Shoes, Not Sandals

“Ey! Put on your ‘choose'(Shoes)!” My Father would yell this at whoever would be barefoot around him, “Or I step on your patitas, and then you’ll be crying!” This is then followed by some comically exaggerated form of crying.

And although hilarious to see, it wasn’t a bluff, because if we ignored his command, then when we pass by him again, he’d aim for the toes and step on them or sometimes by accident, he’d step on them, but in either case, he’d say, “Well, I told you to put on your ‘choose’!”

But one thing I’ve noticed, is that my father only had 2 pairs of shoes: Formal shoes and Shoes for everything else.

He never had sandals, nor moccasins, nor flip-flops, nor Vibrams, or anything else, other than shoes he’d always wear and formal shoes for special occasions.

Earlier today, I’ve observed that when I wake up and put on my sandals, I remain as sleepy and tired as if I went barefoot, but if I put on socks and shoes, my mind starts waking up much faster, I start thinking quicker, and I’d reach a state of ‘Completely awake’ in a matter of minutes, as compared to the sandals, which would take hours.

And now I wonder why I’ve never found my Father wearing sandals, I remember buying some for him, but they’d often be tossed to the way-side, forgotten, and found by one of my brothers who would claim them for himself, and my Father would never have/notice them, until some time afterwards, when he’d look at their feet, and (in his usual manner) question whether or not those same sandals were his.

But whenever it was time to work, there would be my Father, wearing his shoes, getting ready to start the day. And if we wanted to work, we had to put on shoes as well, donning sandals got us sent back inside and unable to work until we had shoes on.

And I can now see why, once you have your shoes on, your feet instantly recognizes the years of familiarity of putting them on before, before going to school, before running outside to play, before performing any sort of strenuous work.

It helps focus the energy through the traction of the soles, by providing a firm grip on the ground, sending that signal to your brain, that your feet are firmly planted, so then the mind thinks, ‘Ok with the feet being solid and firm, we must now react to do the same, lest we find ourselves not picking our feet up high enough and then the traction will have us flat on our faces.’

The mind instantly remembers the amount of traction the shoes have, and immediately adjusts the movement of the legs to compensate for the static friction factor, otherwise, at the angle you move your leg, you will drive your foot either horizontally or and any other angle that doesn’t pick up the foot high enough to avoid the static friction factor of the shoe, and that’s what causes you to drag your feet only a couple of inches, when the body expects a full stride, and what happens then? BAM! You fall forward, because your body has shifted its center of gravity to a point that isn’t properly supported by your legs… Heh, I realize that I throw in science whenever my mind is tired.

So with shoes on, your mind starts working complex problems and adjusts accordingly, and becomes more and more aware of it’s surroundings, and if you’ve just woken up, then that’s helpful in reaching a state of awake faster, than anything else, in my opinion, I’ve tried water, coffee, shower, slapping myself, cooking sometimes helps because of the Fire involved, but nothing else wakes me up faster than putting on my shoes.

The very act of putting on my shoes reminds me of all of the hard work I’ve done when I’ve put them on before, everything from auto body, to construction to Major clean-up jobs, activities that are generally outdoors, and require many hours to complete. After years of doing them, my body now thinks that I’m going to do them again every time I put on my shoes, heh, which is rather inconvenient at 4AM when I’ve returned from taking my brother to the Metro station, and I want to go back to sleep.

I have sandals, but now in the future, I think I’ll just stick with shoes, regardless of the various occasions  and benefits that come with Sandals…. Well, I think I just won’t wear them that often.

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Cook? I can cook!

It’s Sunday morning… I’ve woken up just in time… I put on some clothes and head downstairs to the kitchen, I see my father turning on the stove, and setting up the ingredients: Chopped onions, green and red salsa, Parmesan Cheese, and Tortillas… It’s Sunday morning, and we’re going to make Chalupas.

Although often overlooked by many, men can cook rather well. My Father in particular learned how to cook various Mexican dishes simply because he needed to when he was younger, but now when he cooks… Ohh… When he cooks, every flavor has a special spice, I’ve yet to place my finger on it, but my only conclusions are some blend of spices, or Fatherly Love.

