Friday, July 29, 2005

Mama Luz

I told Husband this morning that a small percentage of my Health Transformation 2005 has to do with his mother. My mother-in-law, Luz, is as spunky and raucous a woman I've ever met. She's the loudest person on the face of the planet, and at 5'0" she's been known to kick a grown man's ass. The family loves to talk about the night Luz tackled her 6'0" brother during a fight and they toppled down the stairs because of it. And despite the fact that her living room is only 500sq feet, she throws tremendous house parties; all-night bashers. My husband said during his growing up and even after he was grown he spent every New Years Eve at home because she threw the best parties. I love me some Mama Luz.

Luz is also a salsera. She used to promote salsa nights in Manhattan and she can cut a rug down to shredded threads. She'd wear mini skirts and sky-high heels and she'd sport her short sexy hair and stare partners down with her huge beautiful eyes with a glare that meant nothing but trouble. To our wedding, Mama Luz rocked a caramel-colored mini skirt and matching blazer with a fantastic earth-toned scarf tied around her neck. In the family pictures as we all stand under the threshold of where Husband and I declared our wedding vows, Mama Luz is popping out her hip and looking superfly. It captures exactly who she is and what I really love about her.

Over the years that I've known Luz, we gone dancing together a few times. And because she's from New York and I'm from Cali, I could never keep up with her party stamina. I want to go to a club at 9:30pm and leave by 12:30. When we're in NY, we get to the spot at midnight and leave at 4am. I'm not built for that. It's exhilarating in the moment, to be out until dawn, but I get preoccupied thinking about the consequences of the next day. The idea of children waking me at seven when I've closed my eyes at five makes me want to cry. For Mama Luz on the other hand, this is no problem. Husband tells of stories when he was in his early 20's of getting home from the clubs at the same time as Mama Luz, just before day break, and then hearing her loud ass a couple hours later arguing or laughing with her sisters in the kitchen, wide awake and ready to tackle another day.

This last Christmas, while we were in NY, some family members planned a girls night out. We went to a hot salsa spot in the city that was packed by the time we arrived at fucking midnight. I was already tired. Once I heard the music though, I couldn't wait to get in and get my groove on. But Luz sat immediately in a booth and nursed a drink. During the course of the night, I saw her dance once (twice, but the second time was with me). She was winded and her knee hurt. She was sluggish and severely out of shape. I was humbled by this and I couldn't help but look over at her throughout the night even while I was dancing. Her health seemed to deteriorate all of the sudden. One minute she's throwing haymakers on a dude, the next she aches too much to care. One minute she's wearing every dancer out until the clock ticks 4am, the next she's a tired wallflower. It pained me to see this.

To be clear, Mama Luz has never lived a healthy lifestyle. She smokes. She eats fried shit daily. She does not eat vegetables nor fruit. She only eats white bread, white everything. She does not drink water. She sleeps four hours a night. She is easily stressed and heated. She does no exercise. I am not exaggerating any of this. And though you would think logically that lifestyle would break anyone down, I was still surprised to see Luz so affected. I just thought she was made of unbreakable steel.

She buried her mother from a stroke a few years ago. Her mother, a family matriarch in every sense of the word, had such failing health in the last six years of her life, it was mortifying to her children, adopted and blood, and everyone else that clung to her for emotional strength. But with the exception of one daughter, Luz's sister Alma, none have taken an initiative to change health habits. In fact, I don't believe any of them have made the connection between Mami's health and her lifestyle.

Husband and I have dropped many hints to Mama Luz. Even straight out suggestions. She don't want to hear shit. "I don't like water." "I don't need vitamins." We say, "But you don't eat vegetables." "I'm as healthy as anyone." We don't know how to spin this for her to want to be more healthy. It's frustrating.

But if anything it has helped me with my Health Transformation 2005. I don't want to just live to a good ol' age, I want a quality of life where when it comes time for me to hit the salsa floor with my grown daughters, I'll still be able to shimmy circles around them. I plan to say things like, "What do you girls know about this," as I double turn and strike a pose.

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