Sunday, July 31, 2011

Moving On

Air Vents
Monterrey, Mx - Airport

Several months ago while I was studiously researching my family tree, my mother blurted out to me not to waste my time finding anything of value in our past. She said jokingly you should just find a job. It wasn't like I hadn't been trying. Jobs are quite scarce these days especially for those beyond entry level experience. Regardless, I joked with my mom and said to her that it was not a bad idea. 

Two weeks before my mom passed away, I was asked to interview in Monterrey, NL, Mx. I flew down and back to Dallas in a day.  It went quite well.  It felt good to be engaged in international commerce again.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the thrill of transacting business in another language. 

A week passed and I received a call that they wanted me in Cleveland the following Monday for a battery of final interviews.  Before the week was out, Mom took a turn for the worse and on Friday afternoon, July15th, my wise cracking mother passed away. I was ready to change my plans, but my father called me up and told me that the family wanted me to go to my final interview.

This was the most difficult thing I had to ever emotionally pull off. I had to set aside my grief and focus on getting the job. After the battery of exhausting interviews, I pulled myself together again this time to focus on my journey back to Florida to make final arrangements for Mom's funeral.

Nothing seemed easy on the way back from Cleveland. My flight from Cleveland to Chicago was delayed; I missed my connecting flight.  With no other flights out on Continental, I had to switch airlines to Dallas.  Of course my bags were not waiting for me when I got to Dallas after midnight. All my plans for travel the same morning now had to be delayed. The stress seemed insurmountable. There was nothing I could do but just accept the situation.

Despite our best intentions, there are times when giving it your best is simply the best you can do.  We can struggle against the current or resist the tide, but nature is much stronger. There are simply somethings you can't control. All you can control is how you respond to the situation. The lesson is for us to learn is quite simply patience.

Moses spent forty years wandering aimlessly in the desert before he saw the promised land. I need to learn and just comprehend that things do not always work out the way I plan or envision, but that doesn't mean that they wont work out or get resolved. It's a matter of patience and time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sitting at the "Bucks

Coffee and Me

Sitting at the 'Bucks

Sitting at the 'Bucks,
few lonely souls, 
lattes and cappuccinos.

Busy work, thoughts, and dreams,
iPhones, business plans, and schemes

Heart is sore and can't ignore,
happy people approach its door.

All feelings come and go,
at the 'Bucks I know.

Just passing time,
looking for rhyme,
perhaps a verse,
or simply converse.

Al Hernandez



The words aren't flowing right now and my creativity lies dormant.  Recovery from grief is a process.  There's no magic wand to wave.  I know that there's room for light and that eventually it will ebb through.  I keep hoping and remind myself not to succumb to adversity.  I can't quit there are too many people depending on me.

I am grateful for many things but I am ready to move away from the discomfort.  My mind knows that it can't possibly compute all of the possible outcome scenarios.  Moving on is something we must all do.  Lately it seems that all I do is hurry and wait.  It's all a game of patience.  I can't change the world, I can only change myself.  Patience is the key to recovery.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Global Followers

Many of you have been staying in touch with me especially these past few difficult weeks.  I truly would like to thank you.  I would like to thank many of my high school classmates from the northeast part of the US.  Especially those in CT and NY as well as those transplants that now reside in FL.

They say that grieving is a process.  I must admit that part of my process was to verbalize how I felt especially during these final weeks.  For some of you, it might have made you feel uncomfortable and uneasy.  For others, it might have touched a still tender wound.  The fact is that we must accept death as readily as we celebrate birth.  Both are part of the life process.  We must learn to appreciate what each offers:  joy and grief.

My mother had the good fortune of living a full life surrounded by friends both old and new and by family.  She and her best friend, my uncle's wife, Leo, had shared friendship for nearly seventy-three years and lived within proximity of each other for nearly half a century.

Like my mother, I value friendship.  I believe in staying in touch with you.  I share my experiences both of joy and suffering because we all experience both.  It's never all joy and it certainly is never all suffering.  As a friend, I worry for those that drift into despair and feel there are no solutions.  That there is no hope.

During the past few weeks, my family has found many angels along the way.  We found them as we looked for services and care for my mother. We found people who didn't view my mother as just another old patient and my father as just a tired old man.  One lady actually found space for my mother in a nursing home that had a backlog of 50 patients.  That nursing home was only five minutes away from Dad's house and easy drive for an 88 year old man.

U.S. Friends
We could feel the love of hospice care and the tenderness of the massages and lotions my mother received.  At the time my father needed spiritual care, he found a new friend in a Spanish speaking Chaplain named Fernando.

