Tag Archives: family

Thought #49. On folk memory.

I still remember with heartfelt emotion the enticing prospect of a summer’s fortnight at my grandparents’ cottage. They would boast about what they had achieved, not without a great deal of hard work though. Had it not been for their financial ingenuity in hard times, my mother, aunts and uncles would have not been who they are. Mum is the eldest of six children and although she was widowed at the early age of 42, she already had five children.

My grandfather, Fermin, born on July 7th, 1919, fought in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. Fortunately, he survived it and became a forest guard on January 26th, 1946. He devoted his life to preserve the mounts of Castellon province, on the eastern coast of Spain. He would worship nature during the rest of his life, only coming into his own when trees and plants were literally surrounding him.

When my father died, we were living in a small suburb of Tarragona. As we did not have family there, my mother took us to Castellon, where her brothers and sisters lived. I was then eight years old and the elder brother of my baby sister. My grandparents lived between two places, their city flat in Castellon and a cottage near a small village that used to be a windmill. It was there, in that country house, where I hold so many treasured memories.

My grandmother, Adelina, was remarkably cheerful and always displayed a strong character. She was a good person, sometimes a little innocent. I would not go so far as to say that her patience hardly ever snapped but, most of the time, her company was extremely pleasant. I would play cards with her  till the small hours by candlelight, and tried to cheat her by using devious tactics. It was at those moments when she would snap fiercely.

Games apart, every summer with them was outstanding. Picking cherries and loquats, collecting apples and pears, watering tomato plants, I passed the time of those long days. We often made marmalade out of any ripe fruit. Food was never thrown away. A famine-stricken youth had taught them the lesson. A lesson inherited, as many others, from generations. Bits and pieces of a folk memory that we must not forget.

To Adelina and Fermin, from his grandson Alberto,  still captivated by your eternal humility, generosity and humanity.

Thought #27. On ageism.

I do not believe in innate wisdom. Wisdom is the accumulation of experience and knowledge, which ironically can only be acquired by growing old, and yet the elderly is too often a burden on families and society. Human condition leaves a lot to be desired. This unfair treatment makes me feel an unutterable sadness. I cannot help but be filled with anger and rage against these parasitic leeches that sucked everything out of their elders.

Aunt Lola lived an unconventional life. She was a maiden aunt until her seventy-somethings, except that she had no nieces or nephews. Her only brother died aged 18. Lola was married for five years and hers was not a marriage of convenience. She waited for 50 long years until Mariano turned up because he did not even consider going off with Lola. He patiently awaited his first wife’s death. Then, he moved to Lola’s town and called her. They met. They got married. Five years later, he died.

No close relatives, no kinship was left after Mariano’s death. Lola only had herself to blame, except that she had a family. Because you are not dead whilst your name is still spoken. Lola had a flat with four rooms, three of which were occupied by renters. They were always men, yet she never had even a brief romance with any of them. Rafa, my father-in-law, was one of her renters.

Rafa, Reme and their children were guests at Lola’s marriage and also acted as witnesses. A handful of friends, including acquaintances, were the rest of the lot. Lola’s family were Rafa and Reme, especially Reme and her daughter Marta, who is now my wife. I met Lola shortly after meeting Marta. Lola was her aunt, except she was not.

We used to visit Lola periodically. Maybe not as often as we should have done. Anyway, Lola was also my aunt. Lola could be somewhat annoying at times. She needed care, attention, protection. She needed a shoulder to cry on. She had us, her family. I cannot blame her for lacking a family, except that she had us.

In her last days Lola could not stay at home. Despite having two caregivers, her wisdom was fading away. We arranged a nursing home because of that. She had been suffering from depression and other medical conditions. Some years before, when she was still in good health, she tried to stay in a retirement home, but it did not work. She ironically felt that her mates were too old, almost geriatric. She blissfully decided to return home, not knowing that she was about to face her worst days.

Already in the nursing home a suddenly unexpected and dramatic event took place. We received a phone call. By the muffled voice of the woman on the phone we knew full well that something was going wrong. A man, well in his sixties, had showed up asking for his mother. We could not believe it. That was utterly impossible. She had never had children. She had never had a romantic relationship, except that she had. He was probably in search of money. She had no will, she had no money left. A week later, Lola died.

A poem…

Tell me whether the seashore
has caressed your feet
Tell me whether the foam
has kissed them yet
Tell me whether the sea waves
have followed your trudge
Tell me whether the swirling clouds
have even touched you
Tell me whether the warm wind
has murmured sweet nothings
Tell me whether the sun
has emerged to play with you
Tell me whether the rainbow
has heard your song
Tell me whether you notice
my hearth’s warmth
Think that you are not alone
my thoughts are with you

…by my Aunt Lola


Thought #6. A dog’s life.

I’d always had mixed feelings about dogs, keeping them away for fear of being bitten while aching for having one of them as a pet. Sucre is a birthday present I gave to my wife on 2010, the year before we got married. I’m lost for words when it comes to describing the strong bonds that emerged out of the blue between we and him.

Human beings have been domesticating dogs since ancient times. And their unique and special way of communicating with humans has become one of the most successful when compared to any other domestic animal.

Maybe there is no clear evidence but based on my intuition I think many of us are hardwired to love dogs. At least, I am. No matter how hard my family had been discouraging me, I finally got away with it.

Sucre was still a puppy when he joined our family. At the beginning we struggled to get him poo and wee on the street. By using positive reinforcement we managed to change some of his wayward conducts into good deeds.

His nature is true and pure, unique and special. Being a mongrel, Sucre could easily have ended up as a stray dog. Luckily, he forms an integral part of our inseparable family and we are proud of it. More than living a dog’s life, since that summer of 2010 we are in seventh heaven.