Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Remember; One man's recollection of his family

It is hard to believe that 33 years have passed since my mother (Carmen), gave birth to me, with my father (Iphrain), standing near by, leading my welcoming committee in to this world. Such is the responsibility of every parent, and they did so twice more with the arrivals of my two younger brothers Ronald Dee Vega and Ernest Vega. The three of us were blessed to have been born and raised in a house hold with both our father and mother present. The three of us were equally blessed to not only be welcomed by loving parents, but by older siblings who helped shape and nurture us every bit as much as our patriarchs. Older sisters Liz and Carmen (Bule), older brother Edwin and the youngest of the group till our arrival, Gloria, all bear the surname Pizarro, but were…are every bit as much our siblings as the Vega boys to each other. When my parents met, my father was a Pentecostal and my mother a catholic, but by the time I was 3 years old, a miracle blessing converted us all to Mormonism. That moment I do not remember, but in the coming words I put pen to paper, I will share my life’s recollection on what I do, and how it shaped my families life. This is our story, as told by me, Ephraim Vega.

Every family has a turning point, a legend that resonates through generations or some life changing experience that defines our childhood. I was 2 or 3 years old when all of the above happened to my family. It was a turning point because it changed the direction of our lives, a legend to me, because I was not old enough to remember as it was passed down from parent to child and sibling to sibling and so on and so forth. Life changing because had these series of events not occurred, who knows how different our lives would have been. My father indulged in alcohol and cigarettes, and had a sweet tooth for women. My mother was no saint either, and did enjoy the occasional drink or two as well. One day, a couple of young men wearing white dress shirts with ties, each bearing name plates knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as missionaries, and began teaching my mother and older sister Liz about a book. This hard covered piece of literature was called the book of Mormon, and it intrigued my mom. My mother encouraged my dad to join the lectures, but to no avail. The missionaries continued to knock on our door, and my mom welcomed the sermon. Now my dad still had no interest in learning about the church, and one day fell ill and was bed ridden. The missionaries had come by that day to visit our home, but were turned away by my mother due to his sicken state. Not easily deterred, the missionaries offered to give my dad a blessing, with the deliberate intention of making him better. My mother was not sure what my father’s reaction would be, but invited the missionaries in, and sought his opinion on the offer. My father, very ill, agreed. So the missionaries poured some oil on his head, rubbed it in to his forehead and blessed him in the name of Jesus Christ. Moments later my father rose from his bed, walked down the stairs to the kitchen, tossed out every beer and cigarette he owned, and listened to every message the missionaries shared. That is how we became Mormon’s in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

As time passed, we all grew in to the culture of being a Mormon. My parents served in many different callings within the church, as did all of us at one point or another. My oldest sister Liz was my second mother in many ways. I do not remember much about my mom taking care of me as a child, but I remember Liz doing so as vividly as I do the day my two sons were born. Liz was tough, fair but firm, and had to be, considering how hyper I was as a child. To this day, I credit Liz with being the one that taught me to be a fighter. If I misbehaved, she beat the heck out me. It made me stronger, and I feared no one more than her. In my mind, if I could survive her, I could take down the world. Liz left me too soon, when she chose at a very young age to get married. Coincidentally the man she wed was a Mormon who my parents did not approve of. Early in to their union, I remember an incident when I was with them, and he put his hands on my sister. I was really young, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and told him if he touched her again, I would kill him. I often wonder if that incident caused my sister to distance herself from me, for the sake of her marriage. I never really spent much time with her after that again like we use to, but such is life when you grow up and your priorities change to your new family. Liz bore two daughters from that union, Francheska and Erin. I remember a time when we were all living in Florida, and Liz was driving with Francheska, still a baby, seated in her car seat. Francheska was crying and Liz reached back to give her a pacifier or her bottle, and lost control of the car. They crashed and were injured but survived thanks to the big man upstairs. That was the first time in my life I experienced the possibility of loss. It scared me to no end, and the thought of anything ever happening to Liz or Franche’, opened my eyes to mortality. Liz later in life would display the courage she once taught me as a child and left her husband, taking the girls with her. I know she yearned for happiness, and today I am proud to say she has achieved it. Remarried with three more children, Kristine, Shayla and John, I find her to be at peace. That is all you could ever pray or hope for with people you love, and those wishes continue to this day. After Liz there is Bule, and boy do I remember plenty about my sister Carmen.

