Can You Imagine?

June 1, 2020

hands people friends communication
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“I understand that I will never understand, however, I will stand with you and use my voice to amplify yours.”unknown

The results of the independent autopsy ordered by George Floyd’s family and performed by two pathologists ruled George died due to asphyxia when the neck and back compression led to a lack of blood flow to the brain. The Minneapolis officials said George Floyd didn’t die from asphyxia. He was murdered. I saw it with my own eyes. You probably saw it, too.

Can you imagine feeling anger and seething rage over, and over, and over for decades? For hundreds of years, black men, women, and children have died at the hands of white people, civilians and law enforcement officers alike. Can you imagine what it feels like to have your hands figuratively and physically tied by hatred, violence, fear, and mistrust? Can you imagine being silenced and not heard over a long history of oppression against your community?

“Don’t look away. Look straight at everything, good and bad.” – Henry Miller.

I have experienced racist comments in my life, but the racists didn’t know I was Puerto Rican because of the color of my skin. “But you’re white,” they said. Their comments were offensive and I set them straight.

Despite my understanding of racism and colonial mentality, I was never stopped from getting a job, receiving fair treatment, or being respected by my peers. Have I been repeatedly stopped by police and have I been profiled? Have I lost anyone I love to racist violence or police brutality? No, I haven’t.

I can imagine, but in reality, I can’t possibly begin to understand.

“I understand that I will never understand, however, I will stand with you and use my voice to amplify yours.”unknown

***

June 2, 2020

people at a protest at night
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I just watched the video of the Bronx police officer who was intentionally struck and run over. George Floyd was murdered right before our eyes. My God. We’ve all watched countless videos of excessive use of force by police and of the dangers police officers face on a daily basis.

Peaceful protestors, who have a right to protest against decades of injustice, failed systems, police brutality, and corrupt politicians are attacked. Looters and provocateurs are violent and disregard human life, the safety of non-violent protestors, and businesses that people put their life savings into. Do not lump looters and protestors together.

Until careless and callous politicians understand how they contribute to and therefore, continue the devastating cycle of poverty in our black communities, this will continue. Until our government addresses the decades-long injustices in this country and treat all Americans, who pay their salaries, with dignity and respect, this will continue. Until the government stops trying to militarize the police in this country, excessive force will continue to be used.

If it’s not safe to protest peacefully, will many of us stay home despite our desire to support and stand up for the black community? The brown community. The immigrant community and children held in ICE facilities. Then what?

If we don’t stand up for what is right, the corrupt politicians in this government win. Then where are we? I am hopeful the governors of this country will stand up to Trump and support and protect their citizens, and work with their communities. I am hopeful more police officers will offer acts of kindness during this traumatic time. But hugs and acts of solidarity aren’t enough if we don’t go to the roots of why we are in the tragic situation we find ourselves in at this time–it’s nothing new–poverty, racism, systematic oppression.

Will Americans be forced into submission like Hong Kong and other countries, who for decades have attempted to protest only to be beaten down mercilessly and forced to live in militarized zones? Will the US military allow themselves to be used in this way?

Will the release or resurgence of more lethal viruses prevent us from leaving our homes to protest, to vote? Is that the plan? The more I see, the more questions form in my mind. I’m still learning.

One thing I know–we must get rid of Trump and his cronies. We must all vote them out or we will continue to live in this present horror for four more years.

Stay safe out there. Resist. Donate. Protest peacefully.

Thank you for your visit.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. The authorcurrently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1925 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Crying in the Shower, Quarantine Questions, and Learning to Live in the In-between

May 11, 2020

young woman using laptop at home
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I believe we are entering the eighth week of quarantine. Or is it week 16? The number of coronavirus deaths in the US is nearing 81,000. What a tremendous tragedy. It’s a shock to see the numbers rise so steadily. I try to remember that each person is not just a number–they were loved and are dearly missed by their families and friends. May they rest in peace.

Some scientists suggest the only way to keep those numbers down is for us to stay home, practice safe distancing, wear a mask, and not infect anyone. Others urge us to get outside, stop living in fear, and that only after 60-70% of us are infected and recovered will this end. I really hate the term, “herd immunity”.