Even at the funeral, we made friends with a portly funeral director named Doug and an old assistant named Arthur.  They were all angels and blessings along the way.  What I thought would be impossible to do suddenly became possible and worry free.  In the face of grief and hardship joy can be found through the angels we meet.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Texas Longhorn

Just when I thought I had left the worse grief behind me, in the most in opportune time both my grief and anger disgorged from my mouth at an unwitting victim, my niece. It wasn't her fault but my wounds were fresh like a lanced bull in bull ring. I wanted to lunge at everyone, any cape would do.  My head was lowered and like the bull I was prepared to fight anything and anyone in my vicinity. This bull was wounded by the pain of loss. My horns were ready to tear into flesh.

My family lost its matriarch. I had kept busy trying to be strong at her funeral. Remarkably the sadness and tears that I had shared with you simply were stifled by the responsibility I felt I owed my sisters, my father, my wife, my children , relatives, and friends.  I was stoic and emotionally constipated.  It was all good I thought.  I believed that it was the right thing to do.

An unsuspecting niece received the venom that inexplicable grief had fermented within me instead of tears.  I wanted in the worst way to let my pain out.  I lost my mother.  Yes she was old but I was not ready to simply forget her or the rest of the relatives that meant so much. I  wanted to fight and argue her old fashioned ways.  I was indignant by the callousness of youth and jealous that I have less years ahead of me than they do.  I was enraged by the bitterness and inequity I felt.  I had been equally calloused in my youth too but now it was my turn to mourn.

This bull was prepared to lower his head and defend the honor of the matriarch and that of her family.  My nostrils widened and I could sense the rush of adrenalin go through me.   It didn't matter wrong or right the wound was oozing fresh and I was prepared to charge as if that would ameliorate or dull the wound.  In a flurry of minutes I charged and released my emotionally charged venom.   I ached;  my body was bruised and my heart had been lanced by the picador of death.

My rage was beyond even my own comprehension.  I had lashed out against those that I loved most.  We drove back to the hotel in dead silence of the night. I searched inside my own soul and knew that bull' rage needed to be quieted.  Off I drove to visit with mom. In the shadows of night. I stood in front of her mausoleum and begged for her forgiveness for holding back the tears and anger at her funeral.   While I wanted to celebrate her life and longevity I did her a disservice by not allowing the tears to flow. We spoke and I expressed my grief.  The silence of the night gave me an opportunity to once and for all announce underneath the stars that I loved her the most. She I recognized loved us all the same but each in her own way.

The bull in me is tame now and gentle again.  I doubt that will ever again attempt to contain raw emotion.  It has to come out or else it consumes you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Josefina Hernandez Rios

3/21/21 - 7/15/2011

Josefina Hernandez Rios, Wife of Pablo Hernandez for sixty eight years, Mother (of Misael, Lydia, Zaidy, and Eliazer (Eli aka Al), Grandmother, and Great grandmother, Homemaker, Cook, Baker, Seamstress, Best Friend of Leonor Hernandez Roman for sixty nine years, and part time Shaman, and Matriarch of the Rios Clan, a woman of devout faith, passed away in her sleep Friday, afternoon.

She practiced what she preached and preached what she practiced. Thank you for leaving us your sense of humor and rendering your heart to your soulmate Pablo.  We rejoice and celebrate the life you lead and the example you set for us.  Your family and your extended family of friends will miss your recipes and your remedies.

Thank you for not giving up hope when Misael was killed.  Thank you for wanting another son and bringing me into the light of the world.  You taught me love and respect of all women and to treat them as I treat my own sisters.  You taught me to appreciate women not as objects but as equals.  You taught me to honor and be honorable.  You taught me the value of perseverance and the meaning of personal sacrifice.  You taught me to love people and to reach out to others.  You gave me the gift of story telling and you taught me how to cry at even my own stories.  You blessed me when I would ask for your blessing.  You accepted me as I was but made me feel brilliant and wealthy when I was neither.

You comforted me even as I comforted you throughout your life.  You never gave up during adversity and you assumed the head of the household more than once during Dad's sickness.   You were the first feminist I knew.

Forgive me for not being strong enough at the end, instead I focused on making things comfortable for you, Dad, and the rest of the family.  Mom, on Friday, your coffin will be surrounded by flowers.  I will make sure of it.  You will be surrounded by those you loved and those that loved you.  You will be laid to rest where you will always face the promise of the morning sun.

