If Mama Luz is all fire, Big Papi, my father-in-law, is calm water. Sweet and mellow and kind. That doesn't mean he'll take a boatload of shit. He's just not one to show all his cards like Luz does. Big Papi lives the same terribly unhealthy lifestyle as Luz and though he works a physically laborious job (some exercise at least), he drinks at least six beers a night. When we visited this last holiday, his age seemed vastly accelerated and his blood pressure and cholesterol were out the roof. This, for obvious reasons, affected my husband profoundly.
During this same trip, we flew to Puerto Rico on Christmas Day. We took only Big Papi because Mama Luz claims she gets eaten alive by mosquitoes. This was one of those trips where we all had our own little lights go on about our lives -- staring at the Caribbean Sea will do that -- but Big Papi had a major awakening which we didn't realize until months later. In Puerto Rico, I had never seen him so happy and talkative. We walked around the mango-tree lined streets of Patillas where he had grown up and he did not pass a single person without stretching out his hand and introducing us, telling stories and beaming especially over my husband (like he always has) and our daughters. By the end of the week, we called him the Mayor of Patillas.
My husband and Big Papi would steal away often to the local bar which is basically a piece of tin on stilts covering a wood bar that stores ice cold Heinekens. I say steal away because Abuelita, Big Papi's mother with whom we stayed, is a Four Square Pentecostal and there is no fucking around in her house with the likes of beer and other traps of the devil. Unfortunately, when they went to the bar (or to "visit a cousin" as they told Abuelita), I was left to melt away in the little concrete house. Fyi, extreme humidity and plastic-covered couches do not mix. I was also left alone with Abuelita and the critical matter of getting me Saved which rubs me raw because coincidentally, my grandmother is also a Four Square Pentecostal and I had to learn at an early age to dodge the Personal Savior grilling. (Most recently, a zealous guy tried to save me while I was checking out his groceries at the health food store. He knew I needed saving and got in my face about whether or not I had admitted it yet. I said, "Jesus is awesome." He said, "Yeah, but have you accepted Him because if not you're going to hell." I thought, this is hell with you in my face, but I smiled brightly and said, "Why yes, I have." He could say nothing after that and I genuinely thanked the Lord for this.)
After we returned to NY from Puerto Rico, Big Papi told Mama Luz he was going to see a nutritionist. He said he was going to drink more water and less beer. He seemed sadly resolute when he told me, "I want to see the girls graduate from high school. I want to see them get married."
In April, months after our trip, my husband went to New York again on business and visited Mama Luz and Big Papi. Much to Husband's astonishment, Big Papi had lost twenty pounds. He had not drank one beer since New Year's Eve. This is a man that has had a six pack a night since my husband can remember. Big Papi was having a tough time with the water, but he's been drinking VitaminWater that Husband introduced to them in December. It's sweetened "water" but it's enhanced with some vitamins and minerals. Husband called me the night he got to New York and said, "I can't stop staring at him. He looks ten years younger."
I thought, it's one thing for the light to go on, for the epiphany to spark and give inspiration, but it's quite another for someone to take drastic action. In Puerto Rico, Big Papi remembered that life is fun and that his family loves him. He decided that he wanted to stick around longer for his granddaughters and he knew the only way that was going to happen was if he really did something about it.