Happy Birthday, Mamacita

by on January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mamacita

There are many people you meet during the course of your lifetime.  One of the most remarkable I have ever met, I have only known for three years.  I met Mamacita (the name translates to “little mama”) when I began dating her daughter in the beginning of 2008.  Subsequently, she has become my mother-in-law as the dating turned into an engagement and eventual marriage in October of 2009.  At the end of this coming week, January 15, 2011, Mamacita will celebrate her 98th birthday.  The way she has lived her life, and continues to live her life until this day is a model for many a person of my generation.

Mamacita moved to the United States in 1960 with her husband and nine children.  She was 47 years old.  The entire family was forced to leave all of their possessions behind leaving Castro’s Cuba knowing that if there was any chance for them to live the life of their choosing, it would not be in the country of their birth.  In Cuba, Mamacita practiced law.  When she came to the United States she gave that all up to raise her family, while her husband first searched for work and then finally found a permanent position as a Spanish professor at a major university.  As the years went on Mamacita and her husband saw their nine children grow up to each graduate from college, continuing their studies as graduate students and each establishing successful careers.

While just these aspects make her and her family remarkable, it is who she continues to be in her nineties that is why she is so special to me.  Mamacita never learned to drive a car.  She does not have an e-mail account, although she is aware of all the wonderful things you are able to do with a computer as her children share family photos with her through their laptops.  Watching television is not a part of her life.  These days any traveling that she does from her home is by car, although most of the time one will find her in her home of the last 47 years.

Yet in spite of all this she is more on top of what is going on in the world around her than those who do have the latest in technology.  How does she do it?  She is in phone contact with each of her children and her soon to be 96 year old brother every day.  When she hears of an event involving a family member or friend that lives far away, she takes the time to personally hand write them a letter or card letting them know how pleased she is to hear their good news.  Many of these people are 2nd or 3rd generation children of people with whom she grew up.  They are always pleased to hear from her, so are sure in return to provide her a letter and photos of the things going on in their life.  To keep up with news events, she reads the daily newspaper, receives weekly papers from Washington D.C. and Miami and listens several times a day to the local news radio network.

Earlier this week a couple of articles passed by my e-mail account which were based on the premise that the Baby Boomer generation felt “bummed out” about the state of the world around them.  As such, it provided little hope of the Boomers moving forth from the economic difficulties that have impacted their world.  I do admit that there are those that are indeed struggling.  However, I did find it discouraging to see that so many of my generation have just given up on things being any better in their world for the rest of their life.

Then I thought back to the example of Mamacita.  While her world drastically changed around her fifty years ago, she moved forward putting her faith in those things most important to her, namely her strong belief in God, her love for her family and the belief they would be provided for as long as they continued to have faith.  While the world continued to change around her in the subsequent fifty years she never became frustrated by the change but instead incorporated that with which she was most comfortable in her life to be there for her family and friends.  She looks forward to the next wedding, next baby into the family, next graduation as if it was the first one being celebrated in the family.  And, even though others try to continually do for her, she looks to continue to do for herself and others because she knows no other way.

So, Happy 98th Birthday, Mamacita.  I know your intention is to never be a role model for others and what you do and how you do it is just to you the natural way you have always gotten things done.  Thank you for the lesson of showing me that you are never too old to be the focal point for your family, capable of moving on in spite of what obstacles life may place in your way and to always be looking forward to that next special moment that is destined to come into your life.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Raymond Helfrich January 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Good post on a good blog. Thank you for sharing.


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