What does this quarantine time look like for you? Idleness, aimlessness, or an inability to focus on important things for too long? Perhaps it’s quarantine craziness or crazy good quarantine creativity and high productivity. Maybe for you it’s a time of relaxation laced with mind-numbing boredom or grief we can’t name mixed with confusing or unrealistic relief. Some of us are learning to schedule work meetings and chats with family and friends on sites like Zoom. It’s nuts.

One day I’m a baking tornado and transforming my kitchen into a professional chef’s domain with all the latest gadgets, on sale, of course. The next day, I’m so over nightly cooking, especially healthy eating. Some remember why they never liked or felt the slightest inclination to bake anything. It’s tough to find yeast, flour, or sourdough starter anyway. You may be precariously close to reaching or are already living in the “who cares?” part of the program. And you would be forgiven. But we can’t remain there. We know that. It’s imperative for us to get a grip over and over again and to remain in a good place for the sake of our children, our spouses, our loved ones and for ourselves.

It’s entirely possible and normal for us to feel many emotions in one day, depending on how our heads are screwed on that morning. Sometimes, changes in our moods will occur for no discernible reason. Upon waking and despite vowing to have an energetic, productive day, very often the positive energy diminishes and fizzles out in late afternoon. I don’t want to have a crappy day, not even a short period of crappiness, but sometimes it’s difficult to maintain my footing in my happy place and to keep my focus. Even after my best attempts to continue the day in proven positive ways, I sense those nasty gremlins peeking around the corner to check if I’m feeling grounded enough or losing steam. If I’m feeling drained, out of the corner of my eye, I see them plotting their move.

Then the guilt sets in. People are suffering and dying around the world and in my city. Am I doing enough? Did I give enough to Biden’s campaign, to the DACA recipients? Have I ordered enough greens and eggs from the local farmer? Do I need more cheese from the creamery? Should I order a pizza to be delivered from the Main Street pizzeria? Should I have cancelled last week’s appointment with the hair salon and will she go out of business because I didn’t go? Often when these questions can’t be controlled, I take a nap or cry in the shower like a toddler out of frustration and sadness. That often occurs when I’ve watched too much news or I’ve allowed myself to dwell on how long it will be until I can kiss and hug my precious children. Or when I think back to my travels and to family vacations. When will I travel freely again and have summer dinner parties with family and friends in my courtyard garden? I don’t know.

So what’s the answer then? What can we do? Change our thinking. I believe acceptance and living in the in-between is the way forward. It’s a path of resilience and one I choose to adopt. I’ll be thinking on that today as I work in the garden. It’s time for the bean seedlings to be transplanted near the bamboo teepee, and the pea seedlings are in a large pot with a tomato cage. They are so cute, smile.

More on living in the in-between tomorrow. I’m off to watch videos of baby animals until I feel more positive, and then I will sit down to work on my second book, The Laments. I’ve promised my new editor to have the clean manuscript to her by the end of May. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow morning, Dr. Fauci and other medical experts will testify in the Senate on the coronavirus response. Fauci, tell the truth. Don’t sugarcoat anything and don’t blow smoke up our asses. We need to know what we’re dealing with and what the future holds for us going forward. I don’t think the answer is reopening our states too early, which is sadly happening across this country.

I hope you and yours are well. Stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

 

On Stolen Coronavirus Supplies, Testing, and Death Counts

April 28, 2020

adult black and white darkness face
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Good morning. I hope you are well, wherever you are. I have lots of questions this morning.

FEMA. We’ve heard the reports and complaints from state governors of FEMA stealing PPE from state purchase orders, and last night, Rachel Maddow reported FEMA had stolen millions of face masks from VA hospital PPE orders. Good Lord, that turns my stomach. Why can’t we stop these shameless profiteers? Are they hoarding supplies for the national stockpile while people suffer and die?

After Hurricane Maria devastated my beautiful Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands in 2017, I had nothing good to say about FEMA and the Army National Guard. Their early failures and weak performance in Puerto Rico were mind-bending and unacceptable. I’d hoped FEMA had changed, improved, something, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. They’re not only failing the American people, they’re thieves. What else would you call intercepting hospital orders and hijacking much-needed supplies? Thankfully, the Army National Guard stepped up in a major way during this pandemic by building field hospitals and refurbishing hotels and the like in record time for coronavirus patients and patients requiring other medical services. That’s what organization, skill, and moving your ass looks like. I’m grateful for their help.

