El Bandido Hits Back
As a teenager, I loved amusement park rides. I made it a point to ride every ride at Western Playland at least twice whenever I went. On our annual school trip to Western Playland, my friends and I took our seats on El Bandido. We were pumped because not only were we on the brink of starting senior year, I had just been announced as Vice President of our health magnet program.
Sitting on El Bandido, the rock music from a nearby ride inspired me to start head banging. Unfortunately, the rock music didn’t inspire me to think this plan through. As the ride flew down the biggest dip, gravity and force took control over my head and caused me to slam my face on the lap bar that was supposed to stop me from flying off the ride.
Because I insisted on riding in the first car alone, my friends saw the result of my bad idea. After we got off the ride, they looked my face over and noticed the redness under my eye.
“That’s going to leave a bruise,” said Erika.
She was right; the next day I had a huge bruise on my right eye. My brother laughed at me when I explained my bruise. And of course, at school on Monday, I had to tell the story a million times to be met with more laughing, especially by me.
The moral of the story could be don’t do stupid things, but really, I learned to laugh at myself. We all have moments where we make bad or dumb choices, but the real test is how we react to the consequences. I wore my consequence with pride knowing that even though it hurt when it first happened, I had a great story to tell.
The year I turned five, I was gifted a black and tan little dog by my oldest sister. Either out of lack of imagination or vanity, I decided to name her Gina.
Gina was a mutt that would never grow larger than a cat. My mom said she looked like a burro. My grandma cursed her when she pooped under her bed. Gina earned the wrath of my dad by biting my dad’s heal as he sat enjoying breakfast one morning.
But she was mine, and I was the baby of the family which meant Gina had a guaranteed home. When we moved to the house on Beatrix, Gina started acting different. She was no longer the happy, tail-wagging dog I knew. She was lethargic and wasn't eating. At first, I thought Schultz, the family German Shepard, had hurt, her but there weren't any visible marks on her body. At my mom’s request, my brother slathered her in car grease—an old wive’s tail that the components in the grease would heal her. A few days later, Gina was up an about and played with me after I got home from school. But then, she declined again.
Walking home from school the next afternoon, I saw my mom walking toward me. The gray of the day the perfect landscape. When we were close enough, she said, “Gina passed away today. I’m sorry.”
Even though I was expecting it, my heart sank. “Where is she?”
“Your uncle buried her. She’s not suffering anymore.”
“I know,” I said.
Gina was the first dog I ever lost. It was hard to go home and see that she wasn't there anymore. But I was grateful that she was no longer suffering.
Moving Dad Out
The evening after the funeral, the four of us, Gabi, Filly, Jorge, and I, drove to Dad’s apartment. Earlier that day, we’d found laughter over something frivolous at lunch, but now, the mood was solemn.
Prior to this, I had never been to Dad’s apartment. He’d moved in after my last visit home from college. We surveyed the rooms and each one of us took one: Gabi rifled through the kitchen, Filly went to the bedroom, Jorge started picking up around the living, and I sorted through the contents of the restroom. Gabi instructed us to make keep, donate, and trash piles in the living room.
An hour and a half later, the guys were throwing away the trash while Gabi and I loaded the donations into her SUV.
Thinking back, this was the hardest part of losing dad. There was a sense of finality to his life, even more so than the gun salute at Ft. Bliss and the soldier gently placing the folded flag in Mom’s hands. When you factor in the guilt I felt about having been so distant and disdainful, it’s one of the saddest memories I have. But having my siblings there made me strong. None of us cried. We carried out the task knowing that we were there for each other during this trying time and together, we would make it through.