How to Be Like Kevin

Kevin Fire! Lentz died March 4, 2016. He was my friend. My boyfriend. My beloved. He was a badass and together we were crazy, sexy, cool.

Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious.

Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind.

Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

Own your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious.

Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But, take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading.

Find your favorite author. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer, and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Bring back the art of hand-written letters.

Send kids’ Valentine’s Day cards with love to friends and family every year.

Enjoy good food. Make memories of meals, like cooking Chilean seabass at home or taking your lady to the high-class, like-you’re-in-Italy Italian Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom.

Also go to dive bars, like Villa Nova.

Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say, “Marry Me” and “Team Fire!” Present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real. Dance.

Follow your passions and applaud others.

Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you.

Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people.

Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a unique language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to.

Make your cousin a brother and make the word brother mean something.

Give friends and family the value they deserve.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening… damn, Kevin could listen.

He could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight throughout the entire night.

Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them entertaining!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old.

Get out of the house. Travel, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid, but be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one.

So, be like you. Be the wild, weird, wonderful you.

 

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup  (Inspired by 30 Days of Meditation)

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

This time, I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix is the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience. And if it is, I’ll tell you to get the f*ck out.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We are the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

How to Bring Crazy, Sexy, Cool Back.

“Your heart is the conduit and radiator of your multidimensional self.” ~ Sarah Entrup

One moment I knew joy, light, laughter, and the peace of a clean house and freshly rearranged bedroom.

On Friday March 4, 2016, my sister and her boyfriend, my nephew and his wife, and I awaited my boyfriend’s arrival and anticipated a night out at The Melting Pot.

After his non-arrival and numerous calls completed with the final words of the officer explaining unresponsive meant dead, I shifted into a sh*t storm of sadness so deep it felt like living below the earth.

I twirled, swirled, fought, and finally gave into the mourning. The tears shocked me with shrieks and howls fit for an animal.

I was an animal in pain.

I lost my will to live as quickly as I learned of my beloved’s death.

I had to live for my sister, who’d experienced the death of her husband just four years prior. I couldn’t intentionally inflict this pain on anyone, but my choice would’ve been to go to sleep and never wake up, like my boyfriend Kevin did (heart attack in his sleep).

Often, people who’ve lost loved ones worry about them in the afterlife. That’s never been my concern. Not with my brother, mother, brother-in-law, or beloved.

I know they’re in a better place. Not la-la-la harps and angels, but beautiful beyond our imagination. I believe the afterlife multiplies everything a person loves.

Like my brother Bill can ski soft, deep powder, fly off jumps, and never break skis or bones the way he did on earth. I envision my mom sewing costumes for better-than-Broadway plays. Tom Gerlach, my brother-in-law owns all the cars he wants, and the 50s car shows he felt so fond of here are bland compared to the ones on the other side. As for Kevin Lentz? Rock-n-roll means musical ecstasy and star showers are light shows.

I also believe our loved ones go on with other purposes in the afterlife.

However, these beliefs only make me jealous and crave to be with them even more.

I gave way to the whirlwind of grief. I let it spin me, slap me, pound me. Over time, my grief transformed from a tornado I was caught in to an ocean in which I tried to swim.

I may have looked cute in my suit, but I always wore the grief. It engulfed me.

Until it didn’t. I’m not saying I’m over it, but maybe I’ve moved my blanket to the sand beside the ocean. I see both the power and beauty.

I respect grief’s strength and don’t delude myself that I can control it any more than I could fend off my loved ones’ deaths.

There will still be days when grief arises and surprises me like high tide takes down morning sand castles.

I’m on the beach of life, the land of the living. Storms exists. Affirmations don’t dismiss.

Yet, we each decide how we’ll engage our days on earth.

Looking down the beach at the crowds, I’m far from alone in what it’s taken to get here, back to appreciation and celebration of my own heartbeat.

I’m not referring to the positive platitudes we say to make ourselves feel better.

No, it’s magical metamorphosis, the beautiful beyond that calls us to crack out.

Before Kevin’s death, I studied self-development, personal growth, positive thinking, and pop psychology religiously. I was a believer.

After, it all felt fruitless.

