Starting in or around 1979, the year that yours truly would enter this world, my mom, Maria Rubio, would be stricken with major anxiety, that at its peak in the 1980s, would even keep her locked up in our home. It was pretty scary, especially for a little kid who spent a lot of time with her. Even crossing the street to our Catholic Church, and attending and staying through mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe, was a major triumph. Unlike the wealthy who pass on their riches down to their heirs, I was the sole beneficiary to anxiety and nervousness.
We laugh now as a family, about the number of days I missed during elementary school. But looking back, it was pretty serious. In fact, I missed so much school, it’s amazing that I can even write a 140 character tweet.
In January, 1986, and at 6 years old, I was sitting at home, watching television during one of my “sick days,” and in disbelief, the space shuttle Challenger had just exploded before my young eyes. In 1987, my 7 years old self, during one of my number of “sick days,” sat through CBS to watch the Iran Contra hearings. Finally, in 1989, I sat in front of the television, watching Tom Brokaw announce that the Berlin Wall was coming down.
The good thing is, despite missing an obscene number of days throughout my elementary career, I managed to stay in the game when it came to current affairs.
Thank God for television.
That same year, I had entered the fourth grade at Lake Arthur Elementary School and my mom had finally come out of her decade-long battle with serious anxiety. Unfortunately, my own challenges had just peaked. On the days that I was not absent and actually attended school, my mom (and sometimes siblings) would have to convince me to get in the car, be driven to school and walk into the classroom. My mom would have to guide her 9-year old daughter in with the rest of her class, sit near the classroom door as school began, and try to sneak out in the middle of morning matriculation. As soon as I discovered her absence, I’d go into major freak out mode, which consisted of crying and sobbing uncontrollably, almost to the point of suffocation.
That was also the year that I discovered that I was the only one that knew and understood my mom’s ailments and I could cure her. Remember, I’m nine. At one point that year, after missing a number of days…and I mean, more than ten in one semester, maybe even twenty, my superintendent finally called my parents in to speak with all three of us. He explained his concerns and how my parents could potentially get into trouble because of my “absenteeism.” When I wasn’t being the middle person, translating this entire conversation between adults, from English to Spanish and Spanish to English (maybe even lying a bit since I knew neither one would know) it was my turn to give my position for why I chose not to attend school. I explained that, “I am absent frequently because I take care of my mom, because she’s sick. I have an important cure that can only be found in Mexico and only I can provide.”
Of course, my superintendent didn’t buy it. On the one hand, he was threatening to report my parents for allowing me to skip school,
(which I don’t blame him now) and on the other hand, he knew that the Mexican cure I was talking about was just a very inexpensive bulk of penicillin, packaged in a black and white cardboard box, most Mexican families purchase when they make trips south of the border.
Even as a 9 year old, I was trying to be slick.
It still took me another few years to gain the confidence I needed to survive. Fortunately, I snapped out of it.
My home was my sanctuary. My mom was my comfort. But my mom’s anxiety and nervousness was also making me really, REALLY sick. I don’t blame her for any of it. But I’m grateful that I’m nothing like her sickly side. In fact, I’m the complete opposite.
I know two Maria Rubio’s. On the one hand, she’s a woman who has been sick all her life, who has struggled and endured great pain and suffering and who may have missed out on the greatest days of her life.
On the other hand, she is feisty, strong-willed, beautiful, audacious, dedicated, determined, tenacious, compelling, spiritual and pure.
The latter is the Maria Rubio I strive to be. That’s the Maria Rubio I want to become.