If there is a time for tears, Mom, this it.  I tried to hold them back.    I think if we gathered all the tears that will be shed, we could use them to season years of fantastic soups.  There's no sense in wasting good heart felt tears.

It's not good-bye. It's adios and until we meet again. "You were so right "como la madre solamente hay una." "Una mariposita, desde el cielo bajo, con sus alas abierta, y en el pico una flor..."

3/21/21 - 7/15/2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Transplanting Orchids

Orchids in Bloom
Rendered with iPhone

This past Sunday I was a bit restless.  My mind was full of stuff and it just seemed that I couldn't rest.  I needed something to occupy my mind, a project.  In our bathroom we have about four orchid plants that I've managed to keep alive.  Although I have had good intentions of transplanting them to newer pots, I've not bothered.  Finally, on Sunday, I got my nerve up.

I purchased all of my materials from the local store and brought them home:  orchid potting mix, sphagnum moss and orchid food.  That afternoon I gathered all my plants and placed them on the patio table underneath the shade of the patio umbrella.  Carefully, I removed each orchid from its pot and I began to trim dead roots and separated them from the old mix.  It was delicate surgery that required all of my concentration.  Although I was nervous about the procedure, I was motivated by the promise of blooming orchids this winter.

My grandmother grew and collected orchids and she passed on that tradition to my aunt, Josefinita.  My fascination with orchids I suppose is a combination of genetics and tradition, nature and nurture.  There's something special however of the promise of the orchid bloom.  The blossom stays open longer than most flowers.  The wait seems worthwhile given that it takes so long to bloom.

If you cultivate your life mindfully and carefully at some point you will reap the benefit of beautiful blooms, perhaps in your darkest hour when you need them most. This morning I looked at my transplanted orchids and fantasized about the blooms that would surely come as a result of my nurturing.  You can't have blooms in your life without the effort of planting and cultivating.  I am eager for the blooms.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Under the Boardwalk

Under the Boardwalk
Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY

There's a lot of political rhetoric being exchanged.  Parties are holding smug to their cliche stances.  The common sense of looking beneath the surface and allowing curiosity to probe has gone by the way side;  instead it has been replaced ideology and dogma.

The problems we face on a daily basis cannot be swept under the rug and cloak of political belief.  There is a huge responsibility that a "government by the people and for the people" must shoulder.  We have basic responsibilities for each other.  Those that believe in the rights of fetus must also not shrug the burdens of those that are born.

Looking the other way along party lines negates the underlying issues which remain.  This is not a time for the rhetoric of carefully crafted sound bites.  Free men and women must face the challenges and responsibilities of a free society.  The moral tax we must all bare by ignoring the obvious is one we will surely carry to our graves.

Yes we must all make sacrifices.  Our system is fat but we have also been very lax in taxing fairly.  Those with the most have shifted their burden on those with the least.  They have the political and financial resources to lobby their interests.  The middle class should not allow itself to be seduced by the sirens of no new or higher taxes.  It will indeed lead to the shipwreck of our economy and jeopardize the freedoms of all that reside within its borders.  If we spend; we must pay.

Those that believe in trickle down economics would be hard pressed today to explain, why even though taxes have been lower during the past decade, we have less industry in America.  They should be held to the same scrutiny as those who insist on more government.  The answers like medicine may be hard to swallow.  As long as the symptoms persist, we have no choice than to swallow our medicine or face a prolonged illness.

Those that called on us to sacrifice our young men and women in two prolonged wars, should at least be willing to raise taxes on themselves before they ask us to endure more sacrifices on into our retirement.  The burden must be shared equally and indiscriminately.  It should not be born by those who have already sacrificed the most and can afford it least.  The retirement of the wealthy is already secure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Across the Bridge

Crossing the Bridge
Whitestone Bridge view from Brooklyn, NY

This sojourner has often wondered what purpose it would serve to write and photograph his experiences this past year.  He's debated frequently the notions of not writing and not photographing.  This morning was one such morning.  What purpose does this all serve?

As I pondered and attempted to select an image for today, I stumbled across this image shot from Brooklyn earlier this year.  My writing and my photography are both about my story.  The purpose it serves is quite simple;  my writing is nothing more than an open conduit to help others get to the other side.  It is a bridge to help others get through difficult and at times lengthy waters.

Life is filled with goodness, but at times we reach bodies of troubled waters.  We must navigate either through them or we must find bridges that can get us safely across.  To those that choose to listen and journey with me, I simply offer you a toll free bridge of my experience.  Perhaps it will save you time and discomfort.  You see I've already gone down this path.  I have the experience and you can lean on it and benefit from it.