Have you noticed the CDC commercials running at night on MSNBC, if you watch MSNBC? That’s interesting because the CDC no longer gives briefings. Now they recognize six (or is it now seven) new symptoms of coronavirus. How do we know? Because the CDC posted the list of additional symptoms on their website: chills, muscle ache, headache, sore throat, repeated shaking with chills, and loss of taste or smell. Did you know? I didn’t. Sneaky. I had half of those symptoms from late February to a few days ago. I still have a cough (not dry) and today, my doctor urged me to get tested. Madre mia.

I wonder if this is a cover-your-ass type of situation by the CDC. The new symptoms would have been nice to know early on as they could have potentially saved thousands of American from dying after they were turned away from testing sites because they weren’t symptomatic with the original three symptoms: a fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing, which was tragically too late for some. And where is the World Health Organization these days, anyway?

Where is the US on nationwide testing? I know, I have lots of questions this morning. The FDA recently approved various tests and from what I’ve read are proving to be ineffective or unreliable. I thank scientists, lab techs, and their staff for working so hard to find accurate tests and a vaccine. Hurry, please. The lack of a vaccine and reliable, quick testing for all, compounded by a failing economy and loss of jobs and small businesses is the stuff of nightmares, tremendous fear, and simmering rage in this country. WHY are we not testing nationwide?

It’s very likely we may never know the exact number of confirmed cases and the exact number of those who died of coronavirus or coronavirus-related illnesses. Again, I’m reminded of post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico in 2017. The government lied about death counts that remained in the double digits for months when everyone knew the number had to be in the thousands. People were dying in alarming numbers and the morgues were full. I joined many fellow Puerto Ricans in suspecting the number was much higher, the numbers never added up. Three years after the monster storm made landfall, the exact number remains unknown.

So, will we see the same lies, corruption and hidden figures about deaths attributed to coronavirus after this pandemic? I pray a group of analysists can tackle that question before the next pandemic strikes the world. Each and every person who died during this pandemic matters. Their deaths matter and the fact that most died alone tears at my soul. No one should die alone.

Last night, a top Manhattan ER doctor tragically took her own life, preceded by the suicide of a Bronx EMT, who shot himself. Lord have mercy. The suffering our doctors, nurses, and health care workers are experiencing and enduring is unfathomable. It angers me that people still insist we must reopen the country, and how heartless are those who say doctors and nurses knew what they’d signed up for. Those type of comments are shockingly callous. No, they didn’t sign up for a horrific, seemingly never ending pandemic! I don’t know how they do it day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. The only way to lessen their unGodly burden and to give them time to heal emotionally is for us to stay home. I don’t see any other way.

God bless and protect our doctors, nurses, health care workers, lab techs, mental health therapists, and scientists, who seem to be screaming into the abyss while Trump and the White House still refuse to listen or accept responsibility for their incompetence and callous disregard way before and during the horror show that is the COVID-19 pandemic. I doubt they ever will. Trump and the White House administration seem to ignore every report and everyone, and except for Andrew Cuomo and many governors, too many people are afraid of him. Can anyone explain why we can’t remove 45 from office now? I seriously don’t understand.

I’d like to end on a positive and hopeful note. Human trials with a coronavirus vaccine are underway by an Oxford University team and it looks promising. Hallelulah. They say the vaccine could be available by September. Although the UK and the Netherlands are gearing up to manufacture the vaccine (if it proves effective), the team says no US manufacturers have approached them. Why in God’s green earth are American and Chinese companies not joining in? Because they are also in clinical trials; it’s a race for the cure and the worldwide rights to the drug. Greed at our expense…again. Sorry, that didn’t end as positive or hopeful as I’d hoped.

Off to check the seed babies in the garden in my mask and gloves. Later this morning, I’ll have my first chat with an editor I’m hoping to work with. I’m more than ready to see THE LAMENTS in reader’s hands later this year. Fingers crossed and candles lit for that.

Be well and if at all possible, stay home. For those parents homeschooling (God bless you), baking cupcakes counts as math, reading, home economics, current events (food shortages and history) and geography.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with a lot of pride.

