Requiem for Rosario
Maria Del Rosario de Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá Mahe Valbuena, that was a mouthful so she was usually referred to as Chalito. She had a sad life for one so loved by others. She was an enigma.
A perpetual student of everything, she was a poet and an artist; a philosopher and a scientist. She could barely spell and always considered herself ignorant. She never saw the reflection her brilliance cast or realized the impact she had on those who surrounded her.
She was not perfect, far from it. She was malicious in an underhanded way, terribly bitter and inwardly angry. But these were the consequence of a timidity in expressing her emotions and opinions which resulted in an implosion of her valid feelings. Feelings and opinions that had they seen the light of day and been shared with those around her, would have garnered her respect she deserved but was afraid to demand.
Regardless of her temerity, she was an utterly opinionated person in her areas of deepest interest and, regardless of how educated or qualified the doctor with whom she disagreed, his case was hopeless.
She was extremely sensitive. I remember being a child and closing her out of my room because of a perceived injury, only to quickly open the door and comfort her while she cried.
She was infatuated with death and longed for it as long as I can remember. An utter oddity when contrasted with her initial spark for life. But the spark was beaten into hiding by the foul favors that life dealt her in her personal life. For some reason, she became involved with flawed men, my father and step father. She seems to have always loved my father, but that love was born in a time I neither knew nor can understand, having myself been victim to both his intellect and charm, and to his apparent indifference.
I lost a great deal of my childhood with her to her American adventure. I don’t know what impact that separation caused me but I can’t imagine a similar separation from my own children. I wish I knew whether it was great courage that led her to leave my sister and me with my grandmother and seek a new world, or merely, the pull of her infatuation with the United States. It is certain that the circuit my sister and I were sent on during her absence broadened my horizons, and led to unusual early experiences, both good and bad. But most of all, that separation and the attendant influence of my grandmother, caused the development of a strange relationship. When I was a child in my grandmother’s home, I grew to love my mother like a sister. But no matter, her decisions after she left were based on her feelings for us. Unfortunately, her judgment was clouded, to her great personal detriment.
Of late I sometimes feel that our life in the United States was a mistake and that we would have been better off not ever having left my beloved Colombia. But that view is certainly not shared by anyone I know living there. The grass is ever greener. Yet she suffered so much here. So much she would not tell me.
Guilt was her frequent companion and she was her most difficult judge. She remembered every slight and wrong she thought she had ever wrought. At least in my case, she was very wrong. She was not a strong mother, but that never really caused me any problems. I sought out my own source of discipline and enjoyed her maternal bounty of love and affection. I believe that the result is a very strong, daring and committed personality, with great difficulty in accepting the possibility of error, not because of pride, but because of an utter hatred for being wrong. She never understood that my brother, sister and I did not take the few instances when she lost her temper as a major impact on our lives, nor that we understood and appreciated that she did the very best she could for us, and loved her for it. Rather, she regretted not having been able to give us what she did not have to give.
She was utterly strong. She fought through all but one of the adversities life chose to send her way, and utterly conquered each. A woman alone in a hostile nation, she gave me a first class education.
She had incredible mental control, unfortunately, more often that not, used to negatively impact her physical well being, or at least what I thought of as her physical well being. Till the end, I was sure that had she willed it, she could have effected a miraculous cure and lived forever in perpetual youth.
I was not always good to her. I rarely wrote and seldom called, always waiting for her approaches, which always came. Yet I hope she knew that she was never far from my thoughts, and that I loved her. I was quick to anger over what I perceived to be her mistakes, wanting, as though I were her parent, for her to always reach her best potential, and pushing her towards the objectives I felt she should want.
I hated her preoccupation with diseases and allergies. But she and I agreed that, if they were only figments of her mind, they caused as much pain and bother as if they were of the darkest organic hue. They consumed so much of her energy and time that they became, in a strange way, a fortress to which she could retreat and avoid the expectations, demands and opinions of those around her, even those whom she loved and who loved her dearly.
My mother became my child in my mind, and so I loved her as my mother, as my sister and as my child, sometimes not an easy emotional paradox to reconcile. But she understood and accepted. Perhaps she even humored me.
I remember that I really began to appreciate and respect her when I was about 25 years old. When I realized how amazing it had been that, somehow or other, she had raised and educated me in a setting designed for the rich and famous, all on a penny and a prayer. She had, when I needed her, set all feelings for herself aside and in a manic burst of energy and determination, wrested what I required, from the world around her.
She loved god more than any religious person I ever met, and I hope he has not let her down. But I think she loved me more.
Our last long visit together was in North Carolina and was the best of times for us. She was weak, but we all got along so lovingly and well. My son Billy and she became very close, and I hope that he will always remember her. They both loved each other greatly and, in fact, for good and bad, Billy is a reflection of her, a piece of her soul.
The last time I spoke to her she told me she would always be here. It’s too soon to tell, or to react. The numbing shock born of her loss protects me still; belief is blissfully not yet here. The longing and missing have barely started.
 © 1990 Guillermo Calvo Mahé, Hendersonville, N.C. All rights reserved