Surprise!


Twins are double the fun!

My twins are visiting me this weekend and I woke up before them. They’re still sleeping, but I like the feeling of knowing they’re here with me at least for the weekend.

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and think, “You’re somebody’s father!” Some days this thought totally surprises me. I have had a few surprises in my life–some pleasant and some quite horrific. I would like to tell you about one that left me quite speechless and changed my life completely. All for the better, of course.

When I was still married, my wife didn’t feel well. I suggested that she go to the doctor, which she reluctantly did. The doctor wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong with her, so he did some blood tests. I didn’t like this doctor because he wouldn’t tell her the results of her blood tests unless she went to see him in his office. He insisted that she had to go to his office for the results. I had never heard of doctor requiring you to schedule a visit to get test results. They usually tell you the results over the phone. So, she begrudgingly went. He told her that something was wrong with her liver. Then he made another appointment so she could have more blood tests done.

That meant two more visits to his office–and two more billings. Well, after the second round of tests, the doctor was pretty sure it was her liver that was causing her problems. I wasn’t convinced. Then, my health insurance denies payment for the follow-up visits to get the results of the blood tests. I, too, refuse to pay. The doctor himself calls me up demanding payment. I had never had a doctor call me in person about billing discrepancies. Somehow he didn’t seem very professional and I also didn’t believe his medical diagnosis of my wife. He called several times demanding payment. Finally, I told him that no doctor charges a patient for an office visit just to learn the results of their blood tests! He insisted that I pay him. So I told him, “If my insurance refuses to pay for those visits, they must not be legitimate charges. So I’m not paying you either!” And that was the last I heard from him.

However, my wife was still not feeling well. She saw another doctor and underwent another round of blood tests. This doctor was fairly sure something was wrong with her liver. He would have to do more tests. Déjà vu! Immediately, I make an appointment with another doctor. Another round of blood tests and–Voilà! My wife is pregnant! Okay, I was floored because this was the last thing I was expecting. But, it was much, much better diagnosis than liver or kidney problems.

Let’s see. We had a seven-year-old son. She stopped taking the pill about three years before. She was convinced that she had gone through menopause. I wasn’t, but I wanted a daughter, so I didn’t complain at all. But after two years, I adjusted my expectations and decided I was happy with only one son. We were all happy together. I was very happy with my small, intimate family. But, no! Now my wife was pregnant again! Would I get the daughter that I always wanted? I truly hoped so!

We made an appointment to get an ultrasound at Mercy Hospital. The ultrasound technician’s name is Domingo, which makes me nervous. In Spanish, domingo is a gift given to children in the form of money on Sundays. Is this Domingo my domingo? Well, I know that my wife is very scared and nervous by the fact that she may really be pregnant. When I ask her how she feels, she says, “I’m scare-vous!” Well, she goes in the ultrasound room with Domingo while I wait outside.

Finally, the door opens and I’m allowed to enter. My wife’s face is completely pale. Okay, I think, she really is pregnant! Domingo asks, “Are you ready?” I nod. Domingo scans my wife’s womb and says, “Here’s baby number one.” I immediately panic, but quietly, inwardly. Then, he says, “Here’s baby number two.” I say, “You better stop that!” He says, “That’s it. You’re having twins!”

I felt relieved that it wasn’t quintuplets!

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J


2509 W. Marquette Road, Chicago, Illinois

J should have been D. But he wasn’t. He was J. And for a very good reason. My mother said so! Well, I’ve already talked about my mother’s naming process in my previous blog entries. My parents had six children: David Diego, Daniel, Diego Gerardo, Dick Martin, Delia Guadalupe, and Joseph Luis. All of names started with D–except for Joseph (which starts with J and not D, as I’m sure you probably noticed. I have always admired the intelligence of my readers!). The other notable oddity in the naming process is Daniel who has no middle name! I was less than two years old when Daniel was born, so I have no idea why he has no middle name. Were we too poor to afford a middle name for Daniel? Was my mother mad at my father for getting her pregnant again and so she denied my father Diego yet again the opportunity of having a son named Diego? I really don’t know because neither my father nor mother ever talked about how Daniel got his name. To this day, Daniel’s lack of a middle name remains one of the great mysteries of our family.