Why Do These Things Happen To Us?

In 2010 I left Northern Virginia where I’d worked as a Spanish language Family Support Worker with 27 clients and their beautiful children. It was a rewarding and busy job, but tough in that I was required to make home visits once and twice a month to each family. As you can imagine, driving around the DC area and getting caught in lunch time and rush hour at the end of the day made for a stressful job. I practically lived in my car. Not to mention the enormous binders I had to keep updated for each of the children of my 27 clients, which included their shot records, school and medical information, and a detailed, written account of each of our home visits. I felt I could never catch up.

Our manager Nancy was a wonderful, kind woman who understood when I told her I loved my job, but I’d decided it was time to return to my creative life as a painter and a writer. Nancy, a jewelry designer in her spare time, supported my decision wholeheartedly, and my co-workers also understood, despite their personal fears about what I’d be living on monetarily in the future. I didn’t care. I’d felt like a round peg in a square hole for years. I needed my creative life back.

Two months later, I bought an old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia and three months later, I moved to a state I’d only visited once in my life. It felt like I’d jumped off a cliff, but I trusted myself and the Universe, and never once have I felt I made a mistake. I finished writing my first novel, it was published in 2015, and here we are today. I’m still happy with my decision–the only decision for me–to paint and write full time.

Taking control of my life, adapting to new situations, and remaining flexible is nothing new to me as I grew up an Army brat, who moved and thrived every two to four years until college. I raised my kids abroad for 13 years, traveled extensively, and I took control and easily adapted to become a 50-year old single mom. I sacrificed until my children graduated from university and found good-paying jobs, and then moved to West Virginia. It was an easy decision. I knew it was time to focus on ME for the first time in my life.

So, fast forward to 2016. When my step-mom Rebecca, a lovely woman who has cared for my 84-year old father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s, called me in early January with an invitation to visit them, I jumped at the chance. Rebecca was concerned that my father wasn’t interested in eating and that his roommate’s death a few days earlier would negatively affect him; it was important to fly to Florida. I knew we’d be busy, so I decided to leave my laptop at home to concentrate on my family. Rebecca graciously paid for my airline ticket and my sister was able to get a week off from work, so off we went to offer moral and physical support, where we could. For five days, we visited with my dad, who now lives in a wonderful assisted living home, and enjoyed our time with Rebecca, who treated us to three days in Key West, Florida near the end of our visit. We had a great time, enjoying the warmer weather and each other.

005

Then we heard the news: a blizzard in the Washington, DC area which would also affect my adopted town in West Virginia. We watched the Weather Channel every few hours and on late Wednesday, Jet Blue called us–our Saturday morning flight was canceled. I’d survived the back to back blizzards in Northern Virginia alone with my dog in late December 2009, and knew this could be bad. Here I was thousands of miles from my house built in 1907, and my next-door neighbor was pet sitting for me. I had visions of my old roof caving in, of frozen pipes, and a leaking roof, which I know didn’t help my nerves. Then I realized that my neighbor and her husband would be shoveling for me, as well. I felt just awful. Thinking we’d avoid the blizzard by flying a day earlier than our scheduled Saturday flight, we changed our tickets to Friday morning. I called my neighbor to let her know. She told me that my Friday flight would never leave the ground. She was right–late Thursday evening, Jet Blue called about the canceled flight on Friday. And the representative informed us that the next available flight out of West Palm Beach Airport or Ft. Lauderdale would be Wednesday. Six extra days. Wow, we couldn’t believe it. What could we do?

Now, I’m a firm believer of not freaking out about such things, as I believe things happen for a reason, but…it was glaringly obvious my poor neighbor and pet sitter and her husband would be in deep kimchi with their own home and trying to shovel 35 inches of snow to get to my animals. I called my neighbor with the bad news, but she didn’t miss a beat. She was several steps ahead of me. If the power went out, she’d take my Chihuahua and cat to her home, where she lives with two large dogs and two cats, and two kerosene heaters. I felt bad, but there wasn’t a thing I could do. I thanked my neighbor profusely, and promised to give her my firstborn…who is now 30 years old! That’s what I call true friendship from a woman I’ve only known four years.

