Hang On Sloopy

Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on
Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on

– The McCoys

We were living in a part of Miami which was being taken by another minority but on the hierarchy they were American and we were not so we packed and moved.

Being taken over is all I had understood my whole life.

Moving from one place to another was what we understood. We were Cuban. We had left an island. What difference did it make that we had to leave another home?

We were finally in a new duplex and my mother was working in the factory. My father was off to New York. My grandmother and uncle Galo were living with us. The duplex had two bedrooms. My sister and I shared a bedroom with my parents. Since my father was gone most times it was just my sister and me sharing the room with our mother. I remember falling asleep every night twirling one of my mother’s curls.

I didn’t realize the significance of what was happening in 1966 until much later but our first American was about to be born.

Jose Antonio Menendez Jr. arrived the summer of ’66 right before I started first grade. He was an asthmatic baby. Many times over we’d find ourselves in the hospital’s waiting room because Jose was gasping for air.

One day our grandmother was babysitting Jose, we called him Pepito and my grandmother placed him on the bed to be changed. I decided to walk over to see what all the fuzz was about and he sprinkled me from head to toe.

Jose would later become a fire fighter. I should have seen this coming right?

When he was about 4 years old his father, my uncle Tio Pepe, gave him a Big Wheel for Christmas. He’d ride that thing up and down the sidewalk in Coral Gables. By then my uncles were becoming well off in our Jewelry business and nobody was telling us where to live anymore.

It may have been a recommendation from one of the doctors that Jose should go into sports to help combat the asthma or maybe Jose needed to conquer it on his own terms. He excelled in several of the sports arenas including Tae Kwon Do and Muscle Building Competitions but cycling was his love.

Anything Jose did he did it with the utmost attention and detail. He’d shave his legs because the hair caused too much friction against the wind while he’d ride. He’d cycle solo from Miami to Key West as if saying “I am going to the grocery store to pick up some ice cream”.

If I could have just one wish. Just one wish granted for my whole life it would not be that my father was sane. It would not be that my first marriage would have stuck, it would not be anything other than on that one day when my grandmother was changing Jose I would have had the insight to whisper in Jose’s ear, “Pepito, look up. Look up. Whatever you do on Memorial Day, 2002, is look up. Hang on to the bicycle breaks and look up.”.

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