My Story


Photo Galleries

Body for Life

Ideas &


Contact Me

Please Sign Our Guestbook

Design & Graphics by

Investigative Solutions

Luz Marina Zuluaga
The "luz" at the End of the Tunnel
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2002

It was December, just about two years ago, but I always seem to have a little trouble with the time. It seems odd that a time period can feel like forever while seeming to have begun just yesterday.

Christmas was coming, and I intended that it be a good one, although it is hard to enjoy Christmas as a family without the children's mom. For me it promised to be a Holiday Season I'd just have to get through.

Margie, a friend of ours from Colombia had been telling me for quite some time that I should hire a nanny or a maid. Women, especially Latin women, do not seem to be able to imagine a man raising children and managing a home by himself. Margie called to say she had a friend who had just recently arrived in Naples and needed a place to stay. She asked me to consider taking her in to help around the house.

Although we were supposed to be discussing something akin to a business relationship, I noted that for some reason or other, words like cute, sweet, gorgeous . . . kept creeping into Margie's conversation.

It was a Friday, Margie was anxious to try and find her friend a place to stay before the weekend, so I agreed to drive into town and meet them at a Mobil Station.

I remember the date, the location, the time of day, the dress Luz wore, the color of her eyes, how quiet she was, how uncomfortable she looked, and that impish crooked smile. . . it seems curious that I don't have a clue how Margie was dressed that day.

I do remember noticing that Margie looked uncommonly like a cat that had eaten something she wasn't supposed to.

Luz, whose name means "light" in Spanish, was born in Medellin, Colombia on New Years Day, twenty years before I met her. She had just moved to Naples from Miami to be closer to her Aunt, she liked Naples, she wanted to stay, but she needed a place to live.

She seemed to be very nice, Margie gave her rave reviews and Margie insisted that the kids would be better off with a woman around. I had my reservations - I could see that Luz could bring a world of problems to my house, but she agreed not to have men spend the night in her room, and she promised not to smoke in the house or drink too much.

As I write that now, it seems wonderfully amusing.

I didn't really think I needed help, but it's a big house, with plenty of room. I asked Luz how she felt about children and that funny crooked smile started throwing light around all over the place.

When I took her to meet the kids, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but it was immediately apparent that Luz and children were made for each other. That was a Friday night, she stayed, and we moved her in that weekend.

It was strange to be around Luz. She was always happy, always cheerful; Luz is one of those people who can manage to see something good in everything and everyone. She did have trouble with one thing though - she had not come prepared to have a man make dinner for her!

Well, the fact is, I like to cook, I am good at it, and it is my home - I felt like cooking so I insisted. I didn't realize that culturally, and according to her life's experience, everything about that concept was completely, and totally wrong.

I thought I'd made her mad, because once the dishes were done, she disappeared. It was early, we'd just met and I thought we'd have some time to talk a bit once the kids were in bed. I turned around and Luz was gone.

I wasn't annoyed, or anything even vaguely like that - it just struck me as a little odd that she had vanished that way. I had no idea at the time that little Miss "Luz y luz" was going to spend the next few years of my life showing me just how "odd," odd could be.

I remember that night like it was yesterday. I sat at the table, in the quiet of the evening and had a glass of wine. I remember the wine, an inexpensive White Zinfandel, and the crystal wine glass. I remember wondering how old that glass was, and what had become of the rest of the set.

I remember thinking that one glass is no more intelligent, capable or durable than the next; sometimes survival is just a matter of luck.

Anyway, me being me, I got up the following morning intending to go right on asserting myself around my house . . . it was Saturday, and on Saturday mornings I make breakfast. It is my habit to make an elaborate breakfast, but I will confess that I got up a little earlier, and got a little more carried away with it, than has been my usual practice.

I made Eggs Benedict with a Hollandaise Sauce that never saw the inside of a jar, and a French toast sort of concoction that will hurt you. Huge slabs of homemade bread dipped in French vanilla cream, eggs and spices, then fried golden brown with real, genuine, honest-to-goodness maple syrup. A fruit medley, milk and juice - delivered to our new houseguest as breakfast in bed by a troop of little blonde servers!

I let them deliver it, so I didn't get to see the look on her face, but I will say she still looked a little shocked when I collected the plates and things a while later. As was the case with dinner, she ate it all - every last bite.

Yessiree, I will definitely do things my way in my house - I guess I showed her!

Luz had a few things to show me too. Somehow, by the time I had picked up her things at her Aunt's and delivered them to her, she had manage to wash, fold, sort and organize and rearrange pretty much everything in the house. My kids have always been great kids, with wonderful attitudes and willing help, but she had them "rockin and a rollin" - when I walked in the house, there was a lot of giggling and laughing going on.

That first weekend, Luz had an issue of priority to deal with. She wanted me to help her locate a church - not just any church but a Pentecostal church. It wasn't even that that simple, there are lots of Pentecostal churches, Luz wanted to find a specific Pentecostal church affiliated with the Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Latinoamericana (IPUL), or in English, the United Latin American Pentecostal Church.

She had been referred to this church by her church in Miami. She had some clues to help me in a box she had under the bed - a box that held clues and answers about a lot of things.

It was just an ordinary box, and the ragged looking Bible in it certainly wasn't a new thing to me, but everything in her box related to religion. Books, tapes, CD's, endless handwritten notes, recordings of spiritual lectures . . . everything. Looking into that box was like looking into her life - full, focused and completely dedicated to the church.

