Our beloved mother, grandmother, and friend Esther Perez left this world and went on to the great adventure of life, the day before yesterday. Less than two months ago I visited and stayed with her, in her Miami home for three weeks. Almost every morning I heard her and Maya laughing loudly about the most insignificant of things or events. Her live-in caretaker Maya was like an Angel sent from heaven at just the right time.
Our most recent favorite quote, “If Maya is happy, then Mother is going to be happy”, became her siblings mantra. In those short three weeks a handicap ramp was requested and built so Maya could wheel her out to see her garden; a chicken coop and hens with the future potential of laying eggs was also added. Sometimes crying or laughter may be the only options for an 86-year-old whose mind was still functioning at 100%. Her body however, started failing her in recent years. Mother chose wisely in always laughing because it made her feel good. She also chose wisely on here own in finding anything from a handyman to a repairman to even a caretaker. She made up her mind a long time ago that she was not leaving her home in anyones terms but hers.
If you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life. The greatest gift you can always give a relative or an elderly person is your time. Today, we close the window of life with mom and open the window of our future life without our mother, grandmother and friend.
If you know my younger sister and two younger brothers, then you know a big part of who and what my mother Esther was all about. Esther was born in 1932, in a foreign land, yet only 90 miles away by sea. My father, her first and only husband was born in 1918. It was almost as if she had a chance to enjoy two separate families based on her siblings ages. Son 62, daughter 60 both born in Havana and a son 51 and 46 years of age both born in Miami.
Linked to her 87-year longevity is the strength of her family and social life. She always had a constant stream of phone calls and visitors, perhaps only to gossip or enjoy a novela.
Over the years grandchildren were always within a walls separation of her. Grandchildren always played a huge role in her well-being. She was not a perfectionist or what you might call an educated woman however, that woman could butcher a hog, chicken or duck; make fire without a match or paint her own home. She always saw a meal in her pantry or refrigerator where others might not. Her cooking talents have certainly been passed on from mother to daughter and granddaughter. Most of her life she cared immensely for her children and grandchildren, always creating a clean, safe, and comfortable home. My father while alive always complained about coming home and finding furniture relocated or things never left in the same place days in a row. Anyone visiting was always fed, no one ever left her home without a drink or empty stomach.
If the good lord would’ve only granted her another 50 years of life; she could’ve possibly learned enough English to communicate with others, also bilingually challenged. At around the age of 8, 9 or 10 years of age my mom tells me that today I am going with my father to Miami Beeeech”. Father and I board the 7th Avenue and 36th Street bus to Miami Beach arriving around thirty minutes later to a law office building.
Upon exiting the elevator my feet suddenly slip this way and that way; I kneel and feel inches tall thick and luxurious shag carpeting. My first time stepping in a carpeted room. It suddenly becomes obvious to me that I am the only bilingual one in this group of educated men; my task at hand, to translate a real estate contract for the purchase of our first apartment building and future home. I continued to serve as the family translator until that task was handed down to my younger brother who subsequently passed that task on to the youngest. So you see, she was always thinking, planning, or scheming. She savored life in her own way.
Also, perhaps in her past life she played baseball. Almost with pin point precision a shoe lands squarely on the side of my head. Weeks earlier I was her most trusted family translator. Today I can’t remember but, did something like break this or that; make my sister cry, piss her off or was just plain lazy or did not move fast enough. Not even a zig zag course away from her helped. If you escaped the first shoe better duck fast; the second was soon locked and loaded and shortly behind. She was the sole family disciplinarian. My father rarely if ever got that opportunity. If her children were not well-disciplined then it was a direct reflection on her. It’s a wonder all four of us did not become cops; two out of four did.
In her 70’s an elderly neighbor one day shares with me that one morning he looks out his window and sees mother staring at her duplex. A short while later she returns with paint bucket, roller and brush in hand. He watches with amazement at this elderly woman in her “bata” paint the entire side of this two unit duplex. A “bata” is the most simplest of house dresses that she routinely could be found wearing but, only around the household. Something you could easily picture your “abuela” in.
He continues to tell me that in the early afternoon it appears as if your mother returns for round two. This time he thinks she is just going to put the final finishing touches on her paint job. Again, she stares at her duplex. He thinks she is admiring her work but, she is not pleased with her new duplex color choice. Shockingly to him but not to any of her siblings he tells me she starts to repaint the entire building in a new color. This woman could also be found in the encyclopedia of life under the word stubborn. When she gets a bone in teeth, which she literally did at times, she would suck out the marrow. She also in my opinion did this with her life. One thing she hated with a passion was to fly and oh, she was also somewhat claustrophobic. If she entered an air-conditioned room without seeing a window she would quickly look for an escape route.
My mom also qualified as the biggest gossip in the world. Share if you will jut one shred of information with her and it will make the rounds like a fire storm from sibling to granddaughter to aunt to friend and possibly back around again. She always knows what is going on and is the biggest conspirator that I know. This woman can also be the most short-tempered and stubborn woman you’ll ever meet. If my mom does not like something or someone she will not immediately let you know. Like a festering wound. Neither one of her four siblings were always her favorite. For whatever reason but, mostly limited to her siblings choice of spouses we have all disappointed her, in her life, at one point or another. What she would say now is that she is most proud of is her ten grandchildren.
We will not always remember you for what you said to us but, we will always remember how special you made us all feel. Thank you and may god continue to smile on you, always. We knew this day would one day come. And in her own way she even made her departure from life the easiest way that she knew how.
Mother Esther. We will remember you always.