The weather reports were correct and for once, hadn’t exaggerated–my West Virginia town had 35 inches of snow by Sunday. And since I’d expected to be home by Friday, I now had an interview with The Center of Puerto Rican Studies to finish by Sunday evening, and I had no laptop. Rebecca graciously offered me her brand new Apple computer, which I wasn’t familiar with, and then I realized she didn’t have word processing capabilities. I didn’t want to fool with that, so I finished the interview in an email and did the best I could to find copies of my author photograph and a copy of my book cover, which were on my cell phone. It all worked out, but not without the fear that I’d lose the interview because the server kept shutting off. Lord, what a headache. But I got it done and was never so happy to press, ‘Send’.

As a full-time writer and blogger, I really missed working on my second book during my winter vacation. It was tough to put my new characters on hold, but it was a great time and opportunity to put pen to paper and write out scenes longhand. Sitting on the beach on our last day, I told my sister about my second book, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and received good feedback. She loved the story. It was the first time I’d spoken my story out loud and it really helped in discovering weak links and missing information. I was newly inspired and anxious to get back to writing, but I also knew this visit could possibly be the last time I’d see my father. I vowed to enjoy every minute. Every day, I tried to remain in the present and not sweat the snow or my lack of a laptop.

Wednesday morning, we headed to the airport and the flight took off during a thunderstorm, which is NEVER my idea of a good time. The captain informed us that the extreme turbulence would most probably last the duration of our flight–two hours. I can’t tell you how terrified we were with the plane dipping, shaking, and careening left and right. I laced my arms through my sister’s arms, we prayed and kissed our butts goodbye. At one point, my sister asked me to please stop repeating, “Ay Virgen, ay Virgen” because that frightened her more, which I understood! But I guess all that fear bottled up inside was more than I could handle and I began to cry. The young woman to my right rubbed my arm and asked me what I did for a living, probably to distract me. I laughed and replied, “When I’m not crying on flights from hell, I write books!”

We landed safely, the Metro was working, and miraculously enough, the spot where I’d parked my car before we left for the airport had received enough sun because my car was entirely clear of snow! I drove right out of the spot and decided to park closer to my sister’s townhouse. When I reached a cleat parking spot, I turned off the engine and made my way inside. When I returned with my luggage, my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t know where the hell I keep my reserves of patience, but I found it. My poor, long-suffering neighbors would have to add one more day of shoveling and caring for my home and animals, and my sister had to put up with me for one more night. Luckily, my area didn’t lose power, and I drove home on Thursday morning. I was happy to see the mounds of snow around my house. I love snow and had hoped I’d see a bit of it. Well, I wasn’t disappointed–there was at least 30 inches in my front and side yards.

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I will never be able to repay my awesome neighbors for their tremendous kindnesses, and I am blessed to know them. My furry kids were happy to see me and my home was toasty and warm. I do wonder, however, why the Universe chose to preclude me from experiencing Blizzard 2016. I guess some experiences are meant to be, and it isn’t until much later that we see the Great Plan. It is often later when we realize the ‘why’ and are able to nod our heads and say, “Oh, now I get it.” I believe that to be true, but I’ll never leave the house without my laptop again.

Stay warm out there, my friends.

 

 

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

The Disappearance and Surprise Reappearance of my Dad

The Disappearance and Surprise Reappearance of my Dad

Florida, 5:30 pm.

My dad was relatively calm today with beautiful, albeit brief periods of lucidity about his ear, and how it feels to lose an ear to cancer. Dad tells us he’s grateful to the plastic surgeon, and how it’s better to lose an ear than die from cancer. We agree with him, and I glance at my sister. I know we’re thinking the same thing-Dad is back. That’s what we think he would have said before he was diagnosed with dementia which turned into Alzheimer’s. We know this is only a brief reappearance of our father. Soon, Alzheimer’s will overtake him like a spiritual possession, and we won’t know who he is once again.

Tonight, my father isn’t asking the same questions over and over, and hasn’t asked about his hospital stay. He’s leading the conversation…and it is a conversation. Dad asks for a cold beer before dinner, and we hand him an O’Doul’s, a non-alcoholic beer, in a nice cold glass. He doesn’t seem to notice the difference, and we make sure to shove the green and white beer can down deep into the trashcan in case he grows suspicious of the switch.

