Ashes to Ashes

A loved one went to the hospital for surgery this morning.  A dear friend’s 45-year old son took his life.  My grandson in Casper, WY hopes I can come visit him soon and I had to explain to him that I can’t afford the trip and it will take some time to save for it.  I also had to tell him that we need to get Margarita a visa and that will take time too.  First she has to recuperate.  Meanwhile, the ashes from the fires that burn the leavings in the sugar cane fields continue to fall between the tiles and onto our bed, the covered dishes and silver, the furniture, my open laptop, and the floor.

I look forward to the tomorrow that is not promised me.  Still, being alone without Margarita and the kids has put me in a bad mood.  My puppy’s wet nose on my showered and naked leg has me shouting at him to go away.  The late hour after an early rise after a long and mostly sleepless night leaves me with tired eyes but no desire to retire.

How do you measure missing people?  Your children and grandchildren?  Old friends you haven’t seen since your youth but have renewed relationships with thanks to the Internet?  Old people reminisce with their family peers and those friends that are still around that can function.

None of my friends here can relate to “the Colony”, to riding a school bus, to anti-semitism, to high school sports and dances, dating, back-seat making out, country music, the Brooklyn or L.A. Dodgers, making a record, being on TV game shows, JFK, MLK, or RFK.

It’s a two-way street.  I know nothing of their presidents other than the most recent and current ones, their civil war experiences, how they seem to be related to each other through “informal” marriages and dalliances yet are devout Christians…but I can learn because their lives have been shorter than mine.

My weight continues to climb.  Even after a sick night and little food the next day.  Nobody’s home with me so I bought a rotisserie chicken at the super market then went back to Chalchuapa for a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream.  The chicken will last a few days.  The ice cream didn’t come close to satisfying any craving or “high” I thought I might get from treating myself…to more fat.

It’s funny how I’ve come to depend on Margarita for so many things.  Not washing my clothes and creating meals from foods that are strange to her.  But being able to lay in bed at night and talk to her about the real things in our lives.  Today, not yesterday.  Neither hers nor mine.   Yesterdays are dead.  Tomorrows are blind.  It’s all about today.  Without her here, without her off-key praise songs filling the house and patio, without the pitty-pat of her tortilla making, without her sergeant’s voice giving directions to one child or another, without her soft breathing for my lullaby, I can’t sleep.

I’ve prayed a lot this week.  I don’t think I’m a good pray-er.  I pray like I talk.  No high-falutin’ words.  “Father God, please bless so-and-so who is in great pain today because of such-and-such.  Please, if it’s Your will, heal so-and-so who is suffering from dengue.  Lord, open the heart of so-and-so who is so angry because of certain events.” 

I can’t pray for more than twenty minutes without running out of thank-yous, I praise yous, and petitions for others.  Or I start repeating myself.  That’s partly why I don’t go to every nightly service at our church.  Praying the same prayers becomes a ritual and I don’t do rituals. 

I prayed for a bunch of my kids here in town last night.  I had taken photos and videos of the CDI Christmas party (and learned how to make photos from video frames as well) and wanted to treat some of the kids I’m particularly close to and their families with copies.  I put them in a folder and went to several houses to distribute them.  With each youngster accepting this little gift a flood of memories drenched me in love.  But there are the stories behind our relationship that made them special to me and me to them.  So, when I finally sacked out last night I thanked God for these little children who came unto me and I was blessed with the opportunity to bless them.  I asked God to keep them from harm, to give them wisdom and opportunity to have good lives, to make them know they are loved.  I always ask for my own wisdom to grow so that I can find ways to help make those things happen for them.

I finished up my errands with Dilson, a first grader, “helping” me find a child’s house.  He started out with a pocket full of firecrackers and a box of matches.  He just stopped periodically and lit one.  He’d toss it.  It would pop or fizz and we’d laugh.  His cousin Ingris is the mother of our niece Naomi.  Naomi loves me and comes to me whenever she sees me.  She’s two and talks well enough for me to understand her.  When I finally had to go home, Dilson hugged me and Naomi kissed me. 

So, for the record of last evening: Yanci hugged me, Karen really hugged me and we exchanged kisses on the cheek, Yesica held my hand through the window, Dilson hugged me and Naomi kissed me.  I told God I was grateful for their love and I am.

These are things I’ll have to share with Margarita when I see her tomorrow.  There are lots more things that we’ll share as God grants me years and the health to enjoy them with her.  I think more about that than I think about anything I might be missing by not being in the U.S., still having my beautiful red Dodge pickup, and having the money to visit my kids or go to class reunions.

It is enough that I can still recall the mourning mother as a quiet little girl and teen-ager.  It is enough that Duke and I can watch the local softball teams play and in my mind I can still run down that fly ball that the left-fielder couldn’t get to.  It is enough to watch a Chet Atkins video and look at the photos of the two of us together.  It is enough to smell a neighbor’s cooking fire and know that Margarita has a gas stove and a plancha to cook her meals and tortillas and she’ll never have to inhale smoke again.  I think I’m ready for bed now.  Good night.

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