Remembering Dad On His 90th Birthday

Dad was the ultimate baseball fan, especially of the Texas Rangers. I learned after his death that he played on a baseball team in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

Dad was the ultimate baseball fan, especially of the Texas Rangers. I learned after his death in 2011 that he played on a baseball team in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Date of photo is unknown.

 

It’s hard to believe my dad would have turned 90 today. He died at the age of 87 in 2011. Recently, while throwing out old stuff, I found a letter he wrote to me in Spanish when I was a student at UT-Austin.

Stella,
Things you have to try to remember. Try to read the newspaper in Spanish so that you can practice writing in Spanish. Also, don’t forget to talk to Mrs. Ramos regarding your scholarship. Please tell her that you will tell everyone how much she has helped you, in other words, that you are very grateful and that you will not let her down. Another thing, I don’t want you to feel alone at college. You know that we are with you at every moment.
Tu Papa,
Juan Chavez

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‘Nebraska’ Is A Film Caregivers Can Appreciate

I drove home in silence after seeing “Nebraska” for the first time. It didn’t occur to me until a few miles later that I hadn’t bothered turning on the radio. That’s unusual for me. I always have the radio on. Instead, I was deep in thought and teary-eyed. I suspect many people who have cared for an aging parent felt the same way after seeing the Oscar-nominated film.

Will Forte’s character, David, is like many of us – trying our best to help our folks do the things that will keep them going. Yes, caregiving is about making sure our loved ones make their doctor appointments. It’s about calling in their prescriptions and picking them up. It’s about buying their groceries and making sure their bills are paid. But it’s also about entertaining their quirky whims, even when you’re not sure it’s a good idea.

For me, “Nebraska” is a love story. It’s a movie that accurately and tenderly depicts a son’s love for his father. The father, played by Bruce Dern, doesn’t make it easy. Woody is a man of few words, a curmudgeon. He lives in Montana and insists on going to Nebraska to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize he thinks he’s won. David finally agrees to take him giving them a chance to spend time together.

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Tales of youth comfort Mom in old age

My mom in her late teens or early 20s.

My mom in her late teens or early 20s.

 

Like many seniors my mom’s age, a lot ails her. Arthritis. Blindness in one eye. The inability to walk without assistance. Lower back pain that makes it difficult to stand.

But connecting with her past is often a temporary remedy for what troubles her. Ask about her 84 years of life and she’ll talk for hours.

When I was younger, I failed to appreciate the significance of these stories, the tremendous value they would have as I aged. Now that I’m older, I realize that these stories not only comfort her, but me as well.

For a moment, I forget about all my worries, my fears about the future. As she tells these tales, I’m transported to another time. In that moment, her connection with the past becomes our mutual escape.

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A trip to the past with Mom

Mom enjoying her plate of lengua, nopalitos and arroz.

Who knew that a trip to the grocery store would unlock memories tucked away deep in your subconscious? That walking the aisles of verduras and pan dulce or noticing the familiar sight of a woman cutting up cactus would feel like a step back in time.

That instead of worrying about the 20 other things you need to do, you find you are somewhere else – in Mexico as a young girl on summer vacation accompanying a tía to el mercado.

The feeling surprises you because it’s not what you expected from a seemingly ordinary trip to buy groceries.

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