Some might think that I am only dark.  No I am not dark, I am just a person trying desperately to find and follow his light.  I know that if there is night, day will follow.  Life moves on, the earth continues to spin, and this planet travels in it's galaxy through the universe.  Everything continues in motion.

For those of you who have been following my blogs, I extend to you my friendship and an open pass on my bridge.  The toll was prepaid by my experience and those before me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Recipes & Remedies

At Home in the Kitchen

If I were to summarize my mother's 90 years of living, I would use two words:  recipes and remedies.  She was known for both.

Her best dishes included:  rice and pigeon peas (gandules), rice and red beans with calabaza (pumpkin), garbanzos with calabaza over rice, thin steaks smothered with onions, veggie meatballs, lasagna, chicken fricassee with potatoes, tostones, pasteles, corn beef with fries, coleslaw, turkey, tilapia, asopao, bacalao, flan, corn fritters, corn bread, corn pudding, tembleque de coco, coconut candy, rice pudding, bread pudding, fruit juices...  My mother knew exactly what were the favorite foods of each of her children, her husband, and friends.  By the way, we had to eat everything on our plate for fear of tuberculosis.  (You heard right.)

Mom's Hand
Mother was also a healer and shaman.  What she couldn't heal with over the counter medication, she would  reach out to her spiritual medicine cabinet and insert a liberal dosage of prayer.  Among her favorite medications she included:  Vicks Vapor Rub, rubbing alcohol, BenGay, Heat, AsperCreme or Sports Creme, herbal teas with lemon and honey, chicken soup, Pepto Bismol, prune juice, Milk of Magnesia, Epson Salts, Iodine, and Tylenol.  After liberal dosages of each she spent quite a bit of time on her knees and supplemented all medication with prayer.

It wont be long now, Mom will finally get to rest from her grueling work of cooking and healing.  She must have done a great job, we are all alive and well nourished and relatively healthy.  I think it's okay to let her rest now for a bit.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Josefina Hernandez

I wrote this blog last year in May.  Given the current circumstances, I've decided to repost it since I have added so many new followers and friends.  Mom is now in a nursing home awaiting the inevitable.  Regardless, she will always be Mom and will never be forgotten by us.

Mother's Day is just around the corner.  As the year's go by it becomes more difficult to find exactly the perfect gift for my mom.  At this point in her life, its quite pointless to buy her something; she has all she needs.   I am pretty much resigned to send her flowers which I know she would rather see and enjoy while she is still alive.

When I think about what I can do for her, what really comes to mind is to pay her homage while she yet is still alive.  My mother till this day is known for two things:  her fantastic cooking and her limitless capacity to generate friends.  (Between us, I think the two go hand in hand.)

My mother never really shared her recipes.   Everything was measured by her crooked finger.   In fact, I think she deliberately skips details as she tells you what is in her food.  She truthfully wanted you to come back for more of her food.

While I can't recite her cooking recipes;  I can, however, tell you her recipe for a good life.

Have a family, preferably, two daughters and son.  Stay married for sixty-seven years,  Sprinkle that marriage with hardships and season it with many family get togethers and festivities.  Stir in friendship to taste slowly and over time and add liberal amounts of aunts and uncles.  Put everything in a wonderful pot called a home.  Now let it all simmer over a lifetime.  Season it again with grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Add prayer every day, for your children, your husband, and for all those that you love.  Don't forget to feed your family and your friends as much as your heart and health permit.

She's up in years now.   She just turned 89.  Last year was a rough year for her.  She fractured her pelvis and during her recovery fractured her hip.  They replaced her hip.  While I thought that she would never walk again she continues to walk.  Yes she's feeble and sleeps more but she refuses to give up her kitchen.  I suppose that's a good thing.  You see I would like to eat one more meal prepared by those loving hands.

Happy Mother's Day

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Life Streams

Streaming Life
Near Tannersville, NY

Life stops for no one.  Even when it appears to stop because of difficulty, life streams traverse the obstacles along its way.  Life not only has velocity it also charts along its own vector.    The flow keeps coming from an abundant source.  Sometimes we are the spectators along the shore and at other times we are adrift in the middle of a cascade.

We don't know where it will ultimately take us, but we feel the undulation as we step into its waters.  We sense the current that wants us to move with it.  Most of my life, I've spent resisting and fighting the current.  Lately, I've been learning to harness the its energy and to let life lead me both in velocity and vector.  In so doing, I conserve and renew my energy.  My body and mind are less fatigued.  The best thing I can do is tap into the energy source.