Before my youngest brother Joseph Luis was born, my parents were in the middle of a hostile separation and later a contentious divorce. How my mother got pregnant was a mystery to me even back then because I hardly ever saw them together for about a year. But somehow she got pregnant. And my father was proud of the fact that he had gotten her pregnant.

However, there was never any doubt the he was my father’s son because when Joseph was older, many people thought he and I were twins. The resemblance was that strong. So how did he come to be named Joseph Luis? Well, he was born in August of 1968, months after our Uncle Joseph, my father’s much younger brother, died in Viet Nam. I remember when my Uncle Placido called to say he had to visit us to tell us something very important. He came after my brothers and I were already in bed, so I knew he had something important to say. I listened from my bedroom, which was right next to the kitchen where they sat. I heard my Uncle Placido say that my Uncle Joseph had died in Viet Nam. I could hear both my mother and father crying. I cried, too, in my bedroom. So my mother named my brother Joseph in his memory. That was actually a very good reason not to follow the D rule in naming us.

Our Uncle Joseph was everyone’s favorite uncle. He loved playing with all his nephews and nieces. Everyone cried when he died. It was the longest funeral procession I had ever seen–and I lived by a funeral home so I saw a lot of funeral processions! My father was one of his pall bearers. The day after the funeral, my father couldn’t get up out of bed. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Whether his paralysis was physical or psychosomatic was never determined, not even by the doctor who came to our house to treat my father. After about a week, my father just got up out of bed and started walking again. He wanted to go to work again.

What happened to D?!

New Year’s Eve


Making tamales with TLC

I have many fond memories of New Year’s Eve beginning in my childhood when our entire family would go to my Uncle Simon’s and Aunt Mari’s house. The party always involved eating a lot of  Mexican food and real hard play among cousins. At midnight, everyone, I mean children, too, toasted with a glass of champagne. That was the only time of the year I drank alcohol–until I became an altar boy and my friend once talked me into taking a sip of altar wine before mass.  But I only indulged that once because I felt so guilty and sinful afterwards.

Once, we were in Mexico for New Year’s Eve and we celebrated by making tamales and eating them. In Chicago, my mother made the masa during the day and then made buñuelos at midnight as a way of ringing in the new year. I think that New Year’s Eve wasn’t as exciting once we stopped going to my aunt’s and uncle’s house. I don’t really remember too many of those later celebrations now. When I was married, I was content to stay home with my wife and son and watch the festivities in Chicago on TV. When I lived in Bridgeport, I used to take my oldest son to the attic window at midnight where we could see the fireworks downtown. When the twins were born, we moved farther away from downtown, so we could no longer see the fireworks from the window. But we watched them on TV, although not quite as dramatic.

Later, after my divorce, my Mexicana girlfriend decided that we would make tamales for New Year’s Eve. She bought a giant pot for the tamales and lots and lots of masa. We would make tamales together, just the two of us. Actually, I enjoyed making the tamales. In Mexico, I only got to watch the women of the family make the tamales; males weren’t allowed to touch the masa. My girlfriend showed me how to mix the meat into the masa and stuff the masa into the corn husk. She had made tamales a few times and actually knew what she was doing. We even made some sweet tamales with raisins. We had about six different kinds of tamales. We literally did this for at least two hours and the giant pot was still only half-full. However, she insisted that we fill the pot all the way to the top. We filled the pot at about 3:00 a.m. And I was exhausted! But wait! She put a penny at the bottom of the pot where there was boiling water to steam the tamales. The flame underneath had to be at just the right temperature and you could tell if the temperature was just right because the penny would keep making noise as the boiling water moved it. The only time I really saw tamales made was in Mexico as a boy, but my mother and aunts cooked the tamales over a bonfire. Well, I went to bed about 6:00 a.m. because I couldn’t stay awake anymore. She stayed up to keep adding water and ensuring that the tamales cooked properly. I didn’t realize they would involve so much work. She woke me up a few hours later when they were done. She had stayed up the whole time! We then ate the tamales and they were so delicious! We ate them later that day. And the next day, too. There were so many tamales that she put some in her fridge and froze the some in her freezer. And there were still some tamales leftover! So I took some home and put them in my freezer. We ate tamales until the Fourth of July! And we never got tired of them. We loved them!

¡Happy New Year! ¡Próspero Año Nuevo!

Please! No more tamales!