In Progress: a Myth of Sorts
When all is said and done, what will I have to say? Who will I have to say it to?
Well, today, hopefully well before that day, I can say that there are five people who have passed beyond the pale, to whom I am eternally tied yet much as I seek it, I rarely feel their tug. Perhaps I never have outside of wish fulfillment or imagination.
Pop. Perhaps, Pop the Great. Leon Theodore Kokkins, possibly a simple man although I’m not all that sure. The one I knew least about for reasons I can’t fathom but one who I loved with all my heart and who I always felt loved me, though on a few occasions, very few but too many, I felt the fury of his punch and his kick. When I remember those occasions, there are always others I also loved who in my heart I blame. I think I forgave them all very long ago. My memories of Pop are of mundane events, day to day or week to week: jelly-donuts and crumb buns on Sunday mornings, drives in the old, black Pontiac convertible, 1950 I think; moving every year, diners, cologne; the call at Eastern telling me my father had died, my rush to the apartment in Flushing; trying somehow to revive him while he lay there stiffening and cold on the living room couch, one heart attack too many; the funeral and then, never again, at least not yet.
Then of course there is Chalito, my mother, an enigma, perhaps the incorporeal definition of that over used term, combing innocence and spite in a blend of sainthood, constantly belittling and second guessing herself, sometimes with cause but much more frequently unfairly; St. Mom as I and most who knew her called her in our hearts, but with impurities that made of her life a sad and weary road, one she seemed determined to depart. Beautiful in every way, a painter, a poet, a once aspiring dancer and actress, a poor housekeeper but a tireless worker who scrimped and saved every penny she could to educate me as through I’d been born the prince that in me she thought she saw.
And her mother who I often confused with my mother, the eternal matriarch, Juanita, Reina de Manizales, from whom, perhaps, I acquired will power and ambition, and spirituality and respect for the most humble among us and the desire to like the person I saw in the mirror. Iron willed she wrestled fate to a standstill but like so many heroes and heroines, she was and is misunderstood and underappreciated in waves that transcended generations by those closest to her.
And my sister-aunt (in a good way) Carola the Blessed, a tender core hidden within a shell blended of iron and gold; the one I knew I could always count on: for her perceptions, frequently but not always accurate; for her love, always unconditional; for advice and support and inspiration. I think the one thing I’ve owned the longest, which I’ve carried through many relationships and too many homes, is a large brass dish that once graced an apartment in New York, in turn graced by her, one of my first gifts as an adult, which I only lately found held great spiritual and symbolic meaning for one whose heart has always been Colombian, a relic from our own St. Augustine, land of magic and myth, things that in life she seemed to have rejected.
And finally Tio Pacho. Is he the least of them? Perhaps. My mother’s brother, an enigma as well but in a very different sense. I remember a physically strong but emotionally injured man, slender, with a mustache and a weak chin, with profound gleaming eyes full of mischief and despair but not much regret, a man who’d tried practically every vice at least once and too many with disturbing frequency. The soul of an artist and a philosopher perhaps but that’s not all that strange in that context. Who’d have thought he’d become the King of Florae and sire of an abundance of descendants, almost all of whom inherited his talents but somehow magically avoided his iniquities.
I love them all, very much.
I sometimes wonder what impact they had on my life; not whether they had an impact, they certainly did, but what it was in the sense that it’s too difficult to see forests for their trees. I sense that it’s a mixture of rejective reaction on the one hand and adorative imitation on the other. A strange blend but then perhaps, I’m pretty strange myself.
My aunt Livia (also much more a sister in all honesty and somewhat closer in age) and I are left in a direct kind of line with respect to shared experiences from the good-old-bad-old days, with Marina and Teddy a bit off to one side for some reason, perhaps lost in a temporal-spiritual loop. I wonder if any of them ever seriously ponder these things, if they affect them the way they do me, if any single component had more significance for them, especially for Marina and Teddy; they seemed to know things about Pop and my mother that I was sheltered from, though by whom it’s hard to tell. I wonder how they perceive that reality we’ve all shared, how it made them the people perhaps they were not really meant to be.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2014; all rights reserved