Like many South Floridians of his time, Emilio Alvarez’s story starts in Cuba, moves to New York, then goes through an old Miami high school. Recently, time encouraged Alvarez to move from his parents’ home to his current North Miami apartment.
“They’re getting older so they can’t care for me,” said the 58-year-old Alvarez, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy. Also, Rosa Alvarez, 75, has her hands full, dealing with arthritis and 79-year-old Emilio Alvarez Sr.’s Alzheimer’s.
Umberto Alvarez (no relation) of Alvarez Suarez Support., which provides services to the developmentally disabled, described his client of over a decade as “unbeatable.”
“He’s not going to be beaten down. No disability is going to take away his heart and desire to be independent.”
Which is why going into an institution wasn’t an option, as far as Emilio Alvarez was concerned, and why he says things like “I want to bungee jump, but I haven’t gotten the chance to yet. But I will before I go.”
Alvarez spends days in his Section 8 apartment consuming media on his iPad, watching television or listening to old school music. He misses the days of hanging out on a corner while a boom box thumped out the rhythms of the day. Although Barbra Streisand’s “Guilty” album tops the vinyl albums stacked on the right side of his living room étagère bookcase, “Donna Summer is my idol,” Alvarez said.
Above the vinyl and CDs is a senior year picture of Alvarez, Miami Edison Class of 1980. When he came to the United States with his parents 12 years earlier from Cuba, the family first lived in New York before a grandfather in Miami bought a large house, Alvarez said.
“We had 42 people in one house,” he recalled. “It had eight bedrooms, but it still wasn’t enough. Some people slept in a closet.”
Such claustrophobia isn’t a problem in Alvarez’s apartment, which might have a little too much space.
Alvarez would appreciate a dining set with four chairs and a table to replace the two plastic chairs and table currently occupying the dining area. He also would like a bedroom set comprised of a bed, a chest of drawers and one nightstand.
“I’ve got to keep faith in God,” Alvarez said. “I know He’s given everything to me. I don’t believe in religion. So far, He’s never failed me and He’s not going to, either.”
David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook