Friday, May 21, 2010


Contrary to popular belief, I named and started this blog long before anyone said anything about a freaking superhero. (My oldest entries have been purged for personal reasons.) In fact, the blog's name has nothing to do with anything with that line of dialogue. Superhero Lunchbox refers to a project I've had in the works for years - a series of lunchboxes depicting my real-life superheroes: my grandmother, my mother, the women who have inspired me and helped shape me. Superheroes.

I come from a big family. I have 16 first cousins. I know all of them. We never needed outside friends, because there were always more than enough cousins to play with. B was always the best of all our cousins. Having been abandoned by her parents at a young age, B lived in our house. While our grandparents were B's guardians, my parents also took her under their wings. When we went to the movies, B came along. When we went to the beach, B was with us. At Christmas, there were presents under the tree for B. She was always more like a sister than a cousin. The best big sister anyone could dream of. B was the most fearless kid I'd ever seen. She'd jump down a whole flight of stairs, pick herself up, dust herself off, and walk away. We used to joke that she should become a stunt woman. B loved anything physical, and preferred to cartwheel her way down the block, rather than walk it. When a large group of cousins got together - sometimes 7 or 8 of us at a time - we'd often play "I dare B to -." I never saw her refuse or chicken out on a dare. She's taste anything, make any prank phone call, steal anything from any shop, ring anyone doorbell. She'd also squeeze herself into the tightest spaces, climb anything, and hold her breath for a ridiculously long time. When she was 9, my sister was 8 and I was 5 she concocted the most daring plot, ever: a seemingly fullproof plan to sneak down at night and unwrap every gift under our grandmother's Christmas tree, find out who was getting what, and then re-wrap them without leaving a trace. The plot, of course, failed. Children are not great at rewrapping gifts. But the story has become the stuff of family legend. Once, B got hit by a car and ended up with a broken arm. Do you remember how cool it was to have a cast when you were a kid? This clinched it - she was absolutely, positively the coolest person any of us knew.

When I was a kid, B was my personal Superhero.

In August 2008 B was diagnosed with stage 4 brain and lung cancer, and given four months to live. In typical fashion her response was, "Dying? Get the fuck out of here." Four months turned into six months turned into almost two years. Two weeks ago she had a grand mal seizure and was induced into a protective coma from which it was questionable if she would ever wake up. She did wake up. She woke up and spoke and asked for food, and tried to walk and asked when she could go home.  She ate milk duds and drank a chocolate shake. We spoke on the phone. I told her I loved her. I told her she was my sister. I told her I wanted to see her. She said, "I love you, too, baby. Yes, come visit." I had plans to cook up a big, New York style  Puerto Rican feast - the sort of food she can't get in Los Angeles, and take it down with me. Food, after all, is how my people show affection. Two days later, as I made travel plans, she fell into a coma and became completely unresponsive. The amazing medical team at Cedar Sinai told her son that there was nothing else they could do, and that the end had really and truly come. They said the time had come to move B to a hospice. B's brother - my cousin, P - refused. He didn't want his sister dying in a strange place. He moved her to his own apartment, where a hospice nurse is stationed. When I spoke to P he said, "I won't have her die alone. I'll be with her every minute. I won't have my baby sister die with strangers." B is 47 years old.

Tonight I'll fly down to L.A. How does one say goodbye to a Superhero?


Deep Dish said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin, but thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. Please know that you and B are in my thoughts.

TheWeyrd1 said...

That is so touching...and sad. I had to say goodbye much the same way when my dad was dying of oral cancer. Although we're pretty sure he died of brain cancer in the end. It's good that you have such wonderful memories to review when the sadness comes... It will help.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most touching postings I have ever read. The only thing I will share, from my personal experience with saying goodbye to a ' superhero' is, Superheros never really die, they just continue growing in statue.

good bless you and your hero