As Dad speaks, I feel myself slipping out of my current daughter/caregiver role into grown daughter role, and I realize I can’t do that any longer-he can’t be trusted. As much as we, his daughters, would love to have our independent father back, and my step-mom misses her take-charge husband, it’s never going to happen. He has advanced Alzheimer’s; it’s done. Last night, Dad didn’t know who we were. He thought I was a nurse named Carol, but tonight he asks us about our husbands, and asks how the kids are doing. He’s in and out.

The next ten minutes confirm my fears-Dad pours his orange juice on top of the baked chicken thigh on his plate. My sister’s eyes grow as large as my own, and my jaw drops as the juice precariously reaches the edge of the plate, now mixed with tomato sauce. The dish would be called Poulet a l’orange without the tomato sauce, I think. I don’t move, but instinctively, my sister reaches for his plate, and my dad looks at her with clenched jaws. She backs off as he grips the plate with two hands. We still have bedtime to deal with, and we don’t want a bad night with him. It’s our last night alone with our father. My step-mom arrives in the morning. I can’t imagine how they will do when we’re gone. We must have the discussion of future care with our step-mom when she returns.

We sit patiently at the dining room while our father eats his chicken and spoons every last drop of orange juice off his plate. He has stopped talking, and seems to be in another world. At least he’s not a picky eater, I think. Thirty minutes later, Dad uses the toilet, brushes his teeth, and we give him the prescribed little blue pill to induce sleep, and he sits at the edge of the bed. I can tell he won’t go easy tonight. He wants us to leave his bedroom, and close the door. I have visions of him falling and hitting his head on the edge of the dresser or bedside table as he is still wobbly from the surgery. When we won’t leave his room, Dad opens the drawer of the bedside table, and takes out all the contents-his wallet, a set of keys, assorted papers, and his watch, setting them on the bed. It seems to be a show of contrariness or a need to control his environment. He says he doesn’t recognize the keys, and I’m confident they are keys from the old house. The keys and his watch go back into the drawer, and now he inspects all the papers one by one. I feel my patience wearing thin, it’s been a long, long day, but we stand in front of our father patiently waiting as he takes an inventory of his possessions. Finally, he is satisfied and the drawer is closed…only to be reopened seconds later. The inventory begins again. This happens three times. It seems interesting neither me or my sister loses our cool. I wonder if we’ve begun some bizarre contest to see who loses it first. We are both stubborn, but perhaps it’s more that we realize it’s our last night with our father, so we indulge him. I know very well if I were his full time caregiver, I would be more firm. Again, I’m thankful for my step-mom. I feel like a grandparent taking care of a grandchild for a week, and then flying home. I feel a bit of guilt and a bit of relief. I miss my house, my routine, my kids, and I have a book coming out in early December.

“Do any institutions or organizations have control of my money,” he asks us. It’s a good question.

“No, you and your wife control your money.” He seems satisfied with the lie, and the drawer is closed again. We are able to tuck him into bed. He has more questions, he says. We lean in.

“Do I have your contact information? I want you to write everything about yourselves, your husbands, your children, your jobs, and what you’ve accomplished in life.” Awesome question, Dad. We’ve done this for him many times over the years, and we’ll do it again as he loses every little book we make for him.

“It’s important to have this information in our personnel files, and we will teach you how to access and extract this information when the time comes. We won’t tolerate bad manners or excessive force when dealing with prisoners. Kindness and offers of gifts will encourage them to speak to their comrades who might be persuaded to join us.” Our eyebrows shoot up-we realize Dad is giving a military briefing; it goes on for an hour, maybe more. I am stunned beyond belief. He is an articulate, soft-spoken, and firm leader speaking to his troops or giving a briefing at the Pentagon where he worked for nearly twenty years after a thirty-year Army career. Did he give this speech in Vietnam?

My sister and I wished we’d taped our father’s speech/briefing. I am amazed at how much information is hidden and tucked into the recesses of his brain. We wonder what prompted the ‘outburst’, and then I remember…his military ID card was in his wallet. Did that jog his memory? For an hour or so, we saw a side of our father we never knew when we lived at home as young adults. Dad always left work at the office; we never discussed his jobs or his time in Vietnam. My ex-husband was a Vietnam vet, and I remember their deep conversations about the military and about war. We didn’t have those conversations with our father. I’m impressed, curious, and a bit thankful he didn’t go into any gruesome war stories tonight. I realize there’s a huge part of my father’s life I will never know about with Alzheimer’s destroying his brain; it wasn’t meant to be, but I’m grateful for the glimpse of my father tonight.

