My Mother, My Angel
One of my favorite shows (and no laughing!) is The Golden Girls. I put it on to go to sleep and can probably recite each character’s words throughout every single episode, yet the best line will always be Sophia’s very own:
The very late 90s, Mom and daughter land in Miami after a 3-hour flight from Venezuela. The Mother, a beautiful blonde in her late 0’s (I appreciate my life enough to not enter a number on her age), slim, strong, probably the toughest woman to be found on this planet, yet the sweetest most dedicated and encouraging Mother to be seen; in short: an Angel. She makes her way through this huge international airport hauling 3 big suitcases and her daughter who happens to be in a manual wheelchair and is clumsy as hell: Me.
Together we go from point A to B, taking things one step at a time. No hotel reservation, no knowledge of the neighborhoods, no car rental reservation, only a friend’s recommendation to use Alamo. After asking how to get there and with the help of a Police Officer who got us on a minibus, we arrive at Alamo Car Rental.
It was about 5-6 PM of a sunny early-summer day and the beginning of a journey that only the bravest would dare venture into. We decided to come here when my Mother’s frustration over the lack of access for me in Venezuela led her to make the drastic decision of leaving family and friends behind. At the time, I was enrolled to start University studies for a Law degree, yet living on the third floor of a building with no elevator meant that we depended on strangers to carry me down and back.
Caracas, the Capital of Venezuela reassembles Miami in the sense of it being all concrete and with never-ending traffic everywhere; however, in this third world country, the knowledge/understanding about disabilities, access, and life in a wheelchair was (and still is) less than none. There is no such thing as ramps to cross a street, or sidewalks flat enough to wheel through without getting stuck in a crack or some other obstacle.
Most of the people I’d meet were great, and as I started with my big mouth trying to create awareness I got to make wonderful friends and was even lucky enough to have the most amazing, loving and understanding boyfriends one could ask for; but unfortunately, in a Country that lacks care and consciousness about life with a disability, being surrounded by great people could never be enough for a young person that like others, had ambitions, dreams, goals and high expectations out of life. Luckily, my Mother always pushed me to be strong and independent; I might not be able to climb a staircase, but that’s what elevators are for… Life goes on, and we must choose to either live or die, but living in darkness should never be an option.
The sun is going down and I patiently wait with our luggage while my Mom is inside renting a vehicle. Mind you, we had no credit cards, and our reference was the unknown brother of a friend in Venezuela. Lucky for us this was pre 9-11, so things were easier, and trust still possible at that time.
We leave the rental place in this cool vehicle, my Mother behind the wheel, and me behind the map telling her which way to go in order to get to “Miami Beach”, where some friends said we should go… Turn here and there, enjoy the beautiful palm trees, gorgeous intercoastal waters as we drive over some bridge, and that sense of excitement over our adventure… We drove through South Ocean Drive looking for a Hotel that didn’t seem too expensive and got a room at some place with steps, but (having paid for the room already) with the attendant’s promise to help me up the stairs whenever we were ready; we went to a Denny’s, starving and feeling the tiredness of a long day…Less than one hour later, as we leave the restaurant, the sky suddenly turns pitch black, the winds pick up, a H-U-G-E thunderstorm breaks out of nowhere, and the streets flood as if we’d need a boat at any moment. We sit in the car, so tired we can barely process what’s happening and wondering if there was a hurricane we didn’t know about. We make our way to the hotel, but of course, the “helpful” attendant says he isn’t helping.
We waited for the storm to pass, yet by midnight, we were left with no choice but to keep on driving around to find a place where we could get out of the car without drowning in the rain and flooding…. By 2 AM we finally turned off the lights and fell into the arms of Morpheus at a nice Hotel we came across.
A day ends, yet the journey of our lifetime only begins…
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”
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