Tears and Farewells

Ali and Aya

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – I know the bitter taste of farewells all too well. As a child, I would go to Havana with my grandparents to say goodbye to my aunts. Every one of those scenes is engraved in my mind. My grandparents got older, it got worse every year. They stopped going to the airport.

My grandmother passed away one day, without being able to kiss her daughters. My grandfather waited until he could at least see one of them, laugh, take care of her, cry silently like a man cries when he saw her leave again.

Ali and Aya are my cousins. I grew up with them as if I were their younger sister. I’d work them up sometimes. I was a little girl and annoying, they were young and hot-headed. Ali got married one day, her husband was from the Sandino municipality. It’s only a couple of hundred kilometers away. We could take a train to see her, and she would always come for two months on holiday.

Her life there was ravaged by hardship, but she was blessed with two children. Every year, at the beginning of the holidays, I’d sit on the wall of the sidewalk and wait for her, so I could be the first one to run up to her and hug her tightly so she wouldn’t escape from me again.

One day, Ali couldn’t bear living in a country without a future anymore, she had the opportunity to leave with her husband and children. Despite the heartbreak that came with their departure, we were happy for them and consoled ourselves with the thought: “It’s as if they’re in Sandino.”

That was over twenty years ago. Her children are professionals now and earn a good wage. She has two grandchildren. But her life hasn’t just been rosy since, she perseveres in a market selling ham and cheese. She had an emergency operation, had COVID-19, her husband is sick and is still working.

Anyway, she wouldn’t change her present for all the years she lived in Cuba. If only she could have her parents and sister nearby! Her father managed to go visit her after several failed attempts.

Papito is a rural man, he longs for the aroma of earth, the sound of animals, he can’t keep up with that pace of life for too long. Even so, he went to lift her spirits once a year.  

My aunt with her two daughters.

Ali came fifteen days ago. I received a copy of my first published book from her hands. Chats on the terrace at coffee time have returned with her presence. She has come to fill this abyss that is always here like a ghost roaming around the house, and only calms down when she’s here.

Days passed by; the time to bid farewell was inevitable. My aunt and uncle cried. She hugged them, I felt like the elderly couple melted between her arms. Words whispered among tears aren’t any consolation. When the car left, we remained silent, each of us processing the weight of this farewell in our own way. 

Read more from Fabiana’s diary here.