Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Last of a Generation

“Why have so much stuff? People have so much stuff. In the end, you can only fit so much in between 4 pieces of wood!” – Bica, my grandmother (Feb. 1927 – August 2012).

To so many people she was a puzzle. She was a constant controversy and a constant topic of debate. “She talked too much. She hated too much. She was too blunt. She was too feisty” – they said. To me, she was my grandma.

I saw everything and none of these things in her. She was my dad’s mother, she gave me my only aunt, and she taught me to always clean my face when I am eating and to always keep my elbows off the table. More than anything, she taught me that size doesn’t matter and to have a backbone!

She was a power house of a woman, less than 5 ft tall, always moving, always doing something, always talking. She grew up in the deep, deeper than deep mires of poverty: in a country house at the end of a dirt road. The house had one room. She had 10+ siblings. She left the country and moved to the city when she was very young. She went to school and she became a nurse. She married a construction engineer and had two kids. And she never looked back to her poor beginnings. 

 September 2001 - with my sister and bica back home

She was the toughest human I know. She was made of the stuff steel and diamonds are made of. She was unmovable. Un-crack-able.

My bica died today, and I feel like with this one branch in our family tree falling, our family is smaller, and sadder. She is my last grandparent to lose, and the one who lived the longest. I am amongst those very lucky people who not only met all her grandparents, but grew up with them, and was molded by them. I am grateful for every day I had with them, every lesson they taught me and every breath they took with me in the same room.

Today is a sad, sad day. My sister and I lost a whole generation. We can’t call them on their birthdays anymore, and our Christmas lists are yet shorter. More than anything, this made me ponder upon what is really important. And bica was right: “stuff” and things are not important. She only takes her small body and the clothes on her back today, with her. And she leaves behind a whole legacy of 85 stubborn years of living. I am not going to remember her “things”. Only her drive, her laugh, her bite and sarcasm, her lessons.

Good bye, bica. You leave a huge empty spot in our lives, but not in my heart. Although you’ll always be part of me, I miss you more than words can say, and I hope and pray that you are finally at peace. 

 Me and all my grandparents: from left, bubu (mom's father), bica, maia (mom's mother) and bicu (dad's father). No idea how old I was here, but I was an only child at the time, thus the excessive attention I am receiving.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chasing "The Family Robinson"

The chairlift assistant is buried in her romance novel. She almost fails to stop the chair! I chime “Is this where we get off for Stewart Falls?” and she jumps as if a wasp has bitten her bottom: “Ah! Oh, yes! Yes, ma’am! I am so sorry!” – as she throws to book to the ground.

We get off the lift we took from Sundance Resort, up to Ray’s Summit and we ask for directions for the Stewart Falls trail. My husband has wanted to show me these falls since I moved to Utah, a couple of years ago. Falls in the desert – you know they have to be something else!

She tells us that the trail loops around eventually taking us to the bottom of the mountain, where  we just took the chairlift from. Yeah, right! It felt like the lift took us 6000 ft up! There is no way, under no kind of sky am I ever going to climb down that long of a distance!

But we take the trail. Most of it was narrow and brushy. We walk through tight spaces, up and down pastures and stretches of woods. We stop and shoot. We gasp when a valley opens up. It’s ever so quiet. 

 On one of the trails, just starting up ...

There is no lush freshness of the woods of Blueridge Parkway, but there is no humidity either. You give. And you take. That’s life! Tall, crisp, dry pine trees and aspens are bordering the trails.

Butterflies and 'hoppers

We go through “the meadows” and they feel like we just reached the place where The Wilderness Family  would have pitched their abode. It’s remote, and there is nothing but grass, trees and mountains all around. You’re at the bottom of this valley, like in a cauldron. You’re trapped. It’s tomb-like tranquility. 
Walking through the 'Robinson Meadows', as I nicknamed them

 We climb up some more. The brush closes in on us and I am scared to death of snakes! I hear them. Swish-swish in the tall grasses! My skin crawls. I am always scared of snakes when I hike! I have never been bitten by one, but I never want to see one that close either! Yet, they are my biggest scare. Maybe even more than bears and wild cats. At least those you hear and see first. Snakes are elusive little devils. They are just there and you’re dead! I think.

I yell at Aa. to not leave me by myself, and protect me from snakes. He lags behind shooting yet another flower, yet another bush. There is not much he could do, really, to protect me. But being alone on the trail makes it that much more treacherous for me. Like a room closing in its walls, to a claustrophobic person. His closeness makes the walls move away.

The butterflies are wild today! They don’t seem to mind the scorching heat. They travel from bloom to bloom and are ever so friendly. So are the grasshoppers.

We make it to the falls, and like I expected, it is tiny (in water quantity), because of the desert and the dry summer, yet tall and majestic, and it falls with a big splash, from 230 feet.  We sit on rocks and eat our sandwiches, watching a couple of Alaskan huskies taking a bath in the stream. They look so hot! We watch a family of six. All kids are huddled around the mom, who is carrying one infant on her back. The dad wanders off – looking bored and uninvolved. Typical. And sad, of course. 

Stewart Falls

We hear thunder and get ready to head back. We walk through brush some more. Narrow trails and tall pines guide us towards Sundance. Yes, the trail seems to take us back down where we started. After a short while, we are seeing the villas of Sundance, and we know we’re on the right track. Then, the woods swallows us again, in its shade. I walk along the stream, chatting away, until  all of a sudden I hear a ruffle to my left. I look down and see dry leaves move. I see the distinctive pattern of chained diamonds, on a skinny yellow-mustard frame. It moves as it swishes through the pine needles. I scream like a baby woken up by a nightmare! And I jump straight up into the air! Interesting how instincts work! Like, would gravity not factor in and pull me back down towards the ground?! No! At that moment, I am not thinking.

“A snake! A snake!”
‘Where?” – Aa. asks.
I point: “ Right there! His head is facing away from us!”
“Oh. There are two. Keep going”.

And I keep running like freaking hell is what I do! And I don’t stop running till I hit the road.

The hike was amazing - beautiful and awe-inspiring, refreshing, quiet  and serene, long and tiresome. We were sore for a week after that. The rain never came.

Enjoy the pictures here. There is none of the snake. 

Stewart Falls is almost at the bottom of Mount Timpanogos (11,000+ ft). This is Mount Timp, as seen from the chair lift in Sundance


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Too Long ...

I have been trying to figure out what my favorite memory of my sister is. We have been so close, growing up, growing old, when together and apart. I cannot pick, ever, because every second with her is a blessing and pure joy! How can you grade happiness?!

As I have said so many times before, I would not be who I am today if it had not been for her being in my life, for her love, patience, lessons of kindness and strength. I think of her every time I make a decision and every last second of my waking days …

I am so grateful that God has given me 34 years today of sharing my life with her. And on her big day, I have decided that my favorite memory of her will always be the last one. It’s the freshest and it keeps it raw in my mind and heart why I love her so much and how sweet it is to spend time with her.

The last memory of us together is from too long a time ago: last year, in May, when I visited them in Montreal for my second nephew’s baptism. She was happy and fulfilled that she was a mommy for the second time, and that we were able to be all together as a family - a rare thing in our international family’s life! It’s been too long since that day … way too long …

Happy birthday, sorela, and hurry up and come up here, already!

Te ubec!

 Montreal - May, 2011