The whole you can get anything you want if you just affirm, believe and work at it doesn’t apply to bringing back the dead (although I still try).

Life felt like a rigged game, as random as roulette.

I felt ripped off—after numerous relationships didn’t fit and then finding ourselves blessed with the deepest fulfillment either of us had known—our crazy, sexy, cool was cruelly snatched by sudden, unexpected death. WTF?!

Now, two years later, I’m reminded of a trip years ago, (before the time I went with Kevin). When visiting Wrightsville Beach, I was told the waves were strong: Watch out!

Nevertheless, my sister and I stood in waist high water chatting—safe with our feet solid on the sand.

In a blink, a big wave knocked us both on our butts. When I came up, my Maui Jim sunglasses were gone.

Just gone. Like Kevin.

Now, I’ve come to respect nature’s power and know I’ll lose both sunglasses and people in my life. Doesn’t mean I like it!

Maybe I’m a little wiser now. For years, I resisted getting another pair of expensive sunglasses because I despised the disappointment of loss. I went for dozens of pairs of cheap sunglasses.

Recently, a friend gave me some high-end super spectacles. Just putting them on gave me a case of coolitis. My vision is sharper. They fit like a favorite pair of jeans. Wearing them makes everything brighter.

Of course, I’m careful not to lose them.

Maybe I’ve done the same thing with love—been afraid to invest, or even believe in, having the high quality again.

That’s no way to live. Not for me.

When my road ends, I intend to be able to repeat my grandfather’s experience and words: “I’ve had a lot of loss, but I’ve had a lot of love.”

So, I’ve booked another trip to the beach. With or without Kevin, I’m bringing back my crazy, sexy, cool… self.

Why We’re All Seeking the Same Thing.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

You might think it would be easier if your wife had died—
Rather than trying to kill something in you by sleeping
With other men, even those you thought friends.

I could be tempted to say, At least she’s alive.
I wish my man was, even if he betrayed me
And tried to break me. At least I could
Hear his voice and look in his eyes.

A teenage girl tells her father,
“This ear infection is so bad
I’d rather have the flu for a year!”

Yeah, right.

Some say divorce is as difficult
As losing a loved one to death.
Having experienced both, I beg to disagree.

But, then I remember that’s just me.
My divorces (yes, two!) weren’t brutal.
No one got betrayed or dragged through court.

But, hey—I bet both those men would say
It was the worst experience of their lives.

What else could it be when the woman you love,
The one you intend to invest all your years with
Chooses to walk away?

Maybe there’s no easy.
Not when it’s yours to bear.

It wasn’t easy for my sister to lose her husband
To cancer after 33 years in a marriage many envied.

I’m still reeling from the loss of my beloved
Who went to sleep and never woke up.

My sister and her husband had history
And prepared to sail into the sunset.

My beloved and I were blessed with sacred love
Finally, in our 50s! Hope coursed through us.

Whatever we must face, it’s ours. That’s what makes it hard.

Heartbreak is our puzzle of life,
The beautiful picture shaken
And scattered on the floor.

Pieces disappear. Emptiness arrives.
Previous pieces don’t fit. Everything is a jumble.
Where did these odd, misshaped ones arrive from?

Life. Life. Life.

It’s a series of pictures coming together and falling apart.

We make new pictures.

Mine is not harder. Yours is not easier.
Yours is not harder. Mine is not easier.

It all a puzzle. We’re all seeking the pieces.

 

 

How Grief Helps Us Grow. #bloglikecrazy

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” ~ Wikipedia

Grief is a truth teller when we like to believe the lies.

Grief slays us from our easy chair and smiles at our idea of control.

I thought her evil, pointing out my deficiencies, even stealing joy and freedom.

Grief speaks the loudest at funerals, but that’s not the only place her voice is heard.

She whispers throughout our lives and we resist her presence repeatedly.

She says: He’s got another woman (when he does). Your mom has cancer and will likely die. (Sometimes grief sounds like a doctor.) Your parents are divorcing. You hate this job. You’re going to lose the house. The doctors had to cut off his foot. He’s unresponsive.

We think grief is the b*tch, but she’s more like my new stepmom when I was a teenager: introducing rules which felt restrictive, but showed me what it meant to be a family.

