For my first 21 years, HOME was School Street, North Stelton, Piscataway Township, New Jersey. Then came wives, kids, jobs, careers, and other life adventures in different towns, cities, and states. There was no place like HOME. Over the next 50+ years, I have tried to keep HOME in focus. I proudly wear tee-shirts from Piscataway High School, New Brunswick High School, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Devils NHL Hockey team. I have ball caps from Rutgers and from the USS New Jersey, America’s most decorated battle ship.
Now I am as far from HOME as I’d ever want to be. The climate is different. The language is different. The government is different. The culture is inexplicably different. The people are different. But I have come HOME…or a casa.
Retirement means different things to different people. Some folks travel. Some have a vacation home to vacation in. Some move to Florida or wherever their kids and grandkids live. Then there are those whose failing health has forced them to convalescent or retirement homes. Age does take its toll. But not on all of us seniors.
I enjoy writing about things I’ve seen and done here in Central
America since I first came here in 1999 with a church group to help build houses for families who lost theirs in Hurricane Mitch and the earthquakes in 2002. I relish relating tales about my family, my dog, and our chickens. I live in a place that lacks just about everything you all think you couldn’t live without. I therefore have learned how to appreciate what I have more, I think, than if I had remained in the U.S. I write about my daughter Adrianita, the fun we have together and her struggle to get used to having a father. I write about the amazing woman I married who loves me beyond verbal description. I write about the simple things we have and do, the trials presented by nature and the culture that we struggle to overcome, and how these adventures strengthen us.
This afternoon is an example. At 1:30 Margarita reminded me that the soccer game between Fútbol Club Barcelona and Athletic Club Bilbao was on TV. This would have meant nothing to me a few years ago and it probably doesn’t strike a chord with you now. At stake was the Royal Cup and the championship of Spain. Spain, that country just behind Greece in the race to insolvency. Spain, home of the conquistadores who took over most of the hemisphere treating the indigenous folks rather badly back in the 16th century and didn’t let up until they were kicked out in the 19th.
But it was good to relax in my recliner with my daughter and wife cheering for Barcelona as they scored three goals in the first half and shutting out Bilbao by the end of the game. Even when our TV lost the signal during half-time we had fun.
Adriana was frightened by what was described to me as a big animal that entered the kids’ part of the house and hid itself somewhere in the bathroom. Margarita immediately enlisted the brave warrior, Duke the Wonder Dog, to hunt the critter down. He sniffed and pawed through a pile of coloring books and toys and found nothing. The girls insisted something was in there. I tossed everything out that was on the floor and told them there was nothing living there. Then I went into the kids’ room. Adriana was behind me. On the jalousie window I saw it.
It was a dark gray blending as best it could with the frosted glass. A good-sized lizard with a tail that looked longer than its head and body. Adriana ran out shrieking. The lizard wasn’t impressed. I went to do what I knew not to do, grab him by the tail, and a piece came off in my hand. He jumped to the floor behind some shelves. I moved them and he fled to the corner next to the chest of drawers. By then, Duke was at my side. I moved the chest and the lizard had all four feet on the wall with his tail on the floor. I did the foolish thing a second time and got my second piece of tail in three minutes. The lizard went behind the chest while Duke just stared as if he were asking himself what his ancestors would have done.
I moved the chest and he moved to the next obstacle along the wall, a net bag of dirty clothes hanging from a nail by a shoe lace. I called Margarita for the broom. She handed it to me the long way letting me know she was afraid. I goosed the lizard up the wall and forced him to drop into the bag. I took the bag outside intending to set it free, but it had burrowed itself beneath Adriana’s shirts. Only the tail showed. Duke was barking like crazy and we had to chain him. I knew it would be thrice stupid to try to pull it out by the tail so I dumped the clothes on the patio. The lizard recognized his release papers and took off down the driveway.
The signal was still lost when we returned to the living room. I decided to take Duke for a walk and saw the black clouds to the northeast. Heavy drops began as we returned to the house. The signal was back so we watched the rest of the game.
As I sat waiting for the final signal so I could see the ceremony, the cup, and Prince Felipe, I watched Adriana cheating at pick-up sticks on the floor, Luís on the sofa with his finger longing to go up a nostril, and Juan teasing his little sister. I realized how much I had and how it has felt like HOME since Margarita entered my life. God has blessed me much in my latter years. How many men over 75 have it so good.
I’ve determined to spend as much time and energy as I have to enjoying my family and allowing them to enjoy me. We’ve still got a few legal things to accomplish. We’re still waiting for Adriana’s adoption to be completed and I’ll be working on the last pieces of getting my citizenship over the summer. We dream of a home of our own with a piece of land to farm. There’s a small house around the corner going for $28,000 that has a nice piece of property with it. I wish I had the cash or the means to earn it here. We just put everything in God’s hands. If it happens, it happens. If not, we’ve still got this leaky-roof house to keep us safe and happy. HOME is where your heart is. Mine is wrapped around Margarita and Adriana.