But if someone, like me, told him that I couldn’t cook, he’d say (after hitting me upside the head) that cooking is easy, just follow the instructions and that’s it. It’s an important skill that every man must learn, for a man who is not able to cook is not even a man.

Cooking is far more than merely firing up a grill and throwing a steak on there, cooking also includes baking, seasoning, roasting, it’s involves a level eye for ingredients, knowledge of the differences between a ‘Pinch of salt’ versus ‘a Dash of salt’ and so on. To my Father, these things were necessary, simply because if one didn’t know what he was doing, the food would taste terrible!

Which often made me wonder, if my Father was particular about the flavor of food, how is he able to eat 3 helpings of whatever was made? It’s like, he’d tell you, “Ehh, needs more salt” after his third plate, and if I ever offered to take the food back and re-season it, he’d say, “Well, I’m hungry now, so I’ll eat it!”

Ha ha ha, I’ll never understand it.

But I’m glad that he placed that idea within me, now I’m glad to say that I can actually cook! I can make anything from Mac and Cheese, to Orange Pot Roast, to the Godfather Spaghetti! I must admit I rather like cooking, it’s interesting, heh, kinda like Chemistry, you put in various things together in their respective proportions and you wind up with a new concoction, or in this case, a tasty meal! There’s even fire involved!

but one thing is for certain, as in cooking, when one is doing anything, however small or miniscule, it should be done right. I have no dreams of being a chef, but when I do cook, I’ll make sure that everything tastes good and flavorful. So when applied to other things, when one is cleaning, or studying, or even driving, it should be done properly, observing that each part of said activity is given its respective attention and care. Otherwise, you’ll wind up ruining it and in flames. Sometimes literally.

Heh, now I’m often complimented, not for my cooking, but for the fact that I can cook. My Mother’s friends would say that I’m ready for marriage because my culinary skills are rather developed, also since I’m the only one in the house currently, who can cook, I’m glad that my brothers and mother don’t have to starve or waste their money on fast food, even though Norm still does.

I’ve also come to realize that there’s a genuine peace when you’re cooking, it’s kind of hard to explain, but there is a moment when the food is cooking, and you’re in a moment of tranquility, just watching the pot cook. There’s also a passion when you really get into making the meal, everything is coming into place, the process is bursting with flavor, and you’re not even done yet! Ahh, it fills you up with a flame!

Cooking can even bring people together, particularly grilling, they help open opportunities to converse, to teach, to learn, to appreciate, even to laugh and to love.

“For those who fight for it, Life has a Flavor the sheltered will never understand.” – Wise Man from Sucker Punch

Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask

I was talking to my brother on the phone, during a stressful time when tempers were flared and feeling were hurt. At his request, I passed the phone to my Father, thinking he’d just vent to him, for a few minutes and that’ll be done.

The conversation between him and my Father lasted 2 hours.

Throughout the argument, I kept hearing my Father say, “Well, if you don’t tell me, how am I supposed to know?!”

My Father was never one to pry into other people’s business, it causes too much unneeded trouble for him, made life complicated with secrets and that’s not how he wanted to live. However, if it was never brought to his attention, then he’d automatically assume that everything was fine, at least to a controllable point.

But that isn’t true. We didn’t voice our opinions not because we didn’t want their intervention, we don’t say anything to see if they will care enough to intervene. The problem here, is that my Father didn’t know how, his approaches were always awkward and far too short for his own good to get an in depth look at us, so when the tension was overwhelming, and people were yelling, my guess is that my Father had to meet such sudden, but not unanticipated, feelings that probably would’ve been prevented, if not lessened or prepared for, had he taken some sort of prying approach towards us.