Grief is strong and no doubt she can be harsh, but she’s loving.

She’s like the junior high school teacher who made my brother read in front of the class. Except Bill couldn’t read; so he slapped her.

That teacher revealed a truth my brother had been denying.

That’s the kind of teacher grief is—willing to be hated, even abused, in order to remove the mask.

A friend of mine told me he was sexually abused, by more than one person, starting at age five. He told me he doesn’t feel sad or angry. He says it didn’t affect him. In fact, he’s fine.

I recognize that mask. It’s the I’m okay mask.

I wore it for almost a decade after I was raped. I not only denied the pain, but avoided it entirely (actually how denial works).

I thought I was brave. I thought I was strong. I thought I was fine.

Actually, I didn’t think much about that night at all.

It wasn’t a #metoo campaign that made me face my pain.

A qualified therapist knew it takes more than just listening to a client like me paint pretty pictures so she feels better.

This therapist encouraged me to take off my I’m fine mask, look at the truth, and allow the tears to break where my trust had been violated.

She helped me face what I hadn’t known how to. And to move past it.

It’s not only the experiences we want to avoid; it’s the grief.

Grief says, “Yes, you were raped.”

What a b*tch. What a truth teller.

It takes courage to face our pain. That’s why so many women don’t come forward until years later, if at all. It’s easier to deny.

Our ego convinces us to be “strong” and in doing so, we often end up lying to ourselves through minimizing.

I have friends whose fathers left them or never showed up when they were kids. For years I’ve watched them dismiss the impact of an event like that.

Then, as adults when they get conscious and courageous, they can cry in the arms of grief. It’s the beginning of releasing that mask they all but glued on their beautiful faces.

When they finally take off the mask and let the grief in, the light comes. too.

When we face people’s (including our own) imperfections, manipulations, and violations, at first we’re hit with grief. But then, we’re set free.

We’re no longer captive to the actions of others. That’s why society applauds so many women and men coming out of the shadows and saying #metoo.

We’re witnessing their individual healing and society’s collective awakening.

We minimize our pain not because we’re strong or brave, but because on some level, we believe the grief could devour us.

She won’t. She waits like a patient parent or teacher. She helps us remove our I’m fine mask and the illusion of being in control.

Grief invites us to lay our hurt and humanity at her feet.

She holds us in our raw pain.

Then, like my stepmother and my brother’s teacher, grief helps us grow into more conscious and compassionate human beings.

 

How We Can Allow Life to be Easy #bloglikecrazy

“Someone who has more information than we do about the nature of reality is worthy of respect.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa, Smile at Fear

My yoga teacher started class with the intention: “Let it be easy.”

She wasn’t just talking about yoga. She was talking about life.

Let it be easy. Let it be. Easy.

But, “Life is hard.” And, “No one said it would be easy.”

Sometimes we take the grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My stepmom once said, “We have to learn everything the hard way.” But, do we?

Could we stop making everything hard and let it be easy?

Sometimes, life is hard.

But, Addie, the yoga teacher I so admire, suggested I could let it be easy.

As if I could stop trying so damn hard.

Wow. What if I’ve been the resistance in my life? That’s not easy to admit.

I’ve taken challenges and made them struggles. I’ve made miscommunications reasons for refusal. I’ve forced financial situations into avalanches. I’ve owned life’s difficulties.

Could we really just let it be easy? It sounds so easy it seems absurd.

“Easy for you to say.”

Does everything have to be difficult to be worthy?

I used to live by the words:” “What doesn’t destroy me makes me strong.” But, at a certain point I was attracting circumstances to prove my strength. I stopped doing that (intentionally).

The Question Book asks: If you could have a consistently good life or one filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows, which would you choose?

I’m certain I chose the peaks and valleys before I arrived in this world.

Even so, can I let it be easy? The idea attracts me like a handsome man I’m not sure I can have.

Easy sounds sweet and seductive, so much so my instinct is to dismiss.

However, when I took the easy intention to my yoga mat, I had one of my best practices. I was strong, focused and flexible—with ease.

