The Dolphins lost a big fan today. My mom, Hilda Salguero, passed at precisely 4:59 this afternoon. She would have been 84 years old on Sunday.
You've perhaps read on this blog the past couple of days that I was out with an "injury." Well, that is partially true. I've been suffering from a broken heart.
After I was finished with a radio show Monday evening, I called my mom with the intention of checking in and telling her I was going home to watch the Hurricanes. Normally sharp and cheerful, she was unresponsive on the phone. I knew right away something was wrong. When I arrived at her apartment, I knew it was bad as she had fallen and was dazed.
She had suffered a massive stroke from which she did not recover.
I know this is a football blog and I hesitated to post these facts on here. I know you come here for news. You come for entertainment. You come for analysis. You come because you enjoy my work. And some of you come simply because you love to hate me.
No matter the reason, all of you come here to read what I have to say. And I need to say this:
All I am and what I do is directly a result of my mother and father. And even as they are now both departed from this world, the reason I am here is because of them.
In 1967, my mother and father went to the Havana Airport to bring me to the United States. It wasn't about them. They could adapt to a new government. But they just didn't want me growing up in a terrible communist dictatorship. That day at the airport that regime showed its colors even as we were boarding our flight to Miami. They checked me in, and then they told my parents, both of whom had exit papers, that only one would be permitted to board the Eastern Airlines jet. Only two of three Salgueros, they had decided, would be allowed to leave that day and for a long time to come.
My dad stayed behind. And my mother brought me to this country. She didn't know the language. She didn't have a cent. All she knew is she was saving me for a better life. And that was the theme of her existence for many years after that.
She worked two jobs so I could be enrolled in private elementary school.
She saved for a coat to wear during New York's harsh winters, but used the money to buy me a TV instead. I learned to speak English watching that tiny black-and-white TV.
When my dad was allowed to come to this country in 1970, he came home to a nice, furnished New York apartment -- nothing grand, but respectable.
My mom never graduated high school. When I came home with homework I didn't comprehend, she couldn't help me. But she would encourage me to read the problem through over and over. She would pray I would get it. And most of the time, that worked.
She woke up at 4 a.m. every day to walk me to a sitter. Then she'd take a bus and two trains to work. She'd get home around 7 p.m. and start the routine all over again the next day. One time, when I was 7, the sitter had taken me grocery shopping with her kids. While her kids didn't carry any of the groceries home, she forced me to carry two one-gallon milk jugs -- one in each arm.
Later that night when I complained to my mom that my arms hurt, she asked me why. When I told her, she went looking for the sitter to confront her and curse her out.
I was always the smallest kid in my class because I skipped second grade due to some higher test scores. This one kid picked on me constantly and I became afraid of school. My mom asked me why and when I told her, she took me to school the next day, found the kid, pushed him up against a wall and warned him not to ever pick on me again. She also gave the kid a note with her name and told him to tell his parents what had happened.
The kid's mom, a strapping giant woman who dwarfed my mom, showed up at school the next day as did my mother. I'm not exactly sure what transpired between them, but for some reason that bully stopped picking on me after that. In fact, for a while he became kind of my bodyguard, keeping all the older boys from picking on me.
Oh, and by the way, I didn't need a body guard very long. My mom took me home after her confrontation and enrolled me in boxing. She warned me never to allow myself to get bullied again, otherwise, she said, she would whip me and then search out the bully to allow him to whip me.
Never had that issue again.
The Dolphins were my mom's team. She loved them because she loved me. I once explained to her that when the team won, my job was easier. The players are friendlier. The stories are generally better. Everyone is more cooperative.
So she rooted hard for the aqua and orange. She watched every game, partly, she said, hoping for a glimpse of me in the press box. We'd talk after every game and she'd either complain about the plays and players that led to a defeat or celebrate those that brought the victory. The last couple of years, she told me she couldn't watch some games all the way through because the ebb and flow of the action was too much and caused her chest pains.
She loved Jay Fiedler because, she would say, he was such a fighter. She loved Ricky Williams because I explained what he is like and she decided he is his own man. That is something to be admired, she would say. Last year, she decided Ronnie Brown was also among her favorites because he triggered wildcat and she recognized it was different and bold. And she loved different and bold.
My mom would have been 84 years old on Sunday. The scheduling was troubling to me because her birthday coincided with the Dolphins' regular-season opener at Atlanta. It wasn't a great choice for me because I knew I would have to miss one or the other. I had decided to miss my mom's birthday, because she understood work is work.
Now, I'm going to miss both.