Carmen aka Bule, was, is and forever will be a trip to me. Bule at times could play so many different roles and often incurred the wrath of our domineering mother in its glorious aftermath. Bule could be an instigator, a ring leader and finish as the victim. I recall an incident when Liz’s first husband came to our house to talk to my mother, who had not yet arrived, and starting joking around with my sister Gloria. I was upstairs playing video games and can only confirm the commotion that ensued. According to my recollection, Ciro (Liz’s first husband) made a chubby or fat joke towards Gloria that pushed Bule to her boiling point. Bule would unleash a verbal assault that sent Ciro reeling in to the “what was I thinking” mode. So I witnessed Bule and Gloria coming up the stairs afterward, slapping high fives and recapping the play by play results of their return insult barrage on Ciro to one another. Moments later my mom, just arriving home and hearing of the incident, came charging up the stairs, entered their room, and proceeded to beat the living heck out of my sisters. It was like a train wreck, and I could not stop watching. That is just the way we were raised. We did not get time outs or go stand in the corner kind of discipline. We got laced by our parents in accordance with the old school method of handling your child. Now my two younger brothers were spared in comparison to my weekly appointments with mom’s back hands and dad’s belt, but even they got it at one point or another. Bule would grow from those experiences and would garner the highest place on my parent’s totem pole of what they wanted for their kids. Bule would become a full time missionary and serve the church for 18 months, away from us and on her own. Now to be fair, Bule did not necessarily have to rough it, as she was stationed on our home island of Puerto Rico. She did however, while on her mission, meet her future husband. They married shortly after their return, as her husband to be was also serving his mission. Together they have four children. Adam, who is now serving a mission for the church is the oldest, followed by Raeleen, Mikela and JP.

Bule suffered a sudden shock as a child upon the knowledge of her paternal father’s death. Through this traumatic experience, she lost her ability to read and write, both traits she was already taught and schooled to do. From this, I believe she suffers from a fear of loss, which can be traced to her sometimes cold and distant demeanor. Bule spent much of, if not all of her life in marriage, living abroad from our family. I think it was during this time period that I realized we would all grow up someday and leave. That proposition was always a sad one for me, and I felt empty every time someone left. Liz left first to marry Ciro and Edwin was always back and forth between living with us and his aunt from his paternal father’s side in Puerto Rico. If you ask me, I would never let my kid live away from home until they were 18, but again that's just me. Edwin always leaving was difficult for me and my brothers and sisters alike. It was like missing a puzzle piece; we were never whole without him. I learned a lot from Ed, and he had a funny personality. He is cool dude, non violent in nature and the biggest male whore this side of Wilt Chamberlain. I love my brother, but if we weren’t related, I would kill him if he ever came close to my daughter. My most vivid memories of Ed growing up were of him in the army fighting in the first gulf war. My family really rallied around each other and prayed everyday for him. He later fought in Panama, and we were all just as worried as with his stint in Iraq. Ed came back different, as many who experience war do. Ed and I lived together years after in a two bedroom apartment above a bodega that belonged to my dads buddy Bobby Caban. Ed never slept in his bed, preferring the couch instead and could be heard at night crying in his dreams. I would often get up upon hearing his cries and put his blanket back on him and make sure he was OK. Edwin is not a deliberate man, and was not made for war. For some reason Ed could never stay home, and to this day lives in Puerto Rico, were I think he feels closer to what he may feel is home. Ed has a son named after him, who also lives there. Today Ed is as single as he was the day he was born, and that probably will not change. He has had three wives that I can remember, many girlfriends and countless lovers who have all occupied his time over the course of his life. He may still be searching for that special person, and if he ever finds her; I pray he finds comfort for the rest of his days. Now it’s time for the freak.

