Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Mexican American Story

There's a delicatessen nearby, Izzy's, where I (and the 92 yr old friend I mentioned Sunday who lost her husband last week) meet fairly often for fabulous macaroni and cheese.  I went by Izzy's the day after John died to buy two quarts of the macaroni liquid gold for Nancy, thinking she'll be receiving enough beautiful flowers and boxes of candies and cookies, and she could use something delicious in her refrigerator for when she feels hungry.   Okay, I got her cookies, too, but......her favorite macaroni and cheese was my best idea for what to take to my dear friend.

Buying the food at the take-out counter was a joy.  I met Angel, a young man of Hispanic heritage, who helped me with my order.  He told me that I'd have to wait about 20 minutes for the macaroni and cheese if I didn't mind and I told him that was fine because it was for a special friend who'd lost her husband of almost 69 years the night before.  He quickly looked up and said "My girlfriend died 3 years ago today."   I told him I'd lost my Mr. Z almost 2 years ago, and asked him how he was doing with his loss.  I also asked him what had taken his girlfriend's life.

His girlfriend's parents had saved most of their lives for a luxury trip to Hawaii and had finally left on their flight 3 years ago, only to find out at the airport that they must turn around immediately.  Two of their daughters, one pregnant, and a son, had been killed instantly in a car wreck.  Angel's girlfriend was one of the two girls killed.  Obviously, my heart immediately broke for this family and for Angel who still looks so sad.    I said "Things like this are life changing, aren't they."     Little did I know.

Angel told me his girlfriend's life and death had completely changed him.  "I was a gang member, I'd been knifed, and I've hurt people......I was with a rotten group of guys and knowing her and having her love changed everything.  When she died, I knew I had to go on and believe in myself like she'd believed in me and I haven't looked back."    Angel then introduced me to his father, who's apparently the manager of the kitchen and who had just come out the swinging door.   His father heard Angel tell me he's a rapper and said "would you like to hear Angel rap?"   I said I liked rap music and I'd love to.   I stood there listening to his iphone and hearing some pretty darned good music;  rapping and singing.   Angel told me he's in a band now and hopes to get into music more and more.   I have to admit that I said to Angel "I hope your lyrics give hope instead of the kind about killing cops."  He perked up and said all his lyrics are optimistic,  some talk about God, and none of them are 'the bad stuff you hear'.     By this time, I saw a woman step out from behind the cash register and smile at us and Angel said "That's my MOM!"    "Is he serenading you?" she smiled and asked.   What a great family!  Working together, working hard....

I asked Angel what about his girlfriend had changed him so much.  He told me she believed in him, she stood by him, she encouraged him to study because she was good in school and they studied together.  His grades vastly improved and he's in college now. She loved and believed in him.......that's what changed Angel.   "What about those friends from the past you used to hang with?"   he said "In jail most of the time.....no future, not looking to work, they're nothings and I stay away from them."    I told Angel his parents had obviously put something in him which was good and it was great that his girlfriend brought it out in him again.  He agreed  "they're great parents."    I wondered if he felt that way when he was mired down with all the gang members he knew before.

Angel's parents were old enough not to be in the wave of illegals sneaking across in the last 15 years or so but I don't know their story.  I'll try to talk to them next time I'm there; they were wonderful people, especially Angel, who now has a future because of the love of a girl who believed in him.

Before I left, I said "Angel, do you love this country?"  He said he did....very much.  "Did the friends you hung around with?"   He started laughing but caught himself and looked at me sheepishly "Naa.........they didn't.  Neither did I.  They hate it.  I know now that all you have to do is study and work hard and believe in yourself and this country will reward you;  it might not be soon, but it will because it has opportunity."

Angel was born here...there are many like him.   Sadly, there are many, many like his ex friends....facing futures in jail or no future at all.    I thought you'd like to meet him.
We'd forged a friendship and I look forward to seeing him and his folks again.   I thanked him and wished him the best..."GOD BLESS!" he called after me.

"God bless you, too, Angel."



Jan said...

An absolutely beautiful story, Z...you should be a reporter, or something!

I love hearing some of the positive stories out there...I know there are more than we realize.

I'm sorry about his girlfriend, and her family, but I'm glad that out of the terrible tragedy, something so wonderful happened.

Sometimes, I think we under-estimate the power of love, and how it is able to transform a life.

Thank you for sharing this uplifting story of Angel.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of where you come from, if you are willing to pay the price you can have success and happiness.

Anonymous said...

First of all...while typically heartwarming...it's about a..."Mexican American".

I'm tired of the hyphenated Americans. I'm tired of having to identify Americans by their ethnic identities.

You want to celebrate Mexican, Italian, French, German, Polish, Armenian, Turkish, Irish, English????

Go ahead and do it around the dinner table or on St. Patty's Day.

But leave it out...when you're telling us...you're an American. Period.

It's led to the balkanization of America....not the assimilation of many ethnicities into ONE.....An American!

Dave Miller said...

Z... I have had many a great meal at Izzy's. Does Paul Moyer, former NBC newsman, still dine there?

Great story, and typical of many children of immigrants that I know here in the US...

Z said...

