Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chapter 35: Two Calls. One Thing.

Mom calls me and for once I answer. Things are better, brighter, I'm ready to catch up. 

She invites me to call Cuba with her. I giggle OMG yes, thank you so much, I add.

First we call Olgita and Tia Lourdes.

This is a condolence call, a "what can we do to help" call, and most of all a call to send a big hug to someone we love. 

She answers and I can hear the heaviness in her voice. Grief does that, it weighs everything down. Your hands are too heavy to move, your mind both full and empty and completely locked like stuck gears.

A few minutes and tears into the call Mom asks Olgita what we can do in her father's memory. He was important part of our family, how can we honor him?

Olgita doesn't answer, so Mom continues.

Can we donate somewhere in his name? Start a scholarship in his name? Or something like that?

Olgita doesn't answer. Mom offers more. 

Papi had masses said here, in Spanish and English. What else would he want done in his memory?

Yes, she says, like snapping a puzzle piece. There is one thing. Teach Barbarita English. Speak to her in English.

Of course, of course Mom and I both agree, of course we will, Barbarita is Olgita's toddler aged niece, the delightful little girl who played bride with my Mom and proclaimed my iPad to be a mirror. 

From there Tita and Olgita talked about medical things and I stared into space, considering English to be an invisible ladder that would help Barbarita climb from this small city, from this small island, off to the bigger world. That was how it was in Cuba before Castro, that's how it's been since the Louisiana Purchase and the Texas Revolution and the Americanization of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Ten minutes later we call my cousin, the one with Abuela's eyes.  She sounds genuinely surprised to hear from us and laughs with joy.  I had a question for her, a question about my younger cousin with that cool spinning diamond studded dollar sign belt buckle.  Every day she has to bring him food at school because the food there is so bad.

 I want to send something, I can't imagine not having goldfish and uncrustables and cheezits and baggies of grapes and carrots for lunchboxes.  What can we send my hungry cousin? What about beef jerky? What about .....?

Before we can suggest sending another single thing for my pizza eating teenage Cuban cousin, his grandmother cuts in.

He wants One Thing. A baseball glove.

He can't eat that, I laugh, but OK. OK.  Of course he does, what else would a red-white-and-blue blooded Cuban boy want?

 If we had called Cuba in 1930, 1940, 1950, he would have asked for the same thing, I'm sure. 

After communism, after years of isolation, even now as the Castros are cautiously and carefully fading away, some of the best things about Cuba haven't changed at all.