The roar of the water is getting louder now and I can sense what is around the next bend.  It's inevitable, but I am ready to follow the current.  I need to ride the stream to where ever it will lead.  There's no time to be afraid of the waters that I have chosen to navigate.  The shore is always near by.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th

Tradition on the 4th
Deland, Florida

We all have traditions.  In this country we have a long standing tradition of commemorating the birth of our nation and the years since that we have kept its citizens free.  Today, we truly are a melting pot, a cross section of every country of the world.  We celebrate the fact that for one special occasion, all of us, together have something in common.

America, the beautiful, is not only the home of brave, but also the land of the free.  Liberty is simply a noun shared by a diverse group of people respecting the rights of each other.  We choose to be free and will fight if necessary to protect those truths which we truly hold evident such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Regardless, of what others might say,  the best of times still lie ahead as we continue to become more diverse.  No other country comes close to replicating our success nor our mantra.  My father and his brothers served this country for that very reason,  one as a non combatant and the other as a combatant.  We honor those by preserving their memory keeping liberty's torch lit.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

End of The Line

End of The Line
Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY
I would hate come to the end of my life to find out that I had not lived
Henry David Thoreau

Mom's journey is coming to an accelerated end.  We've been fortunate to enjoy her sense of humor for all these years and equally fortunate to have been well fed by her incredible cooking.

Yesterday, I said good bye for perhaps the last time.  I held her hand and mentioned my name;  she opened her eyes and said my name.  I stroked her face and forehead and brushed back her hair.  I kissed her, as I had all these years, on her forehead and asked her blessing perhaps for the last time.

The circle is near complete.  All the preparations are in process.  Some details will be ironed out.  Now I need to start thinking about what to write and say to all the people that loved my mother, my family, her surviving brothers, nephews and nieces, grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

The sorrow I feel  needs to be offset by the joy that my mother left us with.  She made life better that was her gift to all of us.  Now I have to give back something to all those that will attend.  I want them to feel my mother's presence and humor.

Life is good.  It has moments of despair but darkness always precedes the morning light.  I am so grateful that I can enjoy the morning light.  I will always recall the clatter of pots and pans that my mother awakened us with as she commenced her morning cooking.  Mornings are also good.  The darkness never lasts too long.  I am grateful for the promise of light and feel awakened once again.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Death's Door

Death's Door
Ponce Inlet, FL

Things have gotten progressively worse with my mom's dementia, enough to warrant another trip to Florida. Mom's moaning is now now ever present even though there's no physiological reason for her moaning.  In order to reduce both her anxiety and agitation, as well as my father's anxiety, the nursing home suggested and I agreed to contract with hospice services.

Although I do not believe in playing God and I do not relish my role, I simply do not subscribe in prolonging the suffering of both the living and the soon to depart.  My mother has lived nearly 90 lucid years.  For 69 of those years my father has been by her side in both sickness and in health;  however, each time my father hears her moan and sees her writhe it breaks his heart.   It seems to me inhumane to prolong her agony and his prolonged suffering.  For Dad, there is nothing more that he can do for her.

Yes, I could leave her simply alone under the regular care of the nursing home; however, their solution is to leave her moaning in a nearby wheelchair in plain view in a common area where they can monitor her.  My mother, if she were lucid, would not have wanted that.  She would have scolded me and wondered about what would people think about her?  No I don't want that for my mother.  No I don't want to play God. I simply do not wish to prolong her agony and the inevitable.  There is no more quality of life for my mother.  That ended abruptly the middle of last month. I understand and I and my siblings, and my father need to let go.

For years, I have believed that death is simply nothing more and nothing less than rest for the weary. My mother's body is tired and her mind is gone.  She deserves my respect and I will always remember her as we did on her 90th birthday.

I love my mother and always will but I have to, if need be, end the suffering for both she and my Dad.  No doctor can bring her back to us and now its time to simply keep her memory and spirit alive each day.  Her time is near, I know. I simply pray that God will take her breath away and give her body peace and the rest she deserves.  She has fought a brave fight and has almost singlehandely broken Medicare.

Mom, I hurt for you but I've always loved you the most.  Please don't forget I am the best looking and your only son.   It hurts to let you go, but I have to look out for Dad and my sisters too.  You said I was your favorite but I know that you loved us all the same, I just happened to be your only son and the youngest. Thanks for fighting such a good fight. I know you are tired and your bones are brittle and ache.  I never could stand to see you in pain and suffer.  I took care of you when you were younger and at times sick and I am so sorry that I can't make it better now.  You will always make me laugh and I hope that I will always make you smile.