My sister Gloria is four years my senior, and is referred to by many of us in the family as freak. Now Gloria is far from a freak, weather you’re talking weird or promiscuous, she is none of the above. Gloria actually starting calling all of us freaks in the family and so it stuck as her calling card. Gloria was to Ron and Ernest what Liz was to me growing up. Bule had a hand in their childhood as well, but Gloria took care of them and me for that matter. Gloria has had two boyfriends her whole life, the second whom she married. One thing I can say without hesitation or with any inkling of doubt is that none of my brother in laws loves any of my sisters more than Pedro loves my sister Gloria. Together they have a daughter named Allison, who is the perfect buy product of that union. If there was ever a kid that looked like her parents as prepared by the sperm milkshake and the female eggbeaters, it is Ally. Gloria and I were close when I was very young and I remember her always being my security blanket from Liz’s hand of justice. But as I got older, I became more and more intolerable and gave her hell. When I grew out of that stage of destruction we became close again, and I attended my first night club at age 16 with her. I smoked my first and only cigarette with her. I borrowed her car before I could legally drive, (without her always knowing), while on her watch. My fondest and most favorite memories about growing up with Gloria are touching ones, and reflect who she is and how much she means to me. I made the football team while at a private school named Heritage Prep as a seventh grader living in Florida, and made their varsity squad. Gloria was so excited for me that she took me to the Olive Garden with some of her friends to celebrate. That was a huge deal back then because Olive Garden was the high class spot for us at that time. Now you can most likely find one anywhere, but it meant the world to me that she did that. And she did it because my parents did not get the excitement and accomplishment of that feat due to their lack of understanding for sports. Gloria knew and she made me feel like I was somebody. The second time was at a Prime America convention we attended together, and we were both asked to speak to a group about our experience there. I walked through that speech with no hiccups as anyone who knows me, knows I am never at a loss for words. But when Gloria spoke, she was overcome with emotion and was vulnerable to the moment. It touched me and I have always felt since that day, there isn’t a better person walking this earth than her. Love the freak.

Every family has one and mine is no exception. There is always one out of a bunch that is universally loved so much by everyone in the family; it’s hard not to see why. Ron is my younger brother and is my most special person in this world. When Ron was born he did not get to come home right away. He was born with an abnormal discoloration that had doctors perplexed. Born on November 4th, 1980, my baby brother did not come home until days before Christmas. I remember sitting in the car the day we picked him up from the hospital. I cried tears of happiness and was full of joy, all the while wondering where he had been and what had happened to him. I was happy he was home, and have felt the same way for him ever since. Ron is the ultimate example of a good son, a good brother and a good friend. I was always tough on Ron when we were kids, because I always had it difficult growing up in school and fighting for respect. I did not want Ron to be a victim and a taunt boy for bullies, so I tried to toughen him up. In hindsight I probably went a little too far sometimes, but what did I know about being a good big brother? Even so I remember an incident at school when Ron was picked on by a kid my age on the bus. My mom told me about it and later that day Ron told me he could not remember the kids face, but that he had a New York Mets baseball jacket. The next day after school, I found Ron and confronted every kid wearing a Mets jacket. Living in Queens at the time leaves for many prospects to choose from, so I went ahead and roughed up every kid wearing a Mets jacket. All the while pointing out Ron and reminding them if they mess with him again, I would deal with it personally. Ron enjoyed the rest of his school year incident free and even had kids giving him high fives in the school yard. Some years after, there was this kid who made a female dog reference about our mother, which did not sit to well with Ron or me. Next morning I got up bright and early for school, which probably should have tipped my parents off, and asked my dad to drop me at school early so I can get some extra credit work done. Ron followed suit and we arrived at school just in time to catch the perpetrator of mother cuss words standing at an entrance door to the cafeteria. I ran up and punched this kid so hard his head hit the door and collapsed. I jumped on top and gave him several body blows and then signaled Ron to finish the job. Ron ran in and kicked this chump until school security responded. I got Ron in the clear before they arrived and was hauled in to the dean’s office. My dad was called back in to the school only learn of my plot. I later found out that this guy suffered four broken ribs and a broken nose. I believe those two experiences taught Ron to fight and not fold under duress and stand up for family. There is no one I would want with me in a dark alley more than my brother Ron. I trust him more, believe in him more, confide in him more and love no one more than he. Ron married at a young age and fathered a son he named Jason Antonio. Ron and I share an affinity for all sports and dialogue often on its broader subjects.

In our family there are a couple of clicks that through years had formed from with in. It is only natural considering the differences in age and personality traits we inherited. As kids Liz and Bule, the two oldest of our bunch, naturally were close. Gloria and Ed have always been inseparable save for the times Ed lived away from home. Ron has always been my closest sibling and later when Ernest was born, he joined the fray as well. Ernest in years is the baby of the family, but if you ask anyone one of us, Ron is the undisputed baby of the family in title to this day.
It is funny because as far back as I can remember, from the moment Ernest was strong enough to walk, a sibling rivalry sparked between he and Ron. Ron wanted to be stronger, faster, smarter and better at everything than Ernest. I say funny because Ron acted more like the middle child then the baby that he truly was. Ernest never really cared that Ron was indeed the most beloved, primarily because he was never lacking in love or attention from any of us. But Ron was relentless, and Ernest had to try and keep up. At times it was humorous, but other times it was annoying. Their rivalry is the only one that developed among any of us, and it continued well in to their teen years. In some strange way, it brought them closer though, and they started sharing social circles. I was not as tough on Ernest as I was Ron growing up, but I did always take time to teach him life lessons. Ernest played basketball with me almost every week for two years and I enjoyed going with him to 7 eleven afterward and buying him stuff. Hanging out with Ernest kept me sane when at times I was on the verge of snapping. I took pride in showing both of my younger brothers how to play sports and compete, as well as always being and striving to be the best they can be. I have always been protective of Ernest, because I always saw the good in him.

