Tempus Fugit: April 13, 1973, Fifty Years On…

50 years ago, this guy was President of the United States. Official U.S. Government photo

“I blinked my eyes

and in an instant,

decades had passed.” John Mark Green, Taste the Wild Wonder: Poems

This was the No. 1 song of the week 50 years ago. And it was actually a song I really liked at the time.

It’s late morning here in my corner of Florida on Thursday, April 13, 2023. As I write this on a sunny spring day, I marvel – once again – at the (sobering) fact that 50 years and one month (plus eight days) have passed since I turned 10 back in my original hometown of Miami, Florida.

50 years ago, April 13 fell on a Friday, so – unless it was a Teacher’s Planning Day – I am 100% certain that I was in Mrs. Margo Chambers’ class at Tropical Elementary School in the Westwood Lakes neighborhood of unincorporated Dade County (Miami-Dade County since the 1990s). And, if I remember my daily routine of the time with any degree of accuracy, more than likely I was brushing up on my reading skills as part of a subgroup of students with above-average reading skills.

I don’t remember being terribly retrospective back then, so I wasn’t marveling (as I do now) that just over a year had passed since Mom and I had returned to the U.S. after living in Bogota, Colombia (where most of my mom’s side of the family lived at the time) for almost six years. The move had been unexpected: I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage not long after my ninth birthday in March of 1972, and the doctor in charge of my care told Mom that it might be better if we returned to the States because Colombia’s health care system, as good as it was, still had deficiencies when it came to the care of disabled kids like me.

Back then, my mom was a successful entrepreneur in the hospitality industry; she had co-owned (with her older brother, my Uncle Octavio), a popular and well-regarded restaurant, La Rueda, for a time. After that, she also co-owned or had a stake in two other night spots – a restaurant named La Codorniz (The Quail), and a nightclub called El Tap Musical. I can’t claim that she was rich, cos she wasn’t, but Mom made enough money to rent (not own) a nice apartment in her Aunt Maruja’s apartment building and hire two live-in maids (plus another young woman who picked up and washed our laundry once a week).

Yet, when my pediatrician strongly recommended that we should move back Stateside because the best therapies and support systems for people with cerebral palsy (a condition I don’t like to write about much, to be honest) existed here, Mom did not protest or hesitate. She sacrificed everything – her business aspirations, her place in the Bogota social pecking order, and being close to her parents, siblings, and other relatives – for my sake.[1]

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ― John Banville, The Sea

As I was saying, I doubt that in April of 1973, I thought about the twists and turns my life had taken over the previous year. I focused mostly on improving my English language skills; I read voraciously, and I often chose books that were above my third-grade level.

That Friday in April ’73, I was probably happy. I had a good life in Westchester, a mom who cared and a half-sister who drove me crazy but I loved anyway. I fit in at Tropical Elementary, where I found friends for life. I had moved on from my first heartbreak and met K on the PE field before Turkey Day of ‘72. She was my second girlfriend and I liked her a lot.

Part of my street block in Coral Estates Park as seen on Google Maps in the summer of 1972.

That was when I learned to type on an electric typewriter. Mrs. Chambers had one in her class, a big, heavy, gray Royal that hummed and clacked at the far end of the room. I needed it because my handwriting was a mess. I’m left-handed and my hand would cramp up if I wrote too long. I also liked to make up stories for fun, though I didn’t think of myself as a writer yet. I remember sitting at the typewriter, feeling the keys under my fingers, the words flowing out of me. That was the beginning of something, though I didn’t know it then. That was 50 years ago, and here I am, still typing away.

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

That Friday in April ’73, I was probably happy. I had a good life in Westchester, a mom who cared and a half-sister who drove me crazy but I loved anyway. I fit in at Tropical Elementary, where I found friends for life. I had moved on from my first heartbreak and met K on the PE field before Turkey Day of ‘72. She was my second girlfriend and I liked her a lot.

The house at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue in 2022. I lived here with my mom (and for a time, with my older half-sister, too) from August of 1972 to August of 1977. Image Credit: Google Maps

I had another set of friends who lived close by in Coral Estates Park. They didn’t mix with my Tropical Elementary crowd, mostly because of distance. The only one of my “school friends” who ever came to my place on SW 102nd Avenue was K, my girlfriend. She’d show up once in a while, on a Saturday maybe, and we’d hang out for a few hours. But it was easier for my mom to drive me to her place, depending on her work schedule. And we still had school to deal with, of course.

My Coral Estates Park gang was:

 • Armando “El Bandido” – he was older than me, maybe 10 or 11

 • Luis “Luisito” – same age as Armando; his dad was a doctor who was hardly ever home, but his mom was nice and sometimes asked me to stay for dinner

• Patrick – he was way younger than me (six years!), but he was the first friend I made when I arrived in South Florida in Spring 1972, so he was like a little brother to me[2]

Photo by Diego Ramirez on Pexels.com

Time has been a slippery thing since that Friday in April of ’73. K and I broke up four years later, but we’re still on good terms now, in 2023. I don’t see much of the old gang from Coral Estates Park anymore, not since we moved to East Wind Lake Village – with a detour in Sweetwater while they finished building our place. And Mom’s been gone for almost a decade now. I haven’t set foot in our Westchester house since the summer of ’78, when I stopped by to check on the posters that used to hang in my old room there. Mom had left them behind when we moved out, in a hurry to get into our new townhouse that was supposed to be ready by Christmas. The new owners – who still live there, according to the county website – threw them out eventually, figuring I didn’t want them anymore. My half-sister and I don’t talk either, after years of fighting and bitterness and envy.

[1] I have, in previous Tempus Fugit posts about this chapter of my life, stated that this selfless sacrifice on my mother’s part is also one of the root causes for the estrangement between my half-sister and me. Because that rift was a “disaster in slow motion” and is one of the reasons why I now live in the Tampa Bay area, I don’t want to retell the story of my half-sister’s reaction to Mom’s choice and our return to the States.

[2] This is the same Patrick who grew up to be a Trump supporter and ardent MAGA freak.


Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

One thought on “Tempus Fugit: April 13, 1973, Fifty Years On…

  1. Sometimes we benefit from a look back, at both the good and the bad times that made us who we are today. I think we are better off if we own all of it. Reading this, Alex, I found many parallels in our experiences. My family moved frequently when I was growing up. I had to leave my friends behind every couple of years and always envied kids with roots. I, too, have felt the pain of distance between family members and myself..My late husband and I lived in Miami Beach for seven years when our children were young…I think you live not too far from us now. We live in Charlotte County.

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