I’m thankful I listened well to the stories of my grandmothers, aunts, and my mother. My Puerto Rican family’s oral storytelling tradition birthed the idea of writing my historical novel, A Decent Woman. I wasn’t meant to write a book based on my father’s life; he was a private man, and didn’t open up to me-the women of my family opened up to me. I was meant to write A Decent Woman; all my life experiences have led me to this point. I inherited my father’s tenacity, stubborn streak, courage, and strength of character; that will help me see this book published.

NOTE: I am back in West Virginia tonight, and going through my editor’s final edits. A Decent Woman comes out December 12, 2014 with Booktrope Books.

Please join me on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia; Twitter: eleanorparkerwv; Website: http://www.elliesbookz.wordpress.com

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Your prayers, kind notes, comments, and healing thoughts have meant a lot to my family. I will be back in Florida with my father and step-mom in a few months. Be well.

Ellie

The Use of Spanish Slang, Words, and Phrases in Novel Writing

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. –Buddhist proverb

A Google search for the definition of a new term to me, ‘heritage speaker’, led me to a blog series by Lisa Bradley who writes at Cafe Nowhere. Lisa’s blog is a gold mine of information and I was happy to land in her’ Cafe’. I especially enjoyed her series, Writing Latin@ Characters Well, where I found the answers to questions about the complicated business of using Spanish words and phrases in novels.

My novel, A Decent Woman, debuts this autumn with Spanish words sprinkled throughout the story. I’m a native Spanish speaker, so it was natural for me to include them as I wrote the story.

The questions rattling in my brain this week,( besides the questions of when the City Public Works will collect the debris from my neighbor’s downed tree branches now littering my sidewalk), were:

1. Should I italicize the Spanish words and phrases in  A Decent Woman? What about my character’s thoughts? Should they be italicized?

2. Is it best to offer the meaning of Spanish words and phrases within the text, or place a comma after the Spanish word and use the English word in the same sentence?

3. Should I include a glossary at the end of the novel for non-Spanish speaking readers?

4. Am I missing important differences between 1900 Cuban and Puerto Rican slang, words, and phrases? Important to know as A Decent Woman is historical fiction. I wouldn’t want to get caught making a faux pas. See right there? I automatically italicized the French word.

5. What were Puerto Rican Spanish curse words used in 1900-1930? Yes, I need to know this!

Thoughts and light bulb moments I gleaned today from a few of Lisa Bradley’s blog posts, and from her reader’s comments as they pertain to my novel:

1. Me – Do not use names for characters that require accents marks. I used the names, Raúl, Agustín, Isabél, and Vicénte in A Decent Woman. Great names, but what a pain when it came time to edit! I kept finding names with missing accent marks during editing. I have since replaced Raúl with Isidro because it’s an older name, and learned about the ‘find’ and ‘replace’ feature on Microsoft Word. I’m no longer hesitant to use great names with accents. I learn every day.

2. Do not italicize Spanish phrases or words in a book. Potential readers and buyers will (hopefully) have read the book cover blurb and/or the synopsis on Amazon or Goodreads. If the author has written a good description, synopsis or blurb, the reader will know to expect some Spanish words.

3. Readers will rise to the challenge; don’t dumb down text with translations of Spanish words. I’ve read books with French and German words in the story; a talented writer will offer the meaning of the word or phrase within the text. A very talented author will make you think you haven’t missed a beat as you read along.

4. No glossary. Same reason as #3.

5. I’m still searching for the answer to my question about whether thoughts should be italicized in a novel. I’m sure my editor extraordinaire, Ally Bishop, will know the answer to that, so I’m leaving that one alone for now!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments!

Thanks for your visit today! Click Like and Follow, please. I will do the same!

Definition of a Heritage Speaker: “a person who is raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language” (Valdés, 2000)

Link to Cafe Nowhere:

http://cafenowhere.livejournal.com