Ernest was anointed the chosen one by our family to go to college and be the success that all of us had failed to be. Ask any of my brothers or sisters, me included, that if they can go back they would have treated school and life’s opportunities differently. Ernest was charged this heavy burden and carried its weight on his shoulders as well as anyone could have. Ernest did go to college; he did graduate and he did fulfill the expectations that were given him. My most special memory of Ernest was a time we arrived to my mom’s house after playing basketball for hours and I was overcome with weakness of heart and defeat in purpose. Both Ernest and my mom comforted me and I remember his concern for me and the love I felt from them both. I had similar moments with him on a couple of occasions and he more than anyone next to Ron, has seen me at my most vulnerable. Ernest had a God given gift to comfort and understand and I have always felt that next to my father, he would be the most powerful priesthood holder I ever knew.

As for me, I have two son’s named Jordan and Kellen. I am blessed to be able to kiss them goodnight and tuck them in to bed every night. I see peace in their eyes and day by day my weaken heart and defeat in purpose subsides with their every glance. I am not a great father like my dad was to me, and at times I am not even a good person. Demons have shadowed me my whole life, and peaks its cold presence in from time to time. I, unlike most of my siblings, have had some sort of disagreement with each of them at one point or another. I can be overly emotional and quick to anger and can be triggered at any given moment. I lack self control and it stands as my biggest deficiency to this day. I have always felt I was born and bred to be great. Even as a professional wrestler, when I was enjoying great successes in the ring and in the media, I felt I had more to give. Beating up my body day in and day out only caused me to be dependent on pain killers, and become weary of politics from with in the business. I love to write, so maybe it is my purpose to do so. I may have still been involved in the wrestling business if not for a life changing moment I experienced one night while training some up and coming wrestlers in Orlando. There was a wrestler named Don Maximo, who was in the ring with a couple of guys including myself trying to build up his cardio vascular. The guys were riding him pretty hard trying to motivate him and get him to push harder. I was observing and sort of giving directive to some of the wrestlers helping Don Maximo, when all of a sudden he had had enough and rolled out of the ring and quit. I became furious and tried to grab him before he could. His decision to give up when others were helping him infuriated me even more. I began cussing like a sailor and yelled at him to get back in the ring. When he shook his head no and walked away, I spat on him. He got out of their pretty quickly to avoid me going after him but that only fed my rage. Disgusted, I rolled out of the ring to get my stuff and leave when another wrestler Gus Money, who was just listening to my rant, made eye contact with me. I became so enraged at him that I head butted him in the face and challenged him to do something about it. Gus would not stoop to my level and just walked away, and as I left the gym that night I was overcome with sorrow and disappointment. I knew right then my days in the wrestling business were numbered. I had become irritable and addicted to pain killers, and could no longer control my anger.

I am not going to expand any further on my wrestling career as it does not define me, instead I will finish my portion with this story. A few months ago I made a visit to the doctor’s office to discuss some issues I had been having. After meeting with him and sharing my discomforts he sent me to do blood work. It was first believed that I maybe in the early stages of a form of cancer that I won’t elaborate on. My first thought was to make sure my kids would be watched over and I confided the possibility of my condition with my mother. Well anyone that knows my mother understands that news travels fast once she gets in front of it. Before to long everyone in my family found out and quickly rallied behind me, without my knowing of their discovery. I found out later that at my parent’s apartment, Ron, Bule and my mom sat together and cried at the prospect of me dying. Ernest had made arrangements to come down to Kansas City to spend time with me and even had an Ed sighting when I received a call from him. I remember my sister Liz, who was visiting at the time I heard the possible diagnosis, hugging me outside Golden Corral after breakfast. I felt loved, and it had been a long time since I had felt that in my life. I have since found out through tests that I do not have cancer, but firmly believe God did all that to inspire love in my heart. I had spent so many years feeling empty that I now know I needed to have love spawned in my life again. We all need to feel loved, and these days I get my daily doses from my sons Jordan and Kellen.

