“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
Tita (Grandma) | Pray
I swore I was a magician — and the day my cousin Ashley brought her cute friend to the house was the chance I had been waiting for to show my skills.
“I can make anything in here disappear.” I said to them confidently as they sat and did their make-up in front of the little vanity at my Tita’s house.
They took me up on the challenge. I set the object (I can’t remember what it was) on the table next to them and left the room with a smirk on my face.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
I walked back into the room with giddy anticipation. I’ve done this 100 times. I knew what I’d find.
To my disbelief, the object was still there.
The sad part about this story was how many times they let me do this before finally hiding the object and letting me think I made it vanish.
“Want to see me make it come back, ladies?”
This was my grandmother’s fault. Here’s why:
Many mornings, Tita would be in the bathroom getting ready for the day and she would take a hair dryer or a brush or a roll of toilet paper — anything. It didn’t matter the object. Her job was was to place the object on the bed and my job was to make it disappear. I would leave the room and say the Lord’s prayer. When I came back into the room — boom. Gone. The crazy part was that I could go back out of the room, repeat the prayer and the object would return. Sometimes it would take a time or two, but it always came back.
Now you’ve probably already figured out what took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out. Tita needed time to get ready and she needed me to be distracted. When the object didn’t return or disappear on my first try, it was because she was caught up in whatever task she was doing and didn’t have time to make it back to the bed. It was a diversion. It made me look like an idiot in front of that girl. And it taught me a lesson.
To this day, when I lose my keys, I repeat the Lord’s prayer until I find them. The point isn’t the “magic trick” of, “I say these words and then I’ll get what I want.” The point is, that by the time I was 10 I must had repeated the way that Jesus taught us to pray 1,000 times. It’s said that repetition is the mother of skill — I think that’s true. And if it is, then my grandmother gave me a foundation in prayer that has guided me my entire life.
Dallas Willard once said, “We don’t need a prayer life. We need a life of prayer.” My Tita taught me that.
Mom | Fight
I hit the ground so hard that I thought my soul left my body. This little 5’2-ish sweet lady body slammed me like it was Monday Night RAW on live television and she had a point to make. That particular day, I kept talking back to my mom and disrespecting her and she had heard enough of it. Mom has this grit and this fight about her and when it comes out, it’s enough to make a grown man shudder. She’s trained German Shepherds to chase people down and bite them. She’s fought against school systems, court systems, terrible circumstances and even her own dreams so that her kids would have the best shot they could at a good life. Mom was and is a fighter.
She follows rules until she doesn’t. Case and point: One time I was choking on steak. The rule is, Heimlich. The rule is, don’t try to stick your finger down your kid’s throat. Well, mom apparently skipped that part of the class and by the time my lips started to turn blue the nail on her pointer finger must have been about an inch away from my heart it was so far down my esophagus — but she got that piece of steak out and she did it her way.
When she went to church, she’d drag me along with her. When she told me to do something and I refused, I’d look at her and her lips would curl up — at the exact moment I knew I had lost the argument and I did what she said.
I’ve had to fight for what I believe in. I’ve had to fight for my faith. I’ve had to put the opinions of people that I love to the side as I pursued what I knew God was asking me to do. I’ll have to continue to fight through hardship and pain and disappointment. Life isn’t easy and all through scripture, we see men and women who weren’t willing to be pushed around by society, but instead they were willing to go against the grain for the Mission and they were willing to take the lumps that came along with the decisions. They were fighters. Mom taught me how to fight.
Wife | Wait
One time, in the car on the beginning of an hour and a half dive I hear a “kkksssshhhhhhhh” sound from the passenger seat.
“What did you just do?” I asked, annoyed.
She looks at me with eyes WIDE open and says two words. “Bear spray!”
“WHY do you have bear spray!?” We live in Southern Maryland. No bears. (My mom gave it to her. Go figure. The spray was in the passenger door and her foot hit it when she was adjusting in her seat.)
Before she could answer she started coughing. Before I could pull the car over on the highway, Olivia started coughing from the back seat too. I remember actually saying, “You’re going to kill our daughter!” I get a little dramatic sometimes.
I pull over, we jump out of the car and at this point I’m ready to leave her on the side of the road. She gets Olivia out of the car and once she realizes that Olivia is okay, the laughter begins. Not for me, but for her. She finds it hilarious. It’s like she could see past the current reality of us sitting on the side of a busy highway with a coughing infant and a car full of bear spray musk. In the moment she could see the, “This will be funny someday.” All I could see was the orange explosion that I had to clean up in the passenger seat.
By the way, if you ever get the chance to smell bear spray — don’t.
My wife has three children. Olivia, Lukas and Curtis. She’ll be feeding Lukas in the middle of the night while Olivia and I are arguing about who knows what and she somehow keeps her voice at the level of sweet Swedish angel as she calms all of us down and we drift back to sleep. Patience is a virtue. Patience is rooted in wisdom and love. Patience is necessary. Patience is waiting on the initial moment and emotion to pass and having eyes to see beyond that knee-jerk reaction.
I’ve watched my wife leave her home and her family and everything she knows to come to the US because she believed it’s what God had for her. She knew no one, she set everything she had been working on aside, and again, with grace, she waited.
I get myself in a hurry. I want to get to the next thing, the next task, the next challenge, the next achievement. And in the process I run right past the thing (and people) that I was in such a hurry to get to before.
As Carl Jung wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.”
My wife is teaching me that the more I rush about, the more life I’m bound to miss.
So, as long as I have her by my side, I’m in no hurry.
These women are imperfect. They are flawed and wonderful and beautiful and I could write a book on all of the lessons they’ve taught me and one day I might. However, I just wanted to reminisce a bit and hopefully make them laugh, tell them I love them and that I hope they have a wonderful Mother’s Day.
P.S. Mom, I’ll talk to you soon when you find the typos and grammatical errors that I need to fix…