much. Note: the jokes were pink not completely red. I did remember I was still joking with my Reverend Tio.

We celebrated his 77th birthday down here in Florida and he sang “Estas son las mañanitas…” with that beautiful Baritone voice of his and with his little famous chuckle. Who was to know that it would be his last cumpleaños on earth.

Puedo “go on and on.., but I’m just going to sum it up. During the services given last year, I learned how many people he had impacted. How many peoples’ lives he had touched and helped. I was like “WOW” I looked up and said “Abuelita, you definitely had a beautiful son”. I know they must be singing all together in heaven. Please stand a second, lets put our hands together and celebrate his life. Celebremos su vida. Let it be heard in heaven…..

If you are a son, be like my Tio, if you are a brother, be like my Tio; if you are a father, be like my Tio.

Bendicion Tio, viviras por siempre in our hearts!

We treasure the past,
with memories that will always last.

Love you all! God bless!

Orlando 2008 079

Guest Contributor, Rosie Rivera Marmolejos

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The other side of the scrub line

I’ve been a hospital staff nurse for ten years, taking care of the acutely ill. But when it’s your grandmother asking, “what should I do to help him?!”, it’s completely different. My answer as a nurse would be, “These are the options the doctor has given you, (explain again x, y, z)”. My answer as a granddaughter, is very different.

My grandfather, Eli Samuel, was one of the two prominent male figures in my life while growing up. Living in a two family home, with my grandparents living down stairs for fifteen years, it was inevitable. As a minister for the United Methodist Church, he preached the word of God and did His work by helping areas, foreign and domestic, building new churches. But to me, he was grandpa.

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I use past tense there, because for the last few years he and my grandmother had been dealing with his worsening dementia. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in March 2015.

Memorial Day weekend, my grandfather was admitted to a Philadelphia area hospital after he was found unresponsive in their hotel room. Three weeks later he passed away in arms of his wife of 57 years, holding his eldest granddaughter’s hand, the day after my birthday.

One in 9 older Americans

25 million globally

alz

The Alzheimer’s website (alz.org) tells the world these staggering statistics.

My college pathology books tells me the signs and symptoms, etiologies, management, and nursing considerations when caring for these patients.

When your family member is affected, it all becomes too real. Every worse case scenario screams in your head. Every bad code, every horrible prognosis, every complication plagues your thoughts, and your dreams.

 

 

 

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That’s us, on my first birthday. Now, I don’t remember that day, but it’s the one I’m gonna remember. Me with a crazy giggle, I’m sure, and him looking down on me with love, and a whole lot of patience.

I know my life will be different without him. Yet the faith that was exemplified by Rev. Eli Samuel Rivera, that, as Grandpa, he nurtured in his “kiddies” will help me and my family through another holiday without  his presence.

My career has taught me to separate my personal opinions and feelings, and yet use them to provide compassionate care to those healing, or dying, while  in my charge. It isn’t always easy. Patients I’ve treated since my grandfather’s passing, have brought me back to the decisions we made for him, versus the ones I see being made for those living with Alzheimer’s.

In the end, I’ve learned, yet again, that although life can suck sometimes, people can make decisions you disagree with and people can say things that you find appalling, but as my mother said in a previous post, “It’s  been a good year. Every year is a good year when you get right down to it. If you are reading this post, you have been a part of my joy. I have prayed for you, I have laughed with you, you have been a part of my life no matter what. And I thank you.”

So, thank you Grandpa, I will probably cry hearing Jose Felicano’s Felix Navidad this year because every time I hear it, I think of you. I’m grateful you were in my life and I’ll think of you teaching Jesus that shuffle you called dancing. Ill be sure to do your shuffle while caring for my patients while I work this Christmas.

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Jillian de la Hoz, RN, BSN, Mariposa Social Guest Contributor
aka Eli Samuel’s granddaughter

I was a child Spoken Word Artist

That was then 122Mother’s Day at the United Church, on Prospect Place in the south Bronx, meant that all the kids memorized poems to be recited at the service on Mother’s Day. We practiced not only our poems, but the choreography that went along with them. Arm motions, vocal inflections, and sometimes even some fancy footwork.

We dressed carefully putting on our Sunday panties, our Sunday socks, and our Sunday dresses before our mother pulled and yanked our hair into place.

All the women received their corsage at the door; a red carnation if their mother was still alive or a white carnation if their mother was an angel. All the kids sat a pew with their Sunday school class and fidgeted until it was time to hit the stage, excuse me, the altar.

With a minimum of nerves, I walked up, and before a full church recited a poem I remember to this day.

Madre mia, Madre mia. Besame, besame todos los dias.

I didn’t get a standing ovation, after all there was a line of kids waiting for their shot at stardom, but my mother and grandmothers all beamed with pride.

And then it was the adults’ turn. I remember sitting there watching poet after poet, some with poems they’d written. They exemplified the rich tradition of poetry, the oral telling of stories, that our ancestors passed down over the ages. Some performed their poems with dance and others with tears streaming down their cheeks. As a child, I was mesmerized at the emotions words could elicit. Now fifty years later, my appreciation of the spoken word has not subsided and in fact has only grown.

After the benediction, all the mothers went up the altar for a blessing and a group picture. The oldest and youngest mothers were acknowledged. And then we all went outside to take family photos. Because cameras and film were still expensive, special Sundays were always photo opportunities. Many of my most treasured photos are black and white and taken on the sidewalk outside of the United Church, the spiritual home of the Rivera and Santos families.

