Tag Archive | Garcia

To Pop on his eightieth birthday

We were supposed to be together today! We. Were. Supposed. To. Be. Together. Today.

I could just picture it. Spending the Easter weekend together. Going to church together. Eating lasagna and flan together. Cutting a cake together. Maybe going to the beach together. Just like we did three years ago. How were we to know it would be your last earthly birthday.

I want to remember everything about you. Everything.

I remember that you were the one responding to our cries in the middle of the night. Back then we didn’t know that Mom slept like a rock, we only knew that you came to save us from childhood terrors. You were the one who saved me from drowning when I stood up at water’s edge and subsequently fell into Pelham Bay. We almost froze on the subway ride home that day. I imagine that we would’ve frozen if subways were air conditioned back then. I remember our first car. A beige Rambler we called Beachcomber, because it would take us to all the beaches, most especially  Orchard Beach and Ocean Grove.

And speaking of beaches, I remember all those beach vacations. Ocean Grove was our go-to place for three weeks every year. Breakfast was in our rented efficiency. Lunch was sandwiches and fruit on the beach. Dinner was at the Grand Atlantic cafeteria. We were on the beach all day and walked the boardwalk in Asbury Park all night. For church services we went to the Great Auditorium except for that one Sunday when we would drive to Atlantic City and hang on the Steel Pier all day. For one price we got to see movies, attend concerts, and of course, the diving horse show to end the night. We purposefully returned to Ocean Grove after midnight to elude the Sunday no car ban. You grew a goatee every summer and then returned to have all the viejitas in Haverstraw nag you until you shaved.

I remember the year we ditched going down the shore and got on a plane for another kind of shore, a beach of the warm, crystal clear variety. You always spoke about taking us to Puerto Rico but money was always tight, ministers and teachers made no money, something which hasn’t changed. We needed to go when we were old enough to remember the trip and yet young enough to qualify for children’s half fare on the airlines. New experiences were plentiful. We slept under mosquiteros, used letrinas, ate mangos and quenepas right off a tree. We walked next door to buy freshly baked bread and slathered butter and jelly on it before inhaling it. We body surfed at four different beaches and the car’s brakes failed as we were leaving El Yunque. There was no money for hotels, so we stayed with family in Peñuelas and Fajardo. Unfortunately, your family left Punta Santiago before we made it there, or else we definitely would’ve stayed there. We met family we didn’t know existed and got to see the land that the Rivera Melendez family owned back in the day.

Five years ago, we had a family trip to the island, just the four of us. It was a different experience. Dementia had a firm grip on your memories. You were having trouble with balance and used a cane to keep from falling. Your driver’s license had become just a form of identification. And yet, we still had a blast visiting family members and playing dominoes when it rained. We ate at Metropole, your favorite spot, and had mofongo at Raices, washing it down with a cold Medalla.

Despite having lived in Florida for ten years, circumstances brought you home, before you went on to paradise, surrounded by those who loved you the most. Your forward thinking and brilliant planning made the aftermath easier. Mom just had to follow the plan you’d laid out for her.

When your baby brother joined you in heaven, it left us bereft of the original Rivera Garcias. We came together as a family and returned to our old church in the Bronx. The United Church welcomed us all home as we paid honor to everything you all brought to our lives. Knowing that they are all with you, as you celebrate this milestone birthday, offers some comfort, even though we all wish you were here with us.

I remember you. I remember everything about you. Happy Birthday, Pop!

Love always, your Amapola

 

 

 

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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