Naturally, being a detective by profession, and having heard a bit more than I'd liked about characters like David Koresh and Jim Jones, I resolved to make it a point to find out what sort of religion it was that she was so wrapped up in. This young lady was going to be making my kid's Kool-Aid, if you know what I mean.

I soon discovered how serious she was.

My first clue was when we called the Pastor, Fernando Moya to let him know she had arrived safely from Miami and found a place to stay. It was getting late, and I felt disinclined to call anyone after 10PM on a Saturday night, but she insisted and I felt pretty sure we'd get an answering machine so we called.

The phone was answered by Pastor Moya's wife, Merly, and it was clear that she was much relieved to have heard from Luz.

When you attend a church that has a membership of more than 5000, you don't expect to get a Pastor on the phone like that, let alone have them know who you are and be worried about you, especially when they haven't even met you yet. Like everything involving Luz, things just seemed to get curioser and curioser.

My next clue was our Sunday Movie Matinee - we sat down to spend Sunday afternoon watching movies I had rented. No sooner had Jason murdered his first teenager than Luz wanted to watch something else. I try to be easy to get along with, "OK, no horror movies."

Luz, who doesn't wear slacks, bathing suits, makeup or much in the way of jewelery, wasn't to keen on semi-clothed bodies either. "OK, no nudity." I suppose it almost goes without saying . . . "OK, no violence," . . . "OK, no profanity." Finally, Luz disappeared in disgust saying, "Meester Beeel, you put many garbage in your children's minds."

"Jeremy, am I missing something here, or did I just get spanked by our twenty year-old houseguest?" The bratty teenager could have at least pretended that he wasn't amused.

As I thought all that over, I had the clearest picture of the sober look she'd had on her face as she solemnly agreed, just two days previously, not to behave like a drunken sleaze around my kids. Truthfully, I felt a bit foolish, but I subsequently learned that my wholly absurd efforts to "restrict" her behavior were a big part of the reason that her church and family accepted the idea of her living in a home with an unmarried man.

Anyway, I am not quite sure how it happened, or when it happened, but the next thing I knew, I had the distinct impression that I wasn't running things anymore.

It happened overnight - Luz didn't capture, or conquer or . . . she just sort of waltzed right in and picked up children's hearts as if they were scattered about on the floor.

Little kids are easy. Jeremy was a lot older, a lot more mature and a lot more emotionally affected by the events of our lives than the munchkins. I worried about Jeremy; we have always been close, but sometimes a person can hurt in places you cannot reach to help. Sometimes people can hurt in places where they shouldn't even have places.

Jeremy, who had been the happiest, smilingest and easiest kid to get along with of any child I've ever known seemed to have grown up all at once. To me, that wasn't a good thing and I was more than a little concerned that Jeremy might not like the idea of having a woman around. Especially one with her own peculiar way of doing things.

Jeremy didn't resist Luz, and it certainly wasn't a matter of resentment, he was just reserved. It wasn't uncommon for Jeremy to go for days without saying much of anything, but before long, she had him talking and smiling.

Of course, he was a teenager and she was an attractive young lady. I would have been concerned if he hadn't been interested in her.

As things turned out, I had that figured out all wrong too.

Over the next couple of weeks, everything settled down quite comfortably, mostly because my mother had long ago taught me the secret to getting along with women. "Bill," she said, "It's not rocket science, just ask them what they want and do that."

Things went really well until the night that Megan disappeared. It was the middle of the night and I thought I heard noises coming from the children's rooms so I got up to check on them. Dook and Ryan were dead to the world, as only a child can be, but the wad of covers in the middle of Megan's bed was empty. She gets up a lot at night though, so I wasn't concerned - at first.

I walked thru the house turning lights on as I went, expecting to find Megan around every corner. I was getting a little worried, but the doors were all locked and Baron, our large economy size German Shepherd hadn't made any noise - and neither had any wannabe burglars he would surely have eaten. It was a puzzle so I got the kids up to help me look thru closets and under beds.

Finally, we found her, or rather she found us when she and Luz got out of bed to see what all the commotion was about. I had assumed that Luz would have locked her bedroom door, so it never occurred to me that Megan could be there, but that's where she was.

After that. Megan always went to bed in her own bed, but most nights she'd get up and go crawl into bed with Luz.

I personally believe that children should sleep in their own beds, but I also believe that "being the boss" means knowing when to mind your own business. There is a profound difference between being "controlling," and keeping things under control.

Things really got whacky at Christmas, I saw something I had never seen in my life and would never have believed, had I not seen it myself.

Luz had come to Naples from Miami and most of her family were there, so she spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with them. We were scheduled to drive to Miami and pick her up late that afternoon.

When my children got up Christmas morning, they looked at their presents, and those they'd bought for Luz, and decided that they wanted to wait until she was home with us to open them. Have you ever seen children get up Christmas morning to find packages under the tree and decide that they'd rather not open them yet? Frankly, it would never have occurred to me that any child could stand to wait.

It was actually Dook's idea, but there was no flurry of objections, so we took a vote. I voted first - I suggested that we open the presents from Santa and leave family presents 'til later. As much I liked Dook's gesture, I didn't want any of the kids to feel guilty if they didn't want to wait.

I was out voted - unanimously.

I was surprised, totally surprised, and I was amazed that children could choose to do that. As I made breakfast, I kept expecting someone to suggest that maybe they could open "just this one," or "that one," but Megan was the baby and her resolve wasn't cracking - it was real clear that Megan wanted to wait for her "Luz-y-luz."

I really can't begin to explain why I was so proud of them.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could have that kind of impact on a family in less than a month.



Where to start

Your Finances

Wayfarer Chronicles


Other Resources