I still wear a red carnation and thank God for the years he has granted to Marie Rivera. I also give thanks for my angels: Crispina Lugo, Belen Melendez, Maria Santos, Ernestina Rivera, Ana Santos, Nereida Santos, Indiana Rivera, and Deborah Reeve.

When I was Americuchi

The subtitle might as well be the “Latinization of Eileen” because this is pretty much the story of my life.That was then 015 I was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, parents who had to put up with a lot of discrimination when they first arrived on the mainland. Is that why Spanish wasn’t the law at home? I grew up with Cousin Brucie on the radio as opposed to Radio WADO and the network news instead of novelas or lucha libre.

By the time I was nine the only Spanish I knew was church Spanish. I knew all the coritos, could read the Bible and sing from the hymnal, as well as memorize verses but I could not ask for a bathroom if my panties depended on it (pun intended). Naturally my father’s solution was to buy me a bilingual New Testament, a Bible I have to this day. So that helped me translate the verses but it didn’t do much to help with my language difficulties.

That was then 161Foreign languages started in sixth grade at Haverstraw Middle School. I announced at the dinner table that I would be taking French because I already knew Spanish. After mopping up the water that spewed from his mouth, my father finally stopped laughing and said that I would be taking Spanish. Ugh.

Of course, my adventures in speaking Spanish had provided my elders with many hours of humor. Take one Christmas dinner as an example. My grandmother sends me upstairs to get some pernil from her sister. Upon returning from the errand, I tell my grandmother, “Titi Flora dice que si quieres mojon, ella tiene”. Once the laughter died down, my grandfather says, “Aqui hay suficiente”. I walked out of the kitchen without knowing what the hell everyone found so funny.

Yup, my years at Haverstraw Middle School were quite interesting. It was where I was first calledThat was then 274 “Americuchi”. My sister, with her blue eyes and golden brown curls, had it rougher than me. After all, I was darker than the girls who were calling me a white girl. And don’t even get me started on high school. Entering the college-track, instead of the vocational-track, and being surrounded by non-latinos all day just put my olive-tone ass further behind the eight ball with the people I lived with. And then I had the nerve to date some white guys. What the hell did you expect?

So I graduated high school and moved to Jersey. Not just Jersey, but Havana on the Hudson itself, North Hudson County. You couldn’t tell where one town ended and the other one started. One thing was constant, Cubans ran this place. Try being a Puerto Rican and going to a Cuban bodega and asking for a “bollo de pan”. You would’ve sworn that I just pulled out a gun. Oh, and by the way, gnats aren’t bichos! Bichos are dic…never mind.

It was actually Hudson County, New Jersey, with its almost 40% Latino population, that taught me the differences between the nationalities that fall under the Latino umbrella. As a child in the Bronx, I believed that everyone was the same. It didn’t matter what color you were, they were all represented in my family and church. As a tween and teenager in Rockland County, life was divided along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. But now I was almost eighteen and starting college. To say it was eye-opening would be an understatement, although I must admit that I only saw the similarities rather than the differences. And then I was introduced to someone with, “Yes, she’s Puerto Rican, but she’s one of the good ones”.  What did you just say?! Looks like I still had some educating to do.

224748_1663142424082_5292498_nDating and marrying a guy from Barranquilla, Colombia just added to my education. He introduced me to Hector La Voe, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, and El Gran Combo and naturally the dancing that accompanied the music. What? You all thought my minister father taught me? Hmph. Saturday nights were spent dancing followed by my dragging my ass to church the next morning. But damn it was fun. My love of Latin rhythms has only grown stronger as I have aged, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love classic rock.

A byproduct of the marriage was an increased use of Spanish, with gentle and not so gentle corrections (depending on the severity of my transgression). Just in case you ever wondered why my Spanish is as good as it is, this is why.

That was then 225And then I met Dr. Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim. It was love at first sight. I had already decided on a Social Work major with a Puerto Rican Studies minor, and had in fact taken some classes already, but Dr. Wagenheim taught a two semester class on Puerto Rican history. Literally a two semester mind blowing experience for someone who was living the life but didn’t know her history. Now kiddies, don’t forget these were the days before computers, internet, google, and social media. Yea, there were cliff notes, but those didn’t touch the material we were covering in this class. Slavery, El Grito de Lares, Tainos, Arawaks, the impact of Latin America’s wars, Ramon Emeterio Betances, Ana Maria Bracetti Cuevas, the invasion by the United States, the Jones Act. Well, my head was just spinning with everything I was learning. I was supremely proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but that was pretty much based on a love of family and the places I had visited on the island. Now I knew what ass kickers my people really were.

Classroom time answered as many questions as it raised, but for that I would be on my own, and in the pre-computer era that was not a simple feat. Books by Piri Thomas, Pedro Juan Soto, Esmeralda Santiago and Miguel Pinero found their way onto my bookshelves. Over the years they have been joined by books from Junot Diaz, Laura Esquivel, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Saramago, and Isabel Allende. My Police, Billy Joel, and Springsteen cds share shelves with Marc Anthony, Romeo, Juan Luis Guerra, and La India, along with my beloved Ruben Blades.

When I am asked for my national heritage, I answer Puerto Rican. When I am asked what part of 40843_1465730278169_6932344_nPuerto Rico I am from, I answer El Bronx. But I will always emphasize the similarities between the people of the Caribbean and Latin America over the differences. So, if that makes me Latina, then Latina I am. But you can’t call me Americuchi anymore.