Yoga is the master teacher. What we learn on the mat follows us into life.

Come on, ease!

What if I can let it be easy…

To regain my health, energy and vitality? I could stop searching for answers and diagnosis and allow my body to rebalance itself.

What if I let my writing be easy? Writing is easy for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not work.

But, I can return to flow, where my soul resides and my desire to be of benefit unfolds.

What if I let my relationships be easy? I could stop putting them under the microscope, judging and determining their worth. I could be present, with ease.

Could I let building a blog, attracting an audience, landing a publisher and contract be easy? Why not?! I’ve tried to make it hard. I’ve tried to suffer for my art. Enough so that I’m willing to try a new way.

Could I let my grief be easy? A year ago this would’ve been larger than leaping the Grand Canyon. But today, I let my tears fall easy, my memories land lightly and the signs arrive as they will.

It’s better than trying to make myself get over it and move on or demand the kind of communication that only arrives divinely.

The more I think about it—letting life be easy is about letting the divine unfold—rather than ordering and dismissing miracles.

I doubt the flowers sprouting through sidewalks or cardinals finding my feeders fought their way there. Isn’t nature easy?

Maybe it’s only human nature that makes life hard. Why do we do that?

It’s a protection mechanism. Like if we accept or prepare for how hard life is, it will be less so. Unfortunately, the mechanism is faulty.

Listen, I don’t believe in positive denial. I’m a stickler for truth—although a friend recently pointed out I’m not perfect in this area either. That’s true.

I’m not seeking perfection and I refuse to affirm, “I’m happy! I’m happy! I’m happy!” or even, “It’s easy.”

However, we don’t have to make things hard or assume they are.

We can just let life be as easy as it is. We can allow for the ease.

Sometimes we take grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My new mantra: I let it be easy.

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I urge you to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of refugees past and present.” ~ Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

It was the day after Thanksgiving last year. My best friend Andrea was out of town. I called her father, Mr. Mena to see if I might stop by and visit.

I said, “Hola, it’s Alice.”

Papi said, “Oh, mi otro hija!” (my other daughter).

When I arrived, he wanted to cook for me. I didn’t let him, but I said yes to his Chilean wine and pride. We sat at the kitchen counter talking about life, family and politics.

Although I’ve known this man since high school and he once introduced himself to my mother as, “Hello. I’m Alice’s father,” it’s never been just the two of us. Usually, I was in his home visiting Andrea.

You know how sometimes you drop by just to say a polite hello, and somehow time opens up to make space for words never considered?

Mrs. Mena was in the back bedroom sleeping. She hasn’t been the same since her stroke 20 years ago.

Although I never considered this question before, I asked how they met—some 50 years ago. Papi told me when he was a teenager he was friends with Mrs. Mena’s sister. Then, he saw Andree with her long hair, but he said, “I wasn’t thinking anything. I was 16.”

Later, he got free tickets for a concert because he’d pounded a dent out of a bus and the owners gave him the tickets. He fell asleep on the bus ride to the concert and awoke to Andree kissing him on the cheek.

His eyes lit up as he recalled their young love. They used to go out dancing and he’d buy her Coca Colas.

Even back when he was a teenager, Mr. Mena worked on cars. He built a car that was in a three-country race: Chilé, Peru and Argentina. Then, he got hired by the university and earned a paycheck! Mr. Mena told me he never had trouble making money.

Later, Andree wanted to get married. He was 19. She was 17.

Both their fathers approved and went with them to get married. Both moms were opposed, especially his because he was the family breadwinner.

Then, Mr. Mena told me about the coup and Pinochet coming in as dictator of Chile. That’s when Mr. Mena became a part of the resistance.

Because now Pinochet was in charge of all the companies, Mr. Mena and his coworkers would do things like leaving the lights and water on all night to wreak havoc. In the shop where he worked, they made sharp objects to throw in the road to stop the military and secret police.

He also took people to the French Embassy to escape.

Papi described helping one mom and her three girls go out the back of their house and in the front and out the back of three houses to escape the military police, who, he claimed were “so mad!”

“Why were they after her?” I asked. “Because her husband was part of the resistance.”