He tried however, I remember when I was in the 10th grade, we were driving to Chicago from California,  it was at night, and we were sitting quietly, it was just him and myself alone in the car for everyone was waiting for us there at Chicago. He randomly asked me, “So… Are you going to get married?” Mind you, I didn’t have a girlfriend, nor had any such indicator that there was a special girl in my then-short life, “Whaaa?!” I “gracefully” responded, “What are you talking about? Married?!” “Well, I was just curious, are you going to get married?” He rebutted. “Well… I guess so… I don’t know! Why are you asking me this?! I don’t even have a girlfriend!” I tell him. “Ahhh, I don’t know, I was just curious!” He says, and the conversation just fell short at that.

Heh, I think my reaction was a mixture of teenager embarrassment and surprise at the randomness of the question.

We didn’t discuss the topic ever again.

Heh, I suppose I’d chalk this fault of his to his “lack of a Father-figure” pile, because the entire conversation was purely awkward, even now, I still can’t tell if he was really trying to find out about my life or was merely playing around. I’d go with the former, because it felt like it was awkward for both of us, heh, which means that he has little-to-no experience discussing such things.

I guess it must’ve frustrated him, not being able to communicate completely with us, heh, feelings are complex, and I suppose that he never really had much opportunity to really delve into them, much less into our own.

But it wasn’t completely hopeless.

My Father spoke on a less communicable level, when I started being his ‘Little Assistant’, I felt a bond with him, that I almost couldn’t understand. But I could’ve barely felt his emotions, I sensed when he was frustrated, when he was genuinely happy, and I was able to tell that he can sense my emotions, when I was passionate, when I was at my wits end, and heh, when I was stubborn like him, trying to get a job done.

I am glad I was able to realize his lack of communication skills early and that’s when I told him as much as I could, granted, he didn’t understand much, but he realized what he could and tried to help at every opportunity. It also helped me realize that some people communicate without words, through gestures, small movements, subtle changes in their tone of voice, even through hitting others in the back of the head. I also learned the value of communication as a whole, to overcome that awkwardness that constantly thwarted my Father, and really learn what’s going on in people’s lives and offer my help.

I’m definitely going to need this skill when I’m a doctor, because I’m going to run into a lot of people, of various backgrounds and levels of communication.

Tears from a Man

We were all sitting in the living room waiting for the call… When it came, my Father picked it up, in Spanish, he spoke to his sister. The conversation was short, but when it had ended, my Father put the phone down slowly, my Mother was sitting next to him, and the rest of us were sitting in a circle, I was in a chair across from him, but facing diagonally.

“Tu abuela murió” (“Your Grandmother Died”)my Mother announces to us.

We all remained silent, and my Father puts his hands to his face and quietly sobs.

The first and last time I’ve ever seen tears of sorrow run down his face…

My Father was a hard man, solid like a rock, yet gentle and kind towards others. In terms of emotions, one can argue that his was skewed with the early passing of his own father, forcing him to take on a leadership role early in life, so he hardly was able to express himself truly, in terms of displaying anything but strength.

I shed tears for my grandmother, mostly because I had lost a world of wisdom due to a language barrier. But that’s for another time.

Heh, I’ve seen my Father cry due to onions or dirt in his eyes, but this, this was the only time in my entire life that I had seen him sad, shedding actual tears of sorrow and loss. It was so strange to see that, well, not strange, it’s understandable, I mean, the man’s not made of stone, but my Father was always a pillar of strength, always smiling, telling jokes (albeit awful ones), one would forget that it was possible that he can get sad.

But I suppose that it was merely childish idolization, the classic, “my Dad is the strongest man in the world!” What I had failed to realize is that every man is capable of crying, but what defines whether or not a man is still a man is the circumstance in which he cries for.

If a man sheds tears for his own inabilities or shortcomings, then these tears lessen him, for every man should strive to overcome his own limitations, no matter how difficult the demons, if you shed tears in front of them, then they will feed off your weakness and grow stronger. Thinking about this, I remember the Godfather movie, when the godson of the Don, who was an actor, was asking for his help, and was crying because he didn’t get the part, and didn’t know what to do. The Don told him that he can be a man and stop crying.

There is nothing wrong with shedding tears for lost loved ones and death. This is a life-changing event, and a permanent one at that. Tears here are both welcomed and expected. A man crying over losing an important person in his life, is only observed as nothing less than a man because, Death is a matter of severe gravity and to not shed tears shows that there was no bond between the deceased and the man.

