Thursday, May 22, 2008


one day, i must have been about 8 or 9 years old, we had gone to the beach. my parents, some of my brothers and me. after a great day at the beach we got home at just about dusk. in their attempt to keep me out of the way while they unloaded the car and got things in order, my parents had my eldest brother, Alberto, take me on a bike ride.

i very clearly remember being all sandy, a bit sore from a mild sunburn, very tired from the very long, fun day, and more than anything, very excited to be on the bike with Alberto.

we rode up and down our street, Norwood Avenue, a few times. wind blowing in our hair. laughing, giggling, just having fun. i adored my brother Alberto, my rock, my second father, my idol. he was kind, gentle, powerful and so much fun.

as we went up and down the street we passed my uncle and aunt's house several times. they lived about five houses down the street from us, on the other side of the street. Harry and Joanne. my two cousins, Mike and Tammy.

Joanne had been my babysitter some years before that, before i had started school. Mike and Tammy were my closest friends in the world at that age. we had spent most afternoons together since the age of 5 or so. Mike is one year older than me, Tammy is one year younger than me.

as Alberto and i rode up and down the street on his fancy 21-gear bike we kept waving "hi" to my aunt and uncle who were out in the front lawn, doing some late afternoon gardening. that's the only time in the day that a person could garden in the middle of summer in Riverside.

then.... all of a sudden.... i felt an incredible sharp pain in my left foot. i tapped Alberto on the shoulder and told him to stop. my left foot was stuck in the spokes of the back wheel of the bike. it happend right in front of my aunt and uncle's house. the adults immediately paniced, rushing to me and somehow disengaging my foot from the wheel. i don't really remember who did it or how it was done, but a few minutes later i was in their kitchen with my left foot in their kitchen sink.

my brother was holding me up to the sink, my uncle Harry was washing my foot of and my aunt Joanne was searching for the first-aid kit. i didn't say a word. not one utterance came out of me. i remember them asking me many times "are you alright, are you alright?" and all i would do is nod my head, indicating that i was okay.

once my foot was washed up properly and the bleeding had completely stopped they were able to see that the skin on the outside part of my left foot had been completely torn off and only bone was visable. i remember it stinging, but no real pain. i still said nothing.

they patched me up and my brother took me home. he felt like shit. he felt like he had let the entire world down, let alone our parents. when we arrived home both of my parents were very cool and calm about the whole thing. they didn't say anything about the fact that Alberto had let me on his bicycle barefoot, something which they had told all of us never to do in the first place. they just tried to make sure that i didn't start bleeding again, or that i didn't need stitches.

about an hour later the most incredible thing happened. my uncle Harry came over and he started to tell the story of how brave i was the entire time. he kept saying, over and over, "she just didn't shed one tear!

that story spread throughout our very large family like wildfire in the next few days. my uncle kept telling it over and over to whomever would listen: "she never even shed a tear" he would say in awe.

my uncle Harry died about 16 years ago of lung cancer. two days before his death i talked to him for the very last time. i called him when we were living in jerusalem and he was dying in Glendale, California. "don't cry, mija, don't cry" he told me. "be as brave as you were that one special day".

i love my uncle Harry to this day :-) and i cry tears of joy when i think of him and all the good times we all had together.

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