Your Gifts Made a Difference

I learned a lot from last year's holiday party at Veterans Village.

I learned that it was not a good idea to hand out wrapped presents and hope they would all be somehow equal and pleasing.

I learned that what the Veterans really wanted  (towels, sheets, gift cards slippers, posh candy, pajamas and robes) wasn't quite in line with what good-hearted people gave me to give them. You don't even want me to make a list of shame here people, don't even.

This year I made a list of suggested donations and it worked out fantastically.

Volunteers dropped donations by and mailed them and sent them to me from their daughter to my daughter. I know a few of you out there weren't able to get your donation to me in time -- don't worry,  not a single Veteran left the event empty handed, please save it for the Spring Fling donation drive you didn't know you were going to help me with.

Here is an incomplete list of people who dropped donations by my office, compiled entirely from the sticky notes etc that I found on the gifts.
That's my office door.

Here is a picture of donations that came via mail, daughters and etc. Soft blankets, special treats, gift cards to Publix, Walmart, Panera and Starbucks.

 I'm not sure if she wants everyone to know, but one of my AXO sisters from Loyola sponsored 10 Veterans AND sent a donation to entirely cover two upcoming Thursday night dinners.

Amazing, right?

This is a picture of my kitchen counter, collecting donations and gift cards.

So today, the day of the event, I met one of my students in my office and we sorted and counted the donations.

We talked through how things could go that would be better than last year and decided to make 4 stations: 1) gift cards 2)  towels 3) sheet sets 4) a bonus item (slippers, posh chocolate, robes).

This helped us figure how to package and repackage the gifts and load them into our cars.
This is me with a car full of sheets, slippers and  posh chocolate goodies.

Once we got to Veterans Village we were joined by other TCC community volunteers and once we were all set up the goodies went so fast I seriously could not get more pictures than you see below.

Tonight's Elves

Rows of thick towels, the extra large nice ones, all ready for Veterans to take a pick.
This is the bonus pick car. Slippers, robes, posh chocolate.

I was so busy talking to the Veterans and moving them through the stations that I have no pictures of the lovely  dinner of comfort food and individual cheesecakes being served upstairs by two other TCC faculty.

There was a lot of laughing, a lot of hugging, and even a few men walking around proudly in lovely new robes and such.

Your gifts made a difference.

Thank you thank you thank you to all of you who helped this year.

Thank you to all of you who helped in the past and a special thank you those of you who are plotting how you can help in 2017.

We Continue.

 Mom calls and I quickly realize she is talking to me in her calm quiet voice so I know something is up.

Missy, I have bad news for you.

Of course she does. 

My mind goes ballistic. 

Just hours ago she sent an email to let us know Abuelo’s pacemaker’s battery had died on 12/13 and because of his heart and kidney situation it just wasn’t feasible to admit him to a hospital for surgery to implant a new battery.  

I start writing in my head. This is it, this is when and where I find out.

 She shouldn't have to tell me. I can't imagine how hard this is to tell me.

But it isn’t Abuelo.

It’s Charro. 

I wasn’t expecting this and I start crying harder than any of us could have bet on in Vegas.

Remember Charro? I’ve known her my whole life because she was our family in Cuba, Abuela’s niece who was only barely younger and therefore a cousin.

Mom continues. 

Charro died in a nap this afternoon, after talking to Mom this morning because of course they talked because it  was her 86th birthday and also because she opened the gifts Mom sent her.

She died on her birthday  A circle. A perfect circle.  We make circles isn't that perfect? 

That’s all I can say, and it makes sense to us. 

Mom continues in a whispered voice to not wake up Abuelo.  Charro loved her gifts, couldn’t wait to see us soon.

Now I’m crying so hard I can’t believe my poor Mom isn’t heaving wordless too. 

We aren’t like this, she tells me, we are strong, come on. 

I come on.  

I keep going. 

She goes back to Abuelo, I go back to putting Christmas together for Veterans Village and for my kids.

Meanwhile my kids don’t know why I’m crying so they think Abuelo has jumped into the sky and I very awkwardly must tell them that no, no, not him. 

Not today. Today he’s here, we will see him in a few days.

Not much later Zoe finds me sitting on my yoga ball and I tell her about the circle and about the gold necklace. 

She’s like “what?” and I tell her how Charro gave Mom treasure from heaven and that’s where I got the title of the manuscript I wrote about that visit to Cuba.

Zoe shakes her head.

You don’t remember? Charro kept the things Abuela left with her when they fled?

Zoe shakes her head again.

 I have her complete attention and love, and this alone is enough to part the clouds of sadness.

I continue.

You should read my story, I feel like I’m telling my student’s “it’s in the book” when I have actual never said that to students because not much from lecture is in their textbook since I didn't write their books. I digress. Charro was a banker. She negotiated with Western Union to bring the services to Cuba.

Zoe nods. 

I continue.

My dissertation was on Cuban bankers who came to America and changed Miami. They were all men. All. Men.  Meanwhile my own flesh and blood was an important Cuban banker and I didn’t notice or really get it because she was a woman.

Zoe nods, giving me the attention I give her when she makes me quiz her before huge exams.

I continue.

Charro’s life as an independent single successful woman supported by a community of people who cared for her and respected her is giving me a feminist mind smacking.

Zoe nods.

Instead of crying I’m going to have a big big mind opening feminist moment.

Zoe nods and pauses from her snapchat poses to reassure me. “Yes, you are.”

That is enough. 

We continue.

Birthday Story: Part 3 of 3: Only Better Now

The night ends quietly and peacefully.  

I’m deep asleep when my phone rings a little after 3am.

 I turn it right off because I sleep with my phone on airplane mode so I’m shocked it’s even going off and not quite sure that I’m not dreaming.

 A second later I hear crying outside my door and then check my phone. 

It was Zoe that called.

I get up and go check.

She’s in her bathroom, throwing up everywhere. 

Poor thing.  I hold her hair and clean up. 

Zack is still awake and opens his bedroom door to ask what’s going on.

I tell him and he offers to help so I send him for more towels and when he comes back with them we hug because it’s the middle of the night and this is crazy. 

He confides, “I would have helped her but I thought she was crying because she saw a bug….”

We laugh. That was understandable. 

He goes back to whatever he was doing and I get Zoe settled on the sofa. 

Then another wave hits and she throws up again, this time it hurts so much she’s crying silently and breaking my heart.

I help poor Zoe get cleaned up again and into fresh clothes and back on the sofa.

She sleeps fitfully with her head on my lap, breaks into a fever and mumbles about things she’s afraid of, things she needs me to get, things that are keeping her from peace.

I stayed up all night holding her, just like I did in the hospital 16 years ago, only better, because now there is so much more of her to love.

Birthday Story: Part 2 of 3: The Bug

Part 2: The Bug.

He walks back into the room, half yelling, half laughing. It is impossible to tell what has happened, but I venture a guess.

Did you step on a bug? I guess this because the bug guy was just here yesterday and because also it’s rainy and cold outside so Florida bugs try to come inside and chillax. A bug in the laundry room would not be a complete surprise.

He nods speechlessly and I go look.

OMG. Yes, a bug, flattened it completely and absolutely clearly dead.

 I announce my findings.  

Zack howls again at the horror of all of this and then laughs and cringes and I cringe too and somehow it falls on me to clean the damn bug up.