Forever ???

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At the wedding reception on Saturday, family and friends shared stories about Melissa and Stephan, and their many years of being together, prior to their wedding day. And in fact, The date … May 5th, 11 years prior, was the day that Stephan had asked Melissa to be his girlfriend.

Most couples meet at some point in their lives, and date and later marry. Melissa and Stephan met in high school. There is an old Facebook photo from that time period, long ago, of the two, standing in front of a “Just Married” sign. Portents of the future, they say now.

Who knew that back then, that eleven years later, they would meet in a chapel to make it official. There is a history there for sure.

Both sets of parents had introduction stories about the “other.” When they either first met Melissa, in Stephan’s parents case, or when Melissa’s parents first met Stephan. We got to hear what the parents were thinking at that time, and their concern over “longevity of such a young relationship.” Who could tell, if they would make it, or survive the test of time, and still be together.

A few years into Stephan and Melissa’s relationship, Stephan went into free fall. He was not sure that he wanted to be with Melissa forever, since he had NOT had another girlfriend before, and wasn’t really sure if “this was it …” so to speak.

The next day, he broke up with Melissa. He went home that night and told his mother what he had done. And she asked him bluntly … what the hell did you do that for ??

Thankfully, he had been talking all along with Jessica, Melissa’s younger sister, and his closest friends about the breakup. After receiving wise counsel from all, he had decided that Melissa was the girl he wanted to be with for life. He had to devise a plan to “get her back.”

With Jessica’s advice he went out and bought a “Promise Ring.” The very next day, he met with Melissa to give her that ring.

With that promise of love and devotion, Stephan and Melissa began walking the long path of 9 more years to the altar.

Stephan had figured it out. The girl he asked to be his girlfriend ended up being the woman he would marry on Saturday, last.

A moment happened at the reception that I had Stephan to myself. Oddly, during that night, people had the opportunity to speak one on one with bride and groom, individually.

When the moment came for me, I hit my mark. I told Stephan the story about the “wedding vows on the fridge story.”

Yes, you both had eleven years together before the wedding. You hit some hard times, well, things that were hard on lives so young. You built businesses, and then found a home together. Now you are married. And this is where the “Rubber meets the Road.”

They did not recite the traditional wedding vows …

Wedding vows may also take the following form: I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

They instead, opted for the HANDS reading that I wrote about the other night.

So I told Stephan about the vows as they are stated. And that now they were married, what happens when shit really hits the fan? What happens when good goes bad, easy goes hard, wellness turns into sickness. When better gets worse, when richer goes poorer, such and so forth.

I told him about people I knew, who got married, because it was the “thing to do at the time.” They really did not think about Forever very well. And for some of them, when things did go south, as they sometimes did, they did not make it, and for many of those couples, break up and divorce was in the cards for them.

I warned him. Told him to be vigilant. To Be a good Boy Scout and “Always be mindful and prepared” because you never know when shit is going to get real.

Right now, in Hubby’s family, shit is getting real. And the writing is on the wall, and death is a forgone conclusion, for Hubby’s Mom. She is frail, and weakening badly. She is not eating. (Once a sick person or an elderly person decides to stop eating) you know, the end is not far away.

My father in law, over dinner, with all of us sitting around him, related my Mother in Law’s frail condition. At one point he was free, and I implored hubby to go talk to his father, and tell him what he needed to hear from hubby. Which he turned around and spat words in my face to the effect that … “I should butt out of his family life…”

He did go talk to his father in the end. And when he left the reception we both spoke to him, offering them whatever help they could ever need, that we would be ready and willing to do whatever needed to be done, when it was necessary.

We are going to lose a family member, the question is When ???

So we are steeled right now for the inevitable. Many of my nieces and nephews are young, many of them have never experienced death in real-time. Stephan needs to know what to do when this event comes around. And how he is going to support Melissa when the time comes.

Warnings that Wedding vows talk about.

Marriage is not always a bed of roses. Life has a funny way of throwing wrenches into life at the worst possible moments.

One never knows when shit is going to get real.

Hubby strode up behind us while I was talking and rolled his eyes at us, and turned to Stephan and said … “Ignore everything Jeremy has just said, because he likes to talk.”

He was afraid I was putting the Fear Of God into our young married man.

Forever is a long time. And Marriage is Forever.

We only hope that Stephan and Melissa last the test of time, till death they do part.

Yo Soy Cubano … VIVA CUBA LIBRE !!!

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Fidel is dead …

It comes as no surprise that Cubans in many places are celebrating the death of a dictator who’s abuses towards his own people and the world, are not forgotten.

I have a specific experience of the Cuban people, having grown up in Miami in the 1970’s. I was just a small boy in elementary school, when the Mariel Boat lifts began. Hundreds of thousands of people, in my lifetime, made the treacherous journey across the Florida straits, to land on the shores of Florida, attempting to escape Fidel’s grip.

Generations, three generations, in fact, and their children today, in Florida have been waiting for this day to come to pass. You cannot imagine, well, maybe you can, thousands of Cubans on rafts, in boats, and on anything that would float, on the water, trying to flee communism into freedom.

