No Place Like Home

With Final Exams Week looming around the corner, I have only been able to focus on one thing: I’m going to visit my family! I’m leaving the 16th, which happens to be my mother’s 82nd birthday. I will be spending two weeks in South Texas, and eating as much home cooking as I possibly can. 

Now that I have a full-time job 1,000+ miles away from home, I only get the opportunity to visit my family once a year for Christmas. Why only once a year? Well, I still have many more student loan payments to go, and between rent and other bills…my financial resources can be scarce at times. That’s a reality of being a new professional that we face. Since a 2nd job on the weekends is out the question for me, I just have to manage with what I have. 

Going home to spend quality family time is a much needed break from work for me. In a post earlier this year, I wrote about the challenges of being far away from your family when emergencies happen. During my first year at my current job, my mother had a heart attack and needed triple bypass surgery. I couldn’t make it home, due to money. Plus, my mom told me to not worry about her. This past year, she fell down and broke her hip, and needed to have a prosthesis put in her hip joint. I wanted to go home then, but my sister said there wasn’t anything I could do but wait. And if I’m going to wait, I can do that in Iowa. 

Thanks to technology, my sister sends me pictures of my mom every once in a while now that she has a camera phone. Every time she sends me a new one, I smile because I’m happy to see mom, but cry because I’m sad. These surgeries have been very stressful on my mother’s body, and she has physically changed quite a bit to the point where she doesn’t look like herself anymore. My mom hates the hospital and their food. She hates having to take umpteen-something pills a day. But she manages with what she has to do so she can be around for another year. 

I’ll share a little more about our relationship. Since my mom’s heart attack, every visit home for me is so painful because I just don’t know if that will be the last time I see her. Last year when I returned to work, I couldn’t shake the sadness I felt. It took me a few weeks to get back into my groove. I feel like this year will be no different, as the conversations continue with my sister about wills and other paperwork we need to do. As the days go by, the idea of my mother not being around becomes more real to me. One day I told her how I felt, and I couldn’t stop crying. In her usual sassy self, she said “You don’t speak to me like that!” Of course, I understand that I was upsetting her (which we are not allowed to do because of her heart). She is just trying to teach me to be tough like her. That’s why she is my rock. 

The holidays are supposed to be about happiness and warm fuzzy feelings, and it is at Casa De Cruz. We sing, we dance, and we eat and drink heartily. The house smells of Spanish spices and the traditional Puerto Rican folkloric music is on full blast on the radio. We sing to Christmas carols in Spanish. There will be moments to celebrate this year, like the birth of my grand nephew Jordan who will be 9 months old this month, and the expected birth of my grand niece Ariella who is due in January. My eldest sister is adopting my niece Alicia. My mother gets to see another birthday. So did my father. Not everything is “bad news bears” this year, and for that I’m thankful. 

With whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, spend time with your loved ones. Appreciate the moments you get, for one day, you may not get that chance again.

And if you’re off on vacation soon: Let the countdown begin! 

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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