A ten-year-old boy sitting in a plane flying on the way to Tijuana, as I look towards my parents and my two-year-old brother… just one question pops into my head. Why?
We left what seemed to me, a perfectly good life behind in Mexico, my friends, my family, my school, my toys. Acapulco was full of happy memories. We would often go to see the divers jump off the cliff into the waters below, we would all clap as they, time and time again, would perform daring jumps from hundreds of feet high into the rocky waters. Awe and a little apprehension followed by relief and joy is what we all felt as we cheered and clapped their performance.
We finally landed in this unfamiliar city, so different from my Acapulco. We checked in to the hotel, watched tv and ate pizza. It felt like a vacation but I knew it wasn’t …tomorrow night was the night that would change my life forever.
It’s going to be alright
….. my dad said to me. “I know it’s going to be a lot to adapt to at first, but you are a smart boy and you’ll be fine”. He sat me down and told me ” you have to take care of your brother now. Do what they say and everything is going to be ok. You have to be strong, we won’t be far behind”
I couldn’t sleep through the night in anticipation of what was to follow the next day.
I was scared, I was nervous, I could not remember ever meeting my aunts before.
I had heard of the United States but I never imagined ever living there. I hardly spoke English aside from words and sentences I picked up in my English class in fifth grade. ” I am a big boy, I have to be strong, I have to take care of my brother” I muttered attempting to re-assure myself.
We were so happy
The night came I was playing toy cars with my two-year-old brother he would laugh as he tried to take the little toy car from me when he was just about to grab it… I would pull it away saying “broom, broom”. His laughter filled the room and we were all happy then. At that moment I heard a knock on the door three strangers entered the room. We had to go now.
But things change
What happened next has always been a source of confusion, as a child, I didn’t understand why or how, but we found ourselves here in a new land. My brother was fast asleep on the car ride to my aunt’s house in a city called Anaheim, California. We were in the back seat being driven by two strangers. I couldn’t wait to see my mom and dad. My dad had told me that they wouldn’t be far behind.
The car finally stopped I picked up my brother who was still asleep and I carried him hugging him tightly looking back at the street hoping my parents were right behind us… but they weren’t. My aunt opened the door, took my brother, and helped carry our luggage. She offered us milk, my little cousins were sitting in the living room watching tv … I could not understand what they were saying to me nor could I understand what was on the tv but the cartoons helped ease the passage of time while I waited for my parents.
Where were they?
I waited. Everyone was going to bed now, the tv was turned off, the lights were turned off… and I waited. All night I waited, and another day, and another day I waited.
Day after day my brother would occasionally cry and call for my parents I would try to distract him and reassure him that they were coming. ” They will be here any day now” I would tell him “maybe tomorrow”. Sometimes I would hug him and just cry with him and think to myself “mom… dad… where are you?”
Months went by; we had no idea what had happened to my parents.
The toughest part for me was the times my little brother would run to the yard with his little diaper excitedly yelling “mom, mom, look mom here” I would run after him …time and time again I would believe him, I wanted to believe him. Expecting to see my parents and every time I was disappointed followed by deep sorrow as he would point to a plane flying past above the house “mom, mom ….look mom here”. That was not mom and she was not here.
Finally, they appeared
Then one day, after six months, the doorbell rang and we heard a commotion …and there they were. Yes, my mom and dad were finally here.
My life would never be the same as it was in Mexico but my parents were finally here. That was one of the happiest days in my life to see my little brother laugh and smile “mom….here” he yelled with a big grin.
Although this experience seems brief in comparison to the rest of my life, it has shaped who I am today.
Placing Care at my core
For those six months that I spent wondering if I would see my parents again, I had to grow up quickly.
I became a caregiver to my brother, his support system, and in this I found my purpose;
while we were both grieving what seemed to us like a loss. No longer being afraid of the unknown, I learned to live each day as it comes, one day at a time.
All those valuable skills I would draw from in my career as a nurse… and quite honestly I think this experience has guided my path ever since.