I also remember this phrase, that I often think about when it came to my parents and time spent with them: “The harshest tears are shed for things left undone and words left unsaid.”

I know some of my siblings had some tension with my Father, and following his passing, things were obviously left unsaid between him and them. I remember them more sorrowful than I was despite the strong fronts and forced smiles.

Once I learned the phrase, and after some time, I finally accepted, after some more time, that I had to bury my parents someday. So whenever my Father went anywhere, I was right behind him, his little assistant, and I always made sure that I told him everything that was going in my life, I ate breakfast with both parents, when I woke up on time, I’d be helping my Father cook breakfast for the 3 of us, learning all that I could from him.

… Heh, I guess I was trying to take away as many tears as possible. It helped only in speeding up my time in accepting his death…

But as my tears fell, I knew that they were not tears of regret, sure, I’m not even close to being done with my Life’s journey, there are still SO many things that I’m planning on doing, so I will want my Father to be there when I do them, but he won’t, and that’s something that I’ve accepted, there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be sad remembering that fact, but I withheld nothing from my Father, despite the fact whether or not he knew what I was talking about, I told him everything.

I don’t know what sort of tears my Father shed when his mother died, if they were of pure sorrow or of regret and loss, what I do know is that my Father has only shed tears, actual tears, once in my entire life, and that tells me that he was a strong man, that wasn’t so easily ruled by circumstance, nor by pain, nor even by emotions, he always kept his wits and never broke down for anything, not even for Onions… well, maybe a little.

What is $20?

Weeks after my Mother has told us that we need to watch what we use, for financial purposes, my Father walks into the living room, my brothers and I sitting on the couch fixated on the TV as usual. He looks at us, then the screen, and back at us again, He says, “Let’s go!” motioning me. I jump out of the couch and follow him to the door.

We get into the car and we’re driving in the evening, “Where are we going?” I ask finally, “Oh well, you said ‘Pizza’ so we’re getting pizza.” He responds. Shocked, I say, “Wait, didn’t Mom tell us that we need to save money? We can’t go for pizza!” “Well… What’s $20?”

There’s a phrase that goes, “When you have 2 shillings, you buy Bread with one, and a Flower with the other.”

I’ve always wondered about this phrase, and the purpose of such a thing, I mean, it’s interesting in the sense that it’s saying, ‘buy something you need, and then buy something fun/flirty/loving/inedible’ and my Father saw that, despite whatever hardships one is experiencing, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a bit of fun. If nothing else, that small bit of fun helps you by relaxing you, and if only for a moment, taking your mind off the utter stress you’ve been placed under.

My Father realizes that no one can be serious 100% of the time, there has to be– no, there must be time to laugh, to smile, to forget about one’s worries, and lose oneself in a moment of pure joy, of relaxation, of love.

The world isn’t perfect, that’s given, and it’ll always be hard on you, without withholding any blow however severe, the world is cruel, calculating, and oftentimes confusing. But no where in there does it say that you can’t tickle someone, that you can’t hug a friend, you can’t kiss a love, you can’t laugh with your children.

And then you see it, despite the fact that the flower costs as much as a loaf of bread, the flower is just as necessary as the bread, sure you could’ve bought 2 loaves, yet you’d have too much bread and something goes to waste, not the loaves, but your own heart. If you don’t place happiness, or joy, or laughter, or even a bit of stupidity in your life, you’ll constantly be surrounded by stress, which weighs rather heavily on the consciousness, without something light, you’ll strain your thought processing will be on constant high gear, thus wearing out far beyond it’s intended expiration date.

Because once you really think about it, what is it that you’re worrying about? Bills, electronics, heat, water, shelter, all tied to pieces of paper saying this and that. We are designed to respond to this by throwing other smaller pieces of paper at it, and they respond by throwing other pieces of paper at us, and we reply with our previous response, and the cycle continues, until someone stops throwing paper at the other.

