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Friday, April 5, 2013

My One Big Secret

My One Big Secret

My mother and I had the perfect relationship between mother and son. From the age of 9 years old when my mother and father separated I became the man of the house (literally). The family unit was made up of my mother, my sister (7 years older than me), and me the only man in the house.  My sister passed away three years ago, so I can say the following without hurting her feeling (I am sure she was aware) I believe that I was my mother’s favorite child. Some relatives often said that I resembled my father so much, whom she loved until the day she died, and that is why she favored me.

Communications with my mother were excellent.  There was never any secrets that I kept from my mother, and when she got serious about getting remarried she wanted to know my opinion and approval.  Well, I did keep one secret from her for my whole life (or as it turned out for her whole life).  Her big thing in life was for me to be happy and safe, not necessarily in that order.  Because my maternal grandmother lived on an island off of the Gulf of Mexico, many of our yearly vacations were there.  Whenever we arrived I was like a celebrity to the local kids my age and younger (and even some older ones).  After all they considered me the one that went away to the better world.  Back in those early years I thought they were the ones that were better off.

Those kids had the simple and yet majestic life.  They lived in paradise, bleached white sand on the beach, greenish blue crystal clear water, tropical breeze, banana plants, mango trees, guayabas, berries, and all the seafood you could eat.  None of those mentioned items had to be bought, they were there for the picking, or fishing.  Kids ran around barefoot, in cut-offs or swimsuits, the girls wore white blouses for tops to fend of the tropical sun and its heat.  I on the other hand was always in a process of learning a new language, lived in a climate that pretty much had the four seasons, including the cold and ice and snow of winter.  I am not complaining as it turned out Mexico definitely took a bad turn along the way with the cartels and drugs.

At the time I envied their simple life style.  They would all gather around me and wanted to hear what it was like going to school in the United States.  They wanted to hear me speak in English, and they asked me how to say some specific words in English.  They also wanted to hear about what I did for fun.  The older boys wanted to know what I thought about the non-Hispanic girls that I lived amongst.  When I mentioned the television programs that I watched, they couldn’t believe that people actually had those movie boxes in their homes. 

Since my mother always would tell me to go and play (hangout) with the other children, I always did as I was told.  It goes without saying that she expected me to make good decisions.  When it comes to deciding between adventure and safety, many young ones will go with adventure (sad to say).  Everyone pretty much decided it was time to go swimming in the river.  In those days the best I could do was stay afloat, because of my mother’s safety concerns, I was always told to stay away from the water’s edge (didn’t have any swimming lessons on my resume).

I didn’t know that over recent years, the river had been dredged to allow for ships to pass through the area.  The locals knew to stay near the river’s edge, but I didn’t.  While floating in the river strong currents pulled me away from the shore.  All of a sudden I felt the current pulling me under, I know that I fought to stay on the surface for a short time but I felt that it was for a lot longer, and I was exhausted.  Every time I came up for air I only managed a half breath and a mouthful of water.  The other kids were reaching out to me with oars, and some were swimming out to me.  Even at that young age and inexperienced as I was, I felt that I was not going to win this battle.  I made a calculated decision that I would let the current take me all the way to the bottom.  I curled my legs under me bringing my knees to my chest, and dropped to the bottom like a rock.  While I didn’t want to open my mouth and take in water, I felt like my chest was going to burst for lack of air.  When I finally felt the bottom of the river, I pushed against the river bottom with all my strength extending my legs as if they were spring loaded.  From the bottom of the river I could see the boats on the surface above the water searching for me.

When I finally broke to the surface and could finally fill my lungs with air, I was choking and coughing because I had gotten water in my lungs (it amazes me at how I didn’t panic and kept control of the lungs that had a mix of water and air in them).  My friends reached for me and pulled me into one of the boats. During the time that I wasn’t sure whether I would survive the drowning experience, I did have a quick replay of my life and I worried about how my mother would handle not having me in her life anymore..

After a quick recovery, I found that I wasn’t the only one that feared my mother and grandmother.  We made a pact that no one would ever hear about the near drowning.  A couple of times I came close to telling my mother but thought better of it.  If you don’t believe that I’ve been blessed throughout my life maybe this will convince you.  The best is yet to come…..

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