By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I have a horrible fever and my body is barely responding. My bones and joints ache. I’m so weak I can’t get out of bed.
My grandmother comes in and puts damp cloths on my forehand, she strokes my head and makes me drink a concoction that tastes good and suddenly all my strength comes back and I’m healthy, ready to go outside and run but I don’t, I just stay there looking at her.
I’m a boy that realizes he’s dreaming and wants to cry when he understands it’s all a dream, that it’s been a long time since I’ve become an adult and she’s no longer here, she left an eternity ago and is now just a memory in my heart.
I wake up slowly until I manage to shake off the confusion and enter the present, like all the other times I’ve dreamt about her over the years.
Oh, how I’d love for her to be alive and see the man I’ve become. I was only 20 years old when she passed and not a day goes by since then that I don’t remember her, even though I don’t tell anyone.
I don’t have a single photograph from those days, but I have the best gallery of photos and videos in my memory.
I can see her boiling sheets in a huge pot over burning wood one morning, while she tells me off for climbing up the canistel tree.
I remember her educating me in her own way:
“Say good morning and ask them how they are so they can see you’re a polite boy.”
“Believe in God but don’t tell anyone at school if they ask, not even your friends, but then ask for forgiveness and He’ll forgive you.”
“Don’t curse or write on your skin with a pencil, decent people don’t do that.”
I remember her on those trips to the town of Alonso de Rojas in the middle of the “Special Period” crisis of the ‘90s, a time of hardship like nowadays or pretty much any time for that matter.
There was always food on the table. She’d find a way to go to Havana, buy all kinds of products, carry them with her sick body and exchange them for rice, beans and other foods.
I’d come back after getting a scholarship and I’d wake up early Saturday mornings to go with her and help her carry bags on my 15-year-old’s shoulders. I didn’t like waking up early or traveling to this awful town 30 km south of Consolacion, without almost any transport but even though she didn’t want me to, my love for her was greater than any sacrifice and I insisted and went with her and put up with all the things it means for a teenager to go out with a grandmother who walks slowly and talks far too much to any stranger.
Which sometimes, in total innocence or lack of interest for other people’s opinions, would throw around gems like “My grandson doesn’t know, we’re from Pinar del Rio,” like the day when I went with her to Havana and thought we should get off at a certain stop. Ha ha ha, how embarrassing.
I remember her when I escaped from military service and she told me off a little to protect me and I was dying of hunger, so she got up immediately to cook for her grandson and she wrapped up the banquet with a fine lemonade she knew how to make so well.
Then, I’d lay with her in her bed to stroke her premature white hairs, which she refused to cover up after 50.
I discovered she was saving peso after peso to surprise me one afternoon with a “I now have all the money to buy the clothes and shoes you want.”
She was referring to the famous “denim jeams”, “oversized shirt” and a pair of sneakers, which in 1992 was to be super “trendy”, it was young people’s fashion back then. Not having them was a sign you were a poor devil. I didn’t have any of it and it broke her heart, I know.
I remember her uncomplaining, always serving others and ironically hiding all of her pain which was huge.
She lost a baby six months after birth, she suffered my uncle’s accident who was left without hope in a wheelchair at only 19 years old, another son who left in 1969 whom she’d never see again.
As well as other setbacks, too many for a sick heart which didn’t lessen her fighting and noble spirit.
A respectable and elegant lady, a woman who belonged to only one man. A unicorn of a woman who I will always love, admire and be proud of, my old lady who doesn’t leave my side even in dreams.
That’s why my daughter is named after her.