We are biologically designed to think, to move, to feel, to live, to laugh, to love, to smile, to cry, to feel pain, to reach for the stars, we are not designed to stress over notices, payments, overdue bills, insurance, debts, money. The body is meant to move, whether inside or out, we are not meant to be under paper yokes that bind us to a singular place, we’re meant to stress that someone/something is coming to kill us or eat us, not whether they’ll take our money or our stuff away.

That’s why there’s a Flower that accompanies the loaf of bread, or a pizza that goes with the house payment, because sometimes you need that little victory over the stress, that small piece that says, “I will have this moment, just for me, where the world cannot touch it.”

These moments are manifested in various things, from flowers to pizza.

It’s necessary to have a moment to yourself, a moment that seems insignificant in the long run, as well as the memory, until you’ve overcame your obstacles and you can look back. Your accomplishments will be the triumph, but those moments that you’ve forgotten will be the ‘umph’ that kept you ‘tri’-ing.

Heh, in these moments when you think overall it means nothing, yet you find out that it is in these moments that you’ve learned how meaningful they truly are.

$20 can buy so many necessary things, from food to a payment, yet, sometimes the most necessary thing in life, is the thing that makes life worthwhile.

Gladiator

We were leaving the theater, we had just seen Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, and I was walking next to my Father and I asked him what is favorite part of the movie was, and in his heavy accent he said, “Oh the ‘Fadder to a dead son, the husband to the dead wife.'”

I remember during the movie, when Caesar was provoking Maximus by describing what the soldiers had done to his family, I could hear my Father mutter something, like “Ayy…” or something to that extend, but what I understood from that simple indistinguishable sound was that you do not insult another man’s family!

And this is true, it was the reason my Father loved that particular scene, because it showed one man’s love for his family, living or deceased, his devotion to them was nothing short of admirable, it’s what drives him to try and kill the Emperor, revenge for what he has done to his family.

Granted, revenge is never a good thing, but I’m talking about devotion and love to one’s family. My Father loved seeing that on the silver screen, and I bet it’s because he sees a reflection of what he does, although I’m not sure if he was aware of this at the time.

In either case, from that moment, as well as each time I see Gladiator, I’ve learned that you can insult a man in any way you wish, yet you do not insult a man’s family, this is his legacy, his blood, and where his home lies. Everyday we go out and brave whatever storm that comes our way, yet we do this knowing that we can always come back to where we feel safe and secure, my Father was not a wealthy man, yet because he can always come home to those he loved, he never needed the money, nor the luxury, we were rich enough just having a meal together, laughing and watching TV, all of us sitting on the couch eating popcorn, that was all we needed. It was all he needed in order to be truly at peace with the world.

If nothing else, it was the sign of honor, if not more than that. Honor is defined as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions” Well my Father believed in his love for his family, and that singular belief has taken him to limits other men only dream about, and all the while he’ll have a smile on his face, not because he’ll be admired or praised for enduring such things, but because he know why he’s doing it.

I recently came across a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche that really resonated with me, it goes, “He who has a ‘why’ can endure any ‘how’“. Why did my Father endure so much pain and agony with nothing but a smile on his face? Why did he never complain when faced with working long and exhausting hours? Why was he able to get up every day for 20+ years going to the same job day after day, as the commute kept getting longer and longer?

Why why why? Because he has something to work for, to fight for, to endure all of this and more for. Because for him, pain is temporary and insignificant compared to the feeling of being hugged by his kids or kissed by his wife, or to hearing the sound of laughter as we tell jokes and stories, or to feeling loved and admired when we look to him for guidance on anything.

He chose to do it, each and everyday. And he’ll always choose to. Because that’s how dedicated he is.

… Heh, as I’m writing these, I’m feeling less and less like a man, and more like a little boy again, at least when compared to my Father.

