My new avatar, from L to R: my stepmom, my brother-in-law, my older sister (though I am the oldest—she would want me to specify that—and it is her husband on her left), my dad, and me.
It will be my dad’s birthday this coming W, 09-17-14. This photo was taken right before my sister, brother-in-law (the ones in the photo), and I drove back to Florida. It was the last time I visited dad and my stepmom at their place before dad died. They lived in the town of Crowley, LA, about 20 miles west of Lafayette. Well, my other sister (my stepsister, really, but she is like my sister) and her family and my stepmom still live there. This was taken, I think, 12-28-04. Strangely enough, we were in New Orleans the day of the Indian Ocean tsunami, 12-26-04, oblivious to what happened. We got back to my parents’ that night and we were shocked, saddened, by what we saw and heard, yet we were still together and joyful and grateful and just acting like fools, just as always, enjoying each others’ company, laughing at each other and having fun.
There is a lesson in this, now that I think about it: There is always tragedy and malaise in our world, but there is also great beauty, and we who are so fortunate to know that beauty, which many are never exposed to, we give witness to that beauty’s potential by empathizing, supporting others in their moments of need, even by simply being grateful for what we have. This is why we should focus on the beauty in our lives. Yes, we should be mindful of the suffering and pain, yet also mindfully certain of our foundation of joy and laughter and love. In those times when we share others’ pain, our foundation is our source of strength and love that alleviates their pain. This is the greatest gift we share, since it reveals, to those in need, oft-unknown possibilities. Even in the moment of shared pain, frustration, anger, mind-numbing despair, with our source of certainty, we are offering the solace of possibilities, thus coming closer to universal oneness. We are, after all, one, one in a world of joy and laughter and love.
Oops, sorry for the depth.
Well, I also saw my dad before he died, while he was in a coma. He did come out of it, briefly, on the morning of my birthday, Saturday, 05-14-2005, to give us the Lotto numbers to play that afternoon. I was at the airport in SF, on my way to Crowley, LA, when I get a call from one of my sisters (the one in the picture), laughing hysterically because the whole family got full throttle Cuban in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), trying to figure out and write down the numbers he was trying to tell them. They were in Crowley’s small hospital’s usually quiet ICU, where there were only non-Cuban Spanish speaking locals, the hospital staff and another family, with their sick relative. Apparently the staff and other patient’s family were all kinda reservedly freaking out, looking at my family like, well, “WTF?” See, my brother-in-law is one of the two town doctors, the usually respectable “Dr. G,” but at that moment he and my family were going bat shit crazy, speaking incomprehensibly loud Cuban Spanish, wildly speaking in tongues at the same time. (I always imagine it as a scene from a Marx Brothers movie. We really are that kind of chaotic crazy, which, yes, many families are, though usually more discreetly.) My dad was having trouble talking, but using sign language he was able to easily convey the first 5 numbers. However, the last number was more difficult for them to figure out, and everyone was screaming out numbers and laughing and just acting like my family always kinda does when we get together. It is our family’s culture. To us it was and is funny because we realize that at times we are loud and crazy and do not make much sense, even to those who speak Cuban Spanish. We still laugh about that incident every so often. Just mentioning “dad’s numbers” brings that moment to mind and a smile to our lips and hearts.
You know, I just realized my dad’s numbers, which I still play regularly (hey, so far I won about $18), were a birthday gift to me, to us.
Just thought of how freaked out my fellow passengers must have been, horrified they were going to have to share the plane with this crazy old guy who looked “normal” but was on his cell phone, laughing, gesticulating up a storm, loudly talking in a language they kinda could figure out, but because he spoke too fast and he mutilated the words, he did not make sense. Sharing a plane with someone who you cannot figure out, especially so soon after 9/11, musta been, at minimum, very uncomfortable, especially since I look and talk like a regular white American man. Well, depending on my mood. Now, my sisters would probably also add that my fellow passengers (Fellow travelers? No, never mind, that will dump us into a whole different rabbit hole I wanna avoid at the moment) might have also been freaking out because of the fucking loud yellow t-shirt I was wearing. My sisters made fun of it incessantly while I was there, and still make fun of it every so often. We are ruthless with each other.
My dad did come out of his coma for just a bit when I was there, when I was alone in the room with him. He wanted to get out of bed. However, my stepmom came in and was able to calm him. He fought her at first (they used to argue every so often, which was kinda funny and touching because we knew they would always make up) but then he quietly acquiesced, closed his eyes, went back to his place in the queue for his next journey. It was the last time I saw them share their love for each other. I just realized it was a gift for me too, since I was the only one in the room with them.
I flew back to SF on 05-17-14 and when I landed I got the call that dad died while I was in flight. I had a rental car, and drove from SFO straight to Sutro Baths, one of my favorite places in SF. I wanted to share it with dad, since I knew he was with me.
Never broke down.
Never felt a sense of loss.
Not even now. I get a little emotional, a mix of love and gratitude.
You know, there are tears and then there are tears. Tears of joy, recalling good times, are a gift, a cleansing, tangible, if physically fleeting gift that reminds us of the greater gift, the strong foundation of love we are rooted in. We are all rooted in it, even if we do not know it. We are, after all, one, one in a world of joy and laughter and love.
As Carly Simon sang, “these are the good old days.” (My version of “Simon Says”: If Carly says it, I believe it.)