My family is full of faults and shortcomings and has had its share of disagreements and discord. We have all traveled very different paths and have made our own mistakes based on erroneous decision making. We have not always fulfilled our expectations or those of our parents, and have not always lived the standards of our Gospel teachings. We are all flawed and frail and search for the good in ourselves as we would want our children to remember us by. Each of us is a homer, a loner, a sinner, a gofer, a leader, a follower and a lost sheep trying to find its Sheppard. We are all of the above and then some, but more importantly than all that, we’re a family. We pull for one another, pray for one another, hope for one another, and we love one another. Sometimes we take our mortality for granted and sleep easy knowing that tomorrow will come and I will see them again. Today I stand all amazed at how far we have all come and at the possibilities that the future holds for each of us. That to me is the real miracle, the miracle blessings of family that we all share in together. God bless and may love rest upon your door step for all your years as it has ours.

By Ephraim Vega

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Poem

''Allow me to choose my words carefully, as sometimes what I feel does not always translate into what I say.
I yearn, yet some would say I desire.
I wish, while others would say I plead.
I weep, but there are those who say I am crying.
I want but am afraid to take.
Why do I fear? Why do I cry? why do I plead? What is it that I desire?

A poem is open to interpretation, meaning different forums of insight to every personage that envelops its hidden inspiration. Am I a living poem? Given a sound mind and body to be ravaged by wondering eyes looking for a hint of direction, a calculated give away or even a story book ending.

What I YEARN for is real happiness, not fun for fools that come and go like the wind!
What I WISH is that if I am to be read, let my words speak my soul's desire and not those of the vague at heart!
When I WEEP it's not for my transgressions already relived, but rather those that await me for I have felt guilt's wrath!

And finally what I WANT could not be translated or debated, dialoged or deliberated. For what I want may not be what you look to find for yourself or even profiled to fit at an end.
You see my ending never ends, and just like a poem it does not need to have RYME or REASON, only a moment when time stood still and only your words where left behind.''

-Ephraim Vega

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Dad saved the best for last!

Just wanted to touch on a very important topic for both my family and myself. My father was a diabetic for 30 years or so, and obviously through time he got worse. He went from taking pills in the early going to eventual full blown insulin shot's. I witnessed as my father year after year would inject himself almost too frequently. I watched as this disease over took him and consumed him. Life wasn't as precious to him as it once was. Soon all thing's that should be important were no longer. Life became a ticking time bomb for him, at least that is the way it seemed to us on the outside looking in. He ate what he wanted, when he wanted, and placed his trust in insulin shot's instead of GOD.

The last several years, piece by piece, he began breaking down. Spiritually, emotionally and finally physically. He went through heart surgery and eye surgery several times. All along continuing to eat what he wanted and coining the phrase ''I am going to die no matter if I eat well or not. So I might as well eat what I want''! He lost the use of his kidney's shortly after that. Now he would have to eat what they told him, when they told him and how they told him. From what you already have read, easier said than done. Soon after my father was beginning to loose strength in his legs. He would literally fall down steps, getting out of the car, even getting out of bed. My dad. My teacher. My hero.

He was now the one thing I could never identify him as being, human. He became an old, sick, shade of who he once was handicapped man. Unable to do for himself any longer. A longtime sole proprietor he now had to search for medicare, medicaid and whatever else would cover him so he would not wither and die. After gaining social security status from retirement he would finally be placed on a long list( 5 year minimum) to qualify for a transplant. After humbling himself he gave in to my mother's wishes and left New York for good. It was a sad day for him indeed. My father made fortunes in that city, lost fortunes in that city but most importantly was fortunate to have landed in that city after leaving Puerto Rico at the age of 16.

Now he would follow my mother after so many years of it being the other way around. But he finally gave in. He gave in to the simple fact that pride is the real disease. He placed his trust back in GOD, and in his family. Just under a month ago my dad also got one more thing back. A working kidney. He had successful surgery and has since recovered and even walking on his own again. My dad never stopped being my hero, he just stopped being himself. I believe in GOD. And he does answer prayers. He answered all of our prayers when it came to my dad and much, much more. I wrote this not to dehumanize my father, but rather to help exalt him. Dad I am so, so proud of you. And to those that believe they can only learn so much from there parents, even after 30 years on this earth. My father has saved his greatest teaching's, his final lesson's for last. Love you Dad!