Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Your grandpa was awesome! Week #3

Dear Luki,

Last week, when I told you about how your grandpa tackled the foreign streets of Miami decidedly and without missing a beat, I briefly mentioned that one of the first things he did was teach himself how to drive. Let me expound on that.

He was thirty five and had never sat behind a steering wheel. That may seem strange to you because you were lucky enough to have been born in a country where automobiles are the norm, but in Cuba, having a car was a luxury saved for a select few. And since your grandmother was constantly protesting and writing letters against the communist regime, we were not part of that small clique.

When your grandpa arrived in the United States and realized that his previous method of transportation, the bicycle, was not compatible with the South Florida expressways, he immediately went out and bought and old junker for $200. With no licence or any driving experience whatsoever, he managed to get the vehicle home and convinced us to hop in for a ride. I'm not sure if the car was actually brown or the color of paint that had completely chipped away; its sagging ceiling needed to be held up with staples; and we spent more time up on the sidewalk than the street during that first ride; but it got us places.

After that, your grandpa purchased other, slightly better versions of old, battered cars. We couldn't leave the house without a gallon of water to pour into the part of the motor (yes, that's as far as my technical knowledge of automobiles goes) that needs to be constantly hydrated, lest it get overheated.

When we moved to Charlotte, he was finally able to afford something brand new -- a Toyota Corolla for your grandmother. He still drove around in a little used Hyundai that kept stalling.

One day, your grandma, uncle and I were heading down one of Charlotte's biggest roads when we saw that traffic was backed up. As we got closer to the spot where the congestion started, we realized that it was your grandpa's car, stalled in the middle of the busy street. He kept trying different ways to get the car to move and somehow figured out that he could get it going by putting it in reverse. So, without dawdling, he got behind the wheel and drove the rest of the way home backwards, looking through the rear view mirror.

Your grandmother was horrified at the risk of such an outrageous maneuver and I, an insecure and foolish teenager, was like, totally embarrassed.

Today, I have a completely different perspective about that event.

Don't you ever get stuck Luki. Always find a way to keep moving, even if it's in reverse.



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