Mr. Mena drove the woman and her girls to a farm. Those were just the things they did. Yes, it was dangerous.

In fact, the military police captured and tortured Mr. Mena, but he “never told them anything because then they’d have no use for me.”

Then, they’d kill him. Mr. Mena’s sister and many of his friends were killed.

While he was held and tortured, Mrs. Mena searched and did everything she could to find her husband. By this time, they had three small children.

Mrs. Mena pleaded with the French Embassy and told everyone she could that her husband had been captured. She made a lot of noise and with the help of the French Embassy, Mr. Mena was released and the family fled the country.

Mr. Mena showed me some old black and white pictures of one man who came to Santa Fe, NM to visit and thank Mr. Mena for saving his life. He showed me a letter the guy had written him. Of course, it was in Spanish.

Somehow, our conversation wound to God. Papi said he doesn’t believe in God. But he said, “How easy to find him in this,” as he picked up an apple, “or a flower or ants building things.”

He told me he gets mad, all those people dying. ”Why does God do this?”

His wife, Mrs. Mena was healthy, fine, until a doctor prescribed Premarin which caused a blood clot and then she had the stroke.

I listened as this strong, masculine man, my father figure, praised his wife for getting him out of Chile, encouraged him to buy the land the house we sat in was built on and to work hard. She always supported him, and the kids in all their sporting events.

Papi said he talks to his son Ish, now grown with his own kids, about what it means to be strong.

“I say to him, ‘You can’t go to Albertsons, give them money, and say you want to buy time.’”

Mr. Mena emphasized the importance of being strong, deciding what you want and going for it.

Then, he told me—the girl who used to enter road races under the name Alice Mena because I wanted to belong to his family—how proud he is of me, how strong I am, how he sees me as having done everything on my own. (Not quite true, but I ate up his compliments the way I used to devour Mrs. Mena’s langostino empanadas.)

Papi kept preaching about how proud he is of me for finishing school. (Oh, yeah, I completed my bachelor’s degree at age 37!)

He told me what a great example I’ve been and that his daughter, (my best friend) Andrea looks up to me. The feeling is mutual.

Mr. Mena and I continued our conversation, now onto marriage and divorce.

It makes him mad when people say how much they respect him for still being with and taking care of Mrs. Mena.

“Where else would I be? She’s my wife. She’s my life.”

Mr. Mena has always been a proud man. It felt different on this day.

More than in the past, I took in his kindness. How respectful and full of admiration he was for the woman who welcomed me into their home, cooked for me and often restaurants where she was dealt the blows of conflict between her Chilean Spanish heritage and the New Mexican Spanish culture I grew up around.

Mrs. Mena slept for most of my visit. Papi and I went into the back bedroom and woke her up. She looked at me with a mother’s adoration. Tears of joy leaked from her eyes.
I held her, hugged her, kissed her, looked into her soul and told her I wished I could take her pain away. She shook her head no.

Mami pointed to my diamond circle pendant necklace, diamond earrings and rings and her eyes lit up like I’d landed some rich man. I reminded her I worked in a jewelry store for many years. She always loved jewelry. She still loves it and shopping.

Mrs. Mena eyed for (since spoken language is no longer her friend) Mr. Mena to give me a big bag of Lindt chocolates.

Papi told me about the foot surgery she had to fix her foot that wasn’t quite right since the stroke. Now, it’s even worse. She can hardly walk. He drives her in a van and she has a scooter.

Mr. Mena’s doctor told him he better take care of himself or he’ll die before her. “I try, he said.” But, he has diabetes, is overweight and his health doesn’t look like it’s rooting for him.

He showed me a new Mercedes he’s working on making into a truck. He’d sold his old prized Mercedes sedan. “What do I need with a car I can only drive once or twice a month?” He also sold his apartment in Chile. “Andree can’t travel.” It seems not too many years ago he was insisting otherwise.

His priorities have shifted. His purpose is caring for his wife and watching his grandkids grow up.

Mr. Mena told me he spoke in Washington, DC at the UN years ago. His talk was called “The Ismael Menas of the World.”

I considered the multitudes of people like papi who came from harsh circumstances to build their American dream.

The Ismael Menas of the world: people to be thankful for.