My Father is Lonesome

By Ralph Rewes

© 1999 by Ralph Rewes


My father is lonesome. My mother, his lifetime companion, passed on recently. My father is lonesome. He has children, yes, nephews, yes. However, he is lonesome because in his case, as in the case of many ones in exile, misses the ones behind him. With the loss of his wife away they went thousands of vivid moments shared for decades. Now, he has no one to check and balance those memories. Yes, one must verify memories, they must be refurbished occasionally. And only those who shared our past experiences are capable of doing so.

How can we, without them, rebuild in our mind a better image of the movie house we used to go to, or the park nearby, or the corner store. Yes, we could speak to someone about the movie house we used to go to, or the park nearby, or the corner store; yet only that special one who saw those places can tell us more, can sparkle light in the corners of our brain where those images are carefully stored. Only he who shared an experience can add to them. He will tell you things like “But you forgot the smell of the straw seats” or “Do you remember the grumpy guy who picked up the tickets? I wonder where he is now.” To which you will proudly reply, “I saw him a month ago. He is living in Tampa.”

Not being able to share memories is the worse loneliness. That loneliness so sadly abundant in exile. Our town, even with walls falling apart, burned out trees and uncontrolled bushes, still have the molds to cook up a batch of refreshing food for our thoughts. One needs to back to the molds, to the matrix of them all. It is like watching and old fulfilling film or TV rerun that pleases more with every time we see it. It brings us back to that limpid content of our youth. My father is lonesome. He cannot go back to his piece of land, or to the house he shared with her and children. She cannot bring him back any more.

Even after Mom lost her mind to Alzheimer, every once in a while she spoke a phrase, a simple phrase that was like a beacon projecting old scene, producing a miracle, the miracle of making relive those special moments that disappear with the absence of every one of those, one by one, who vanishes into oblivion.

In those brief moments of lucidity my mother told him: “Remember the watermelons in our land?” And like magic, in his mind the memories of those Sundays when our friends used to go visit popped out, and he saw them enjoying the clean seedless cores of dozens of watermelons on dozens of plates on the huge diner table. And a smile brightened up on his face.

When she was there, he was not alone. She was the key that frequently opened the gates toward the Cuban countryside, the huge trees at the entrance of his farm. He then relived the rainy afternoons, the lightings and thunders falling on palms, leaving behind a burning smell. He could feel again that deep, possessing melancholy felt during the twilight times, so strong a melancholy that more than one was taken to suicide by it.

My father is lonesome. He has no longer the one who sat by him outside their country home to talk about their youth (memories shared by them alone). Even when we used to speak about how weird-looking our house seemed to many in its hybrid mixture. Only she could trigger the memories and arguments that brought about a modern home, with walls of two different colors, centered table, but because my father hated concrete ceilings, the house was thatched with straws — natural air condition, he used to say.

When those who share our memories because they shared our experiences, go away or vanish from our lives, we feel every time more lonesome, until we can hardly face an unbearable loneliness. No one is around to correct us if we make a mistake bringing them back to the surface.

My father is alone. He longs to speak with someone from the past, even an enemy would do. But having the luck of being 95, it is also a pain, because most of his contemporaries no longer exist.

My father is lonesome. No keys to open up the gates of his youth. His memories, inactivated, begin to fade from his mind. With every passing day, he is more lonesome. No friends, no love, no country, no hopes. My father is alone, waiting for God.

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