HAVANA TIMES – Last year brought me a lot of joy: my latest book was published, I traveled, I shared moments with friends and relatives, events that all give life some kind of meaning.
This 2019 has only brought me painful events, illness, accidents, people who meant something to me have passed away.
Every time there is a full moon, something sad or unpleasant happens. Yesterday, was one of those days, my aunt Aurora left this world, without a word.
She was living in a home for the elderly in the US, she wasn’t in the best state, she no longer walked, she was very thin, she’d lost her appetite recently; the other appetite, to live, was slipping from her, a farewell could be seen in her frail silhouette, she wanted to leave her useless body and live another existence.
Her story is the story of many Cubans, sending her son off to the US after the Revolution triumphed with Operation Peter Pan, as she was afraid that her parental rights would be taken from her. Her son ended up in the care of some relatives, until she could leave the country and be with him.
My mother had gone a whole decade without seeing her sister, they had become estranged… until the ‘70s, when thanks to the Cuban exile community’s program in the US and president James Carter, families in both countries had the chance to reunite.
My aunt Aurora, my uncle-in-law and cousin arrived in Havana, loaded with suitcases and memories. My cousin was born in the US and dropped a few English words into her speech, which was a bit strange.
They stayed at Hotel Nacional for a week, that night we went to eat the buffet dinner there and satisfied the old hunger we regular Cubans had been suffering from for some time.
Everybody was speaking on top of each other, we were nervous, especially me as I was born after they left. But, everything went really well because my aunt was a woman with a strong and natural temperament, who laughed at social conventions.
That visit was unforgettable. My father gave her a huge painting which had a boat in it (Fate’s irony). Two sisters, her and my mother, remembered the past, their childhood in a dilapidated tenement in Old Havana; their teenage years, when their father passed away, and how they had to seek out different jobs in order to support the household.
So many memories in a fragmented country. The pain of separation.
During the Special Period crisis, my aunt’s help was crucial; she used to send us packages with clothes and, later, remittances. She made sure to get the small basket of needed items for nearly every newborn in the family.
Her help didn’t only benefit us, but all of our friends and relatives who left for the US. And, she did all of this without expecting anything in return.
She didn’t like to write letters, she said that it wasn’t her style. However, she would call at least twice a month, to keep us up to speed with everyone over there.
She invited my mother to Miami four times, she didn’t want to let her go back to Cuba. At least they could be together for a short while.
She never cast us aside, like others who cut the umbilical cord with everyone on the island as soon as they leave.
We were used to feeling her close by, with her jokes, her warm voice, her personality and affection, which were always there. This is why her loss causes me great pain.
I don’t know what else to write… I just want to thank her because she knows that we love her and will always remember her. Her noble spirit is still with us.