Calzadilla Retires

Erasmo Calzadilla

Photo from my "Electrico" community on the outskirts of Havana.

Calzadilla is an old pain who passes for my father, though I’ve never pushed myself to get a DNA test.  He’s a former soldier who reflects all the quirks of that occupation.

For an instant characterization, I’d say that he consists of the same defects and virtues of his commandant.  However the home that we share in the Electrico community, [on the outskirts of the capital] assigned to him by the army, hardly resembles Fidel’s “Point Zero” residence.

I began my conflicts with this man as an adolescent, the same time that I began forming my own identity, a process that turned out being more difficult than climbing the Himalayas.

While he worked and spent long hours away from home, I could endure his occasional presence; but nowadays he’s always around, like a dark shadow moaning about the lack of attention his orders receive.

Now, he has signed up as a leader of the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and we receive the visits of many semi-deaf and hollering veterans like himself.  He also never misses the daily political program or a soap opera (preferably the trashy ones) turned up to full volume in the middle of the living room.  Thus, my despair over leaving has returned.

The problem is that I don’t know where to go.  I don’t have enough money to rent a place, much less buy a house illegally or pay to leave the country.  So, I’ve begun to think about the micro-brigade housing construction movement.

Almost all my friends (those who haven’t already emigrated) are in the same situation, but none of them have made such a drastic decision.  They prefer to throw up their hands and live with their parents versus spending nearly ten years in construction without having the least idea of how long it will take to earn the right to their own apartment.

No no, but no, no, no, on second thought. I would rather deal with my father, isolated in my concrete bunker and practicing self-control through breathing, than to waste a decade of my life behind a pick and shovel along with other desperate evictees.

Plus, maybe it’s possible that my father —now distanced from the alienating practices of a military unit— is a man capable of changing?   It’s true that with 800 pesos a month for retirement (about $40 USD) and having remained blindfolded for more than 50 years, it will be difficult for him to see again.  But I’m not giving up hope.

Lately he’s been reading frequently (previously he hardly ever did), and among the accounts of veterans that I’ve seen him thumbing through, there was nothing less than The Metamorphosis, by Kafka!  Is it possible for an ex-soldier to transform himself into an existentialist?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

3 thoughts on “Calzadilla Retires

  • I have three daughters all post grad graduates and wandering in the same way. I am an eighty year old brigadista and have worked construction on my vacations from an airport security guard position after twenty years in the military all spent in cuba. I am arriving new year’s day for a week of beisbol at latino. The only difference between my daughters and u is they are making between sixty and eighty thousand a year and paying 1200 to 2000 a month for a one bedroom apartment. My Cuban girlfriend pays 3 dollars a month for 3 bedroom. The average university graduate has a fifty thousand dollar debt called a student loan and u can’t go bankrupt on it. Twenty percent of last year’s grads dont have positions in their profession, believe me after 30 years experience Cuba is better hug ur dad, he helped keep the Miami mafia out of the country walk the malecon after dark there is nowhere in north america u can do that without getting mugged or killed by a drunk driver. Count ur blessings Cuba is better. El oro

  • O.K. Erasmo, time to make your peace with your father–or at least a conditional truce! After all, he won’t be around for ever and, I can predictict, that after he’s gone you really will miss the old man! We really are part and parcel of our times, our environment, what influenced us in our youth, etc. Moreover, his reading preferences do indicate that changes are underway. I’m sure, as George indicates, that there are special ways in which parents have a talent for psychicly wounding their offspring (guilt, if Jewish, etc. etc.), just as we have a similar tool-box for inflicting emotional wounds on them. In the end, however, a reflection of our maturity is our ability to transcend these petty revenges; in short, to forgive, if not forget. Ironically, it is this selfsame Revolution, with all its many faults, which also facilitated his opening up enough to explore good literature. Without it, he might be finding solace through religion, rather than through true spiritual growth. (In all that I’ve said here, I admit my prejudice, since I am (getting) old myself!)

  • Oh dear Erasmo, I’m not sure this book is the best one to facilitate a blossoming of your relationship with your dad. I have a good relationship with my father but whenever he wants to get at me, he frequently refers to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, after all it is a story of a layabout son who takes to his bed and transforms into a beetle becoming an even bigger burden on his parents 😉

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