By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – I’ve been dreaming about my parents recently. Meaningful dreams. As if they wanted to appear and tell me that they are here.
They both passed away in February, four years and twelve days apart to be exact: my father on February 22, 2016; and my mother on February 10th 2020. A strange fact… as if they were moving closer to each other and Fate had planned it this way.
Organizing my closet, I found a bag with their wedding photos, which were really pretty, and I took a frame, put a photo in it, and hung it up in my bedroom, without even thinking.
They didn’t have your average courtship, it lasted for seven years. During those years, they bought everything they needed to set up a home.
Once they were married, they rented out an apartment in Old Havana. Later, one of my aunts went to the US and left them her apartment in El Vedado.
I don’t remember ever seeing my parents shout and argue, or ever be physically aggressive towards one another. They sorted out their problems in the best way.
They respected each other’s space; they would isolate themselves. My father would go to the bedroom to read; and my mother would listen to music on the radio.
In fact, my papi was a bookworm, he always had a book on his nightstand. He was especially drawn to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and other US and British writers.
When spending three or four hours reading, he would fall asleep with his books on the bed and with his glasses still on.
An incorrigible smoker, he would smoke a pack every day. He would also drink several cups of coffee.
He’d smoke a pipe sometimes, with finely-cut tobacco. I remember a wooden one he had, carved into the shape of an Indian’s head, which was a gift from a friend. He would leave it everywhere.
He had to give up his vices – coffee and cigarettes after he turned 80 after he suffered a stroke.
Over time, his political opinion suffered serious changes, and he lost the faith he had in the beginning.
He’d watch a lot of sports; he didn’t miss a single Olympics. He could perfectly eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in front of the TV screen. For him, this event meant everything and demanded his complete attention.
They both shared a passion for film. My mother liked US melodramas from the ‘40s, featuring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. While my father preferred Russian war dramas.
Even when he was very old, I caught him crying in the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman picture called “The Bucket List”, in which some elderly men with terminal cancer make a list of all the things they still want to do before dying.
There was no problem he couldn’t fix, he was quite the handyman. He would fix broken appliances, and could innovate pieces if the situation called for it. He’d stick his elbows into building work, and made sure to paint the walls in our house every year, even with the scarce resources we had.
His intelligence was monumental. Every night, when we were little, he would tell us a chapter of a story of adventures that he made up with his imagination.
He earned a living as a photographer during some time, and went to the music festivals in Varadero in the ‘70s. He knew how to develop black and white film.
Painful memories also come to mind… like the slap he gave me when I was in high school, for skipping class. Or when he took some poems I had typed up on the typewriter and ripped them up.
I used that experience in a poem. Years later, I gave him my first collection of poems to read when it was published. He didn’t mention the incident, maybe he didn’t even remember.
In terms of pets, my father brought home a dog one day, but my mother didn’t let it stay. She could only deal with fish and the turtle. She’d say that these animals need less looking after.
I have many different memories of my mother. How she would criticize nudity in movies. Her prudishness. She’d say that stars back in the day didn’t need to appear on screen with no clothes on.
She loved reading novels by Emily and Charlotte Bronte. As well as Dulce Maria Loynaz’s poems.
She was a sophisticated soul, who would lose herself in thought listening to the Warsaw concerto, Rhapsody in Blue, Chopin’s Nocturnes and Preludes, Swan Lake and the soundtrack to one of her favorite movies, “Somewhere in Time”, with beautiful songs by Rajmaninov and John Barry.
She wasn’t a big fan of sports, but she’d usually watch gymnastics and artistic skating competitions.
When I was younger and working, she would make croquettes and stuffed potatoes for several days in the week. She’d sing boleros and Spanish songs while washing the dishes. She had a good timbre and sang in tune.
I could tell you a million stories about my parents, but I don’t want to saturate my readers here on Havana Times.
I just want to add that they fought for me, in my childhood, when I was in a critical condition, hospitalized with pneumonia, and I didn’t have a great chance of making it.
After that, I had asthmatic bronchitis, I’d get sick all the time. They spent late nights putting pans of boiling water for me to breathe in, hot ointments on my chest, syrups, and everything else I needed. So much so that I got the nickname “Calamity and her dog”.
The reality is they looked after me, my brothers, and finally, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
There were misunderstandings, just like there are in every family, so it’s not really worth remembering. They are still here, not in a physical form, but they are still here in spirit.