Raphael Fernandez

This Is Who I Am

Astoria, USA

Well, where do I start? My name is Raphael Fernandez. I’m a 58 year old gay man living in Astoria starting the second half (the sequel so to speak )of the first half of my life. After I went on disability I figured I would start drawing and painting again. I hadn’t drawn since my early teens. I had to practice a lot before I was happy with what I drew. I do paint pouring art and I’m teaching myself how to draw cartoons and anime. As well as, a side hobby making messenger and tote bags. In whatever spare time I have I write short stories. I live my life on my own terms and so far it’s working. Purple is my favorite color which is why for over 30 years I only use purple ink. This is who I am.



Feb 01, 2022 2 years ago

My brother and I had not spoken to each for about 5 years. All due to an argument that his girlfriend caused. She single-handedly alienated my entire family and my brother. It wasn't until years later when I was officiating at my nephew's wedding that my brother and I spoke again. I told him that I would forgive him for what he put our family through but not forget. It was soon after, that COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It started a pandemic that the world had never seen before. It claimed millions of victims by the time the virus showed any signs of subsiding. Little did we know that one of the victims would be my brother. My brother had been diagnosed with some type of blood disorder that his doctor's claimed would take his life in two years. That was eight years ago. My brother, Joe, had surpassed his “death date” as he called it. He beat those odds only to succumb to COVID-19. It started as just a cough but being a longtime smoker he didn't pay much attention to it. Joe started to exhibit other symptoms besides the cough. Muscle aches, fatigue and vomiting is what made him decide to go to the doctor and be tested. The results were in and although my brother did not get the answer from the doctor that he was hoping for he was prepared for the worst. He was put in quarantine for the next two weeks. His health began to deteriorate as time went on. It was decided that it was in my brother‘s best interest to be sent to another hospital for physical rehab. COVID-19 had weakened him to the point of needing help walking, feeding himself and dressing himself. Many things that most people take for granted. Our entire family helped as much as we could. We all knew that we were ignoring the inevitable, especially when he was moved from the physical rehab hospital to the hospice. They didn't know how much longer he had but they wanted him to be comfortable. It was bad enough that when he was under quarantine nobody was permitted to see him but it was even harder when he was in the hospice. In his weakened state the visits had to be short in order for Joe to get as much rest as possible. To be honest, I preferred the limited visits. It was devastating to see my big brother just wasting away. During this ordeal my brother and I talked. Rather, he talked and I listened. It seemed to me that all he wanted was an ear to bend and a sympathetic heart. I asked him how he felt about knowing that he's going to be dying soon. I expected him to be upset or frustrated. Angry, sad, something. Somehow he was fine with it. He knew it was coming sooner or later and he told me that he didn't have any regrets. There was nothing that he needed to do. Everything he wanted to do in life he did. Joe saw his kids grow up and have their own children, his grandchildren. He got a chance to see his grandchildren grow up and have their children, his great grandchildren. What he said is true. Not too many people get to be around when their great grandchildren are born. I doubted that he was okay with all this going on but the more he and I spoke the more I knew he was being totally honest about how he felt. The only thing he was saddened about was that he wasn't sure if he would be alive to see his youngest daughter, his baby girl, have her first child. Unfortunately, he passed away about two weeks before his last grandchild was born. His last granddaughter, Ava Delilah. Growing up I saw my brother as a certain type of person. A troublemaker, opinionated, arrogant plus a few other choice words. During our many conversations I got to know Joe, the person, not Joe, my brother. I began to understand why he did and said many things while we were growing up. I had truly misjudged him and for that I apologized to him. My brother was very spiritual and believed that everyone had a Guardian Angel. He believed that his was with “El Indio” which translates to “The Indian”. “El Indio”was his Guardian Angel and was to be his guide once he passed. During our conversations I kept thinking about “El Indio” and what it meant to my brother so I decided to draw a picture for him. He was gone before I got a chance to give it to him. At his wake I went up to the casket to pay my respects. I put the picture in the casket with Joe and told him that he now has his guide to show the way. At my nephew's wedding I told my brother that I would forgive him for what he did to the family but not forget. After getting to know my brother with all our talks I got to know the real person. The reasoning behind all his actions are somewhat clear to me although not everything but it was enough to have closure and move on. It was time, to forgive and forget and I'm glad I did it before it was too late. Love you big brother, R.I.P.

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Christmas Renewed

Nov 29, 2018 5 years ago

Christmas was always my mom's favorite holiday. Personally, mine was Halloween and it still is. My mom would make all our favorite Christmas dishes. From roast pig to coquito (spanish egg nog) to meat pies. Making the meat pies was the most fun. Having such a big family we would create an assembly line. Each of us in charge of a specific part of putting the meat pie together. The youngest in the family got the last position since it was the easiest. All they had to do was count all of them and keep track of how many were made. It was usually between 200-300 meat pies. As far as gifts were concerned, most of the living room furniture was taken out because of the abundance of presents. Now, there wasn't much money for decorating. That is until my mother discovered the 99 cents store. She had lights and garland and elves and new ornaments. In fact, our tree had more ornaments than the tree at Rockefeller Center. They dated back to the fifties all the way through the current Christmas. Ornaments of all shapes and sizes and themes. Of course the main attraction was a porcelain baby Jesus that had been in our family since my parents got married back in 1948. Unfortunately, it was stolen during that Christmas. It stayed covered under the tree until Christmas Eve and would be uncovered only after my parents danced to the family Christmas song, “El Burrito de Belen”. That's when the festivities would start. None of us knew that the Christmas of 1997 would be the last one my mom would be celebrating with us. Or that it would be 5 years before we celebrated Christmas again. Our mom fell ill the following year and wound up in ICU on a respirator in August of 1998. We were close friends with our local Assembly Woman and she arranged for one of us to be with our mom 24/7. My mom was never alone. We knew she wouldn't be leaving the hospital. She passed 10 days before her birthday and 3 months before their 50th anniversary. With her gone my family was not in the mood to celebrate Christmas. We didn't feel right doing it without our mom. Although we exchanged presents there were no lights and decorations. All of us had agreed that we'll know when it was time to celebrate again. For 5 years this went on. Until I came across something that let me know that it was time. In the store window was a porcelain baby Jesus almost identical to the one that was stolen. I bought it and snuck it under the tree. I put a note on it for my older sister to find. It simply read “It's time we celebrate again”. Nobody objected. This time around we felt it was right to put up all the lights and the decorations. Before my mom passed she told my other sister “Don't worry. All of you will be ok.” All i can say is, like always, she was right. We were all going to be ok.

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