My love of books and passion for writing grew from the manure of a childhood I had growing up. It was the perfect fertilizer. From the time I was born I was thrown into an atmosphere of anger and aggression. My father wasn’t an alcoholic or a drug addict. He was just mean or absent. A cranky and miserable man with an entirely too short of a fuse so needless to say he was never a really big part of my life. When it came to parenting he was a minimalist and once my parents divorced, the main male role model in my life would end up being my grandfather.
My parents divorced when I was about 4 and I do remember that being a huge turning point for me, and of course, so was all the other crap that was to come. After the divorce, my mother quickly had to go from having one full time job to having one full time and two part time jobs. While she was out working hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, my grandparents provided us with the care and supervision that we needed. They soon after began living with us and it stayed that way on and off for about ten years.
Many would describe my grandfather Cesar as mean and grumpy, a man of few words. He apparently wasn’t too popular among my aunts and uncles, although the love for him was never absent. They had their own daddy issues to deal with and most of my cousins weren’t his biggest fans. My grandfather, in my eyes was something else. For me he was a handsome elegant man who loved my sister and I to no avail. He spoiled us when he could yet we still showed great respect for him. If we did wrong, he would let us know, not once hitting us, but his verbal reprimands were like harsh, stinging slaps to our faces. We never wanted to let him down. My grandfather taught me what it was to have a man in charge. The head of the household. He may not have been a perfect father himself but he had obviously learned and had become the perfect grandfather for my sister and me.
My grandmother was an angel. She was a woman who had given to birth to 8 children and pretty much raised them on her own. My grandfather had been known to leave her for weeks without notice to go on drinking binges, spending the little money the family would earn completely on himself. My grandmother was a true housewife. Not only did she cook and clean, but she also tended to the farm (milking cows, killing chickens, ect..) and would hand make all of her children’s clothes. You can now just imagine the role she played in our lives. My grandmother taught us how to make homemade meals, and even homemade cheese. She knew all about universal energy and shared with us the importance of nature, love, and intuition. And when times were tough emotionally, she was the one who taught me how to get through it.
I’ve never had it easy. Whether it was my home life, school life, or the life I had among my “friends” there was always something I wanted to run away from. My grandmother was the one who taught me how to escape the bullying, escape the feeling of rejection from my father, escape from all the darkness, and all other things I had no energy to really face. She taught me how to escape through the magical world of words.
“El que lee se instruye.” She’d repeat. And I did.. I taught myself many things about life. Things I would have never discovered early on in life if it weren’t for the magic of words.
My Teacher’s an Alien by Bruce Coville was the very first book I ever read that hadn’t been assigned to me by a school teacher. I’ll never forget it. It had a bright orange cover with two school kids, a boy and a girl, looking through their school teacher’s living room window, as they spot the teacher zippering down his human disguise revealing the fact that he is, in fact, an alien. I was about 12 or 13 at the time and this book was the first book from the library I had ever decided to read on my own. It also ended up being the first time I had ever read a book cover to cover in one day. This is when I understood the magic that books held in transporting you from reality into a completely different world. From that day forward I had found my escape and I was addicted. At 14 I began to write. I wrote poems and short stories, most of the time using my life as a point of reference. Writing then soon turned into my other form of escape and also release. I ended up spending most of my adolescent years with my nose stuck in either a book or notebook while the rest of the time I spent observing. I learned to observe people and life around me. I began to get good at not only reading books, and people, but situations as well.
Today, I still find shelter within the pages of a book and expression within the words I write down. Who I am today and what I know comes from guidance of what I’ve read, and what I’ve experienced, but also from the wise words of whom my grandparents once were. My grandfather is no longer walking this earth. The day he passed was the day I knew I lost my fatherly guidance. Instead of sorrow, I expressed gratitude because to have him in my life at all was a needed blessing. I mean who knows how my view of men and relationships would have been if he would not have been present in my life. My grandmother on the other hand is alive, but she is not the version that I once knew. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and is totally wheelchair bound. She currently lives back in her home country of Colombia where she gets better and affordable care than she would here in the states. I cannot tell you when the last time was that I saw her or if I will ever get to see her again. I think about them every single day for everything I know came from the foundation that they helped build within me. Today, I give them thanks for the wonderful world they helped me create for myself, now all that is left is for me to make every day count for they did none of what they did in vain.
To Cesar and Maria, You will always be the great example of which to follow.