Jan, thanks SO much. I'm very happy that you liked the story and my writing.
A tragedy turned around, don't you think? But, imagine those poor parents of the two daughters and son? WOW.

Trestin; exactly.

Imp; this is why you'll find no hyphen ...He is an American of Mexican descent and I didn't want that in the title.
Yes, I think hyphenization has robbed from our melting pot ethos.

Dave, I've never seen Paul Moyer there! I'll look in the future!
Isn't the food super? Big, fat sandwiches, etc...GREAT mac and cheese :-)
And yes, Angel is a great example.

Please...you speak Spanish; wouldn't you pronounce him "Ahn-HELL?" The 2 Mexicans with ANGEL for a name have corrected me with the English pronunciation "ANGEL!" ??? WHAT?

Dave Miller said...

They just like the American pronunciation of their name. Probably because they were born here and that is how they heard it from friends and at school when they were young.

The pastrami is great there and the fries are always hot, fresh, and crispy.

Bob said...

Great story, Z. You write well, and you are good at chatting with people and learning about them. Congratulations on the new friend, Angel. As you know, friendships grow and the next thing you know is that you have a new family to love.

My story is somewhat different. Today, at the combination KFC/Taco Bell, I met a young red-neck working behind the counter. We hit it off, immediately.

Before I left I had his secret to a painless life, Yellow Root Tea. He said it tasted nasty, and that's what my Google search later revealed, nasty. I don't think I will try it.

We really connected on beer, though. He is a Guiness fan, and I agreed on the magic qualities of said brew.

I was in no hurry to learn more about him or his family. Getting my tacos and leaving was my priority.

I was just proud that my red-neck creds were still good.

Z said...

Dave, I've heard the pastrami is excellent and I've got to have it! Have a lunch there on the 19th, I think it is! WILL Do that.

Bob, thanks SO much for your comment, I loved reading it. And thanks for your nice compliment.
Yellow Root Tea...sounds TERRIBLE! Anyway, what kind of RED NECK drinks ANY kind of TEA!!!?\ :=)

Big Fat Tio Mike said...

I enjoyed reading your story on Angel. It also got me to think of an interesting idea for a post: What are the geeeez readers' favorite rappers and songs?


Z said...

Hi, Mike..thanks so much. Glad you liked the story.

I can pretty much assure you you'll never see a post on RAPPERS here :-)
I actually DO like that beat and the head bobbing, finger-pointing lyrics-thing...but my readers aren't big rapper fans, TRUST ME :-) We've discussed it!

beamish said...

I'm an American-Human.

christian soldier said...

I never give up on people-
I tell then the TRUTH -
the WAY- then
about this Republic-
let them think-
We all have had an
"ABOUT FACE" moment-

Brooke said...

Nice story. It is heartening to hear that some people really do make good.

Lisa said...

what a nice story in the day of a life that will last a lifetime in your heart. Thank you for sharing that uplifting story Z. I love his words to you "God bless you, too, Angel."

nicrap said...

I remember reading a similar story here, about an Iranian guy... (without meaning to be ironical at all) remind me of Clever Hans. :)

cube said...

I don't care who moves into our country as long as they become Americans.

Dave Miller said...

Cube, I've heard and thought about that a lot.

Becoming American. How does that get defined.

I spend a lot of time in Mexico. I speak the language, read it, and live it. I understand most, but not all, of the culture.

I know the country well and many of my Mexican friends will openly say I know more about Mexico than they do.

Others will also say that I am Mexican.

But I am not. I appreciate what they are trying to say, but no matter how hard I may try, I can never be Mexican.

I am an American, from the United States of America, and I always will be.

I love Mexico, and will defend her from unfair and harsh criticism, as I hope someone who lives here will do for my country.

But I know from personal experience, that if you are born in another land, and look like someone from another place, there will always be people who say you do not belong, be that America, Mexico, China, or where ever.

It's just reality...

Big Fat Tio Mike said...

The fact that your readers don't usually listen to rap is what would make the post fun. What could be more fun than finding out that Pris is a Kanye West fan, or that Sue has a weakness for Dr. Dre?

I've noticed my musical tastes have grown more diverse with time--enough to include rap. Black Eyed Peas, Rihana, Pitbull, and Eminem rank toward the top of my list.


MK said...

Nice story Z.

"I know now that all you have to do is study and work hard and believe in yourself and this country will reward you..."

Yes, but the democrats won't, they'll tax you to give to the gang bangers.

Z said...

Mike "What could be more fun than finding out that Pris is a Kanye West fan, or that Sue has a weakness for Dr. Dre?"


I know Pris well...I know Sue pretty well. you're so wrong :-)

I must say Mr. Z and I have a fabulous friend named Elliot who LOVES rap and LOVES Gilbert and Sullivan...go figure :-)

I'll tell you why this wouldn't work; as much as I LOVE the rap beat, I don't know ONE song's title or who did the song. So...how would that work? !!\
I like Black Eyed Peas, but don't know Enimen's work and haven't even heard of the rest...

Z said...

Hi, Mike..
Mike Miller's in town and I'm having dinner with him Fri night...was so good to hear his voice when he surprised me with his call this afternoon "i'm in TOWN!" Hurray!!
Wish you were in town, too!