Today, we have seen Syrian and other refugees fleeing conflict regions trying to find safety and peace. Those numbers are much higher. But back in the days, the 1970’s through the 2000’s, the numbers of people fleeing the Communist Island were comparable.

It came to pass, during those days, as Cubans were coming to Miami, specifically, that Miami went through a serious accommodation phase. I did not know the specifics of what was going on, suffice to say, we all watched, daily, people coming to our shores.

It went that when we moved to South Miami, and I began second grade, certain changes came to our educational curriculum. Families had a choice to make. Their kids could stay in English studies, and not begin accommodations, OR kids could join in cultural education and learn Spanish as a second language and adopt the cultural shift.

My brother stayed in the English system. I did not.

Over the rest of my life, Spanish was an integral part of my education. I know that it took more than a decade to totally immerse in the language. And Spanish education remained throughout my college and Seminary years.

Every day we studied our English subjects, and we had Spanish lessons, in a separate portable classroom. As I grew up, and moved from elementary school, into Junior High, Spanish was becoming a requirement. By educational standards, every student HAD to have Spanish as a second language, it was a required element in your studies.

By the time I reached High School, every student had to have Spanish in order to Graduate from High School, and to further get a job in the city. Miami became a melting pot of Cuban, Caribbean, and other Spanish nations. The Cuban culture and its people brought to us a way of life.

A way of life that I loved and adored.

While Cuban’s were fleeing Communism, they had found life and freedom in Miami, but it was NOT an easy life. Citizenship was something refugees wanted the most. And the United States did not make that effort very easy.

At ALL…

But we all did what we could to guarantee the people who came to us, had everything that they might need, to the best of our abilities. My father was a WHITE Card Carrying American, who could not be bothered to be kind and/or accommodating.

I disagreed with him every step of the way.

Over the years, Little Havana was built in Miami proper. A very fertile and prosperous community came to life. And I have to tell you that Miami, as a cultural hub, was the best place to grow up.

I lived in two places at the same time. Spanish IS my second language, even now that I live in Montreal. When I moved here, I found that Spanish was spoken in many places here and my ears were attuned to the language. Over the past decade and some, my French is getting better.

The difference of living in Miami and being immersed in Spanish was different for me, moving to Montreal and living in a French province. When you are not immersed, (read: using French all the time, all day long) immersion is a slow process.

Growing up in Miami, being immersed in the second language, every day, in school, in the community, at work, and in life, you learned much harder and it was much easier.

When I reached Seminary studies I was attending church in Spanish. And let me tell you, that was one of the brightest times in my life. If you were going to be employed in Miami, you must have had Spanish as a second language. Every other day was the second language. Every day we studied Spanish, and we had chapel, readings and mass in Spanish.

Many years later, when I got sick, and returned to Miami for treatment, it came to pass that the community I walked back into was entirely Spanish. For years and years, the people who cared for me, helped me survive and treat me, were all Spanish.

It was the best healthcare system I had ever seen, at that time.

For all my years, growing up in Miami, I learned what it meant to be Cuban. I learned what it meant to be proud of who you were. I would not be the man I am today without all of that cultural experience under my belt. Growing up in a cultural melting pot was absolutely a positive experience for me.

The Cuban people were connected to their homeland and the relatives they left behind on the island. The movement of monies back and forth were problematic. And travel to the Cuban Island was forbidden.

I knew how to get Americans to Cuba, outside the rules.

I was a travel agent in high school and college. And we used to have hand written airline tickets, before automation came on line. I had several travelers come to me to ask me to get them to the island. One could not travel from Miami to Cuba, directly. You had to make the trip Indirectly.

With hand written tickets, that was very easy. In order to get to Cuba, you had to use a second port of entry. Which meant, you could fly from Miami to somewhere else, local, on one ticket. Then fly from point B to Cuba on a second ticket, just as long as Cuba and the United States were not ticketed together. The same way on the return trip.

Problem solved …

There was a Cuban travel agency that was located right near our office, where I used to translate and process Cuban documentation to get Cubans to the island I did that work gladly until their office was fire bombed and destroyed.

Where there was a need, we went out of our ways, to find a solution, even if it flouted the legal system. I guess there was a thrill in being subversive.

The United States has not made it easy for Cuban’s who still come to the U.S. today. All with the Wet Foot / Dry Foot policy, which stated that if you made it to Florida and landed on solid ground without being caught, you could stay, and usually they would end up in a refugee camp, before they were processed into Miami. In the other case, if you got caught at sea, on the way, you would be sent back and repatriated back to Cuba.

That ninety mile stretch of ocean is treacherous, especially during hurricane season.

The Cuban people have been waiting for this day to come. And we are all glad for it.

With tensions between the U.S. and Cuba thawing, we hope that President Elect Trump does the right thing where the Cuban people and the island are concerned.

We cannot move backwards, we have worked too hard to be dialed back.

VIVA CUBA LIBRE !!!