Memory of Our Beloved Father

February 8th, 2013

On a Saturday morning, February 7th, 1998, Dr. Anselmo Alonso crashed his car en route to work. By the early hours of Sunday, February 8th, he passed away. He was survived by his wife- my mother- Annabel Galva and six children; Anselmo, Javier, Alejandro, Augusto, Andrea and Arianna. This letter is written in his memory.

The strum of a certain guitar cord, the smell of cigars, talk of art and museums, the occasional Cat Stevens song—so much still keeps you alive, as if you are waiting for me to find you.

It’s been fifteen years Papi. A tragic yesterday, yet long enough that when I turn to see you at the cemetery I take the wrong road. You’re slipping or perhaps it’s me. “Jesus” I think, holding back tears on an unrecognizable face, “Where did you go?”

First all I had was memories… now I piece you together from the stories people tell—friends, uncles and aunts; stories that reach me from afar, from uncertain places, suddenly. As if the world cannot forget you.

Losing you made us strong. Yet I still wonder what you would have told me, taught me. What lessons did you have about school, work, living? About girls? Your philosophies? Your wisdom of food, wine, clothes and Cuban life? It’s all lost to me. What would it have taken for you to write something down?

Looking up at you standing in the kitchen I remember your laugh, your clothes, your cologne, your movements around the house; just a boy piecing together all the things it takes to be a man, putting together the answers to live, to be happy.

Would you have warned us about the bad things? Saved us from the bad things? What would you have told Andrea as a woman entering this world? What would you have told me about being a man? Would we have listened?

We had to learn alone what you would have told us.

Your absence raised us. Andrea and I buried in our bedrooms. Augusto isolated in the basement. The three of us like child recluses growing up before the age of eleven. Arianna only remembers what we tell her.

We had to get up. We had to keep moving forward, but I live my life now discovering a world only to find I’ve merely rediscovered it. Half of Abbey Road was you, an old man on Latino streets, every Goddamned Picasso painting has your face.  Our nation’s capital is a memory of museums and treks across the mall. You walked me through the White House, who would have known one day I’d work for a president? Though something tells me he may not have been your choice.

I’ve looked for you in every journey, on every adventure. You stand by me through the endless questions I ask; to you, to God, to myself. Wondering every day how you would have done this, handled this, lived this; finding you in the lessons, as if saying to me ‘I told you so,’ as if you had whispered it in my ear.

I  look to create a reflection of you in my own life, something you’d be proud to see.  Searching for what a parent leaves behind; in his words, in his smiles, in his blood, a look in the eye that teaches a child the universe. Running to find you only to realize you are running with me.

Or maybe it’s just a dream, slipping through my fingers- maybe you aren’t there anymore.

You stand in the kitchen, cooking the family meal. You’ve just saved a boy dying on the operating table and now you’re opening a wine bottle the old fashioned way. You sing along to the Spanish ballad playing a little too loudly on the stereo; your laugh and the smell of good food emanate through the house…

It all fell apart when you left.

Mom did the best she could without you.  Her head buried in school books, one hand holding an endless cigarette and the other running methodically through her thick hair. She stayed strong as I’m sure you knew she would. She kept the house, she kept us in school, she held our lives together the best she could.

But the dark, empty shadow persists. When you left we didn’t just lose a surgeon, a husband, an artist, a father, a needed brother and friend. We lost a man of the world, a good man. You were the story of great life, an American Dream, a bon vivant, a library worth of anecdotes and wisdom. You were everything life wanted you to be and everything lost we now look to find.

“Live every day of your life,” you told me.

Then, you were gone.

Written by Alejandro and Andrea in the spirit of us all.

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