Hmm… My Father had his why and that’s what helped him get through it all… I need to discover my unwavering reason for enduring all of the wrath of Hell and Earth and everything else that will get in my way…

… Heh heh, so far I’ve got nothing… Well, nothing so far, but I can sense that something is building up. We’ll have to wait and see…

Still Useful

We were working on the cars when one of the ratchets broke, “I’ll throw it away, Dad” I said to him, after handing him a replacement. “No! Keep it, still good.” He said. “‘Still good’? How? It’s broken, we can’t fix this.” I rebuked him. “We can use it for other things, it’s no ratchet, it’s something else.” He explains to me, to which I said, “… Like a hammer?” “… Yeah!” he says laughing.

My Father never threw anything away, especially tools. Despite their conditions, or should its purpose be lost or taken by another, my Father, ever the packrat, would save said item in case another situation arose.

Even broken or damaged tools would still have a purpose in my Father’s eyes, our garage is filled with the usual plethora of various tools, but also with a vast array of tools no one has ever seen before, and another horde of tools that are rusted, broken, or simply twisted due to some tragic fate of being overused by my Father. But none of it, however bizarre or specific its purpose, regardless of condition would be kept for a future use.

It’s understandable once you realize that my Father grew up in eras where people were saving everything, using everything to the last drop, and nothing was thrown away but only recycled over and over again, he grew up with those ideals. To him, a ratchet isn’t useless just because it couldn’t fulfill it’s role as a ratchet, it can now become other things, a Tool is still a Tool, regardless if circumstances causes it to be used other than it’s original intentions.

This is a rather interesting way of thinking that’s now taking this country by storm. People are now using their creativity to recycle everyday common items, from old entertainment systems to recycled iPods and Tablets, it’s really rather fascinating.

Yet, I find myself not so attached to this particular ideal, too often has my desk been cluttered with various random things, all with the idea that it could be useful somewhere in the future. And it’s funny because, sometimes that’s true, I would happen to be in a random situation, where, sure enough, I have exactly what was needed to be the perfect remedy! Ha ha ha, but that’s too random and unpredictable to depend on: “Possible future use.” It’s just not enough for my current small living space. I can see myself practicing this in the future, definitely, yet for now, I’m rather limited in how much space I can take up.

Also, I think I would be FAR more organized than my Father was. His area for tools was one literally giant mess, tool boxes filled with every type of tool was on this large wooden desk/table, with shelves and containers with small various things from fuses to screws, nuts and bolts to light bulbs.

And that’s just everything I can identify, there are boxes, shelves, and containers full of things, I’ve never seen before! I don’t know if it was a hobby or if my Father really did run into so strange and unique machinery that he’d wind up with parts and pieces that no one has ever seen before!

For a time, I set myself in charge of cleaning up the Garage/Tools, and I’ve oftentimes run out of containers and places to organize everything into their own space, there was just too many things!

…. I’m ranting…

When one really thinks about this particular ideal, “It’s still useful” it brings about an interesting perspective, I mean, how often have we thrown things away, simply because it was empty, or a piece of it broke off? How long did we sit there looking at said thing and think, “What else can I do with this, now that it’s different/empty/changed?” If we look at it simply as, “It’s broken.” Then obviously the next thought is to throw it away, however people forget that everything has a purpose even if that wasn’t in the original design.

Like Wall-E.

Wall-E was designed to make garbage cubes, yet his ultimate purpose was to re-introduce humans to Earth and fall in love with another robot…

Heh, I have a bit of NerdFitness writing rubbed into me…
You never really know what’s going to happen to the future, and you can never really plan for everything that’s going to come your way, so it’s rather difficult, if not impossible, to be prepared for it, yet, if you were to keep little things, here and there, things that are unique or special, then I think, you’ll have a far better time being prepared than were you to have to go around without anything.

My Father would rather have a cluttered Garage full of random tools collected over the years, than have a project that constantly required him to get the tools from stores over and over again. One thing’s for certain, if I ever needed a project completed, I definitely know I can find the tools for it.

One can even translate this to people, If someone has changed, that doesn’t mean that one should throw away the bond that was originally had, but to keep it and find new ways to stay friends with said person… Not that I’m condoning using people, it’s merely a metaphor. People change, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep their friendship anymore, one just needs to find another way, another means of communication.

No matter what happens to someone or something, they’ll always be useful if only we try to think from another perspective.