She would have been 94 today. The ninth day of July, 2017.
My mother, María del Rosario de Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá Mahé Rubiano, a mouthful, I know. I called her Mama Chalito. Towards the end of her life she had her name changed to “Rosal” for some reason. Chalito was a special name to me though, it still is, warm and affectionate and somehow charming.
Her father, a French physician, passed away when she was very young. She’d loved him very much and the loss shaped her perhaps more than his life. She seemed to have merged the memory of her father with her conception of god who thus became her father figure and her love for him, definitely a “him” to her, was profoundly personal. She really felt she was god’s daughter and during too much of her life she longed to return to him.
She was a truly wonderful woman; timid, humble and unassuming but tenacious, talented, artistic, philosophical, intelligent and very, very hard working. Although a single parent during my most formative years and all too frequently alone, she always accomplished her most important missions, frequently a dime at a time; she was the only person I could always count on. She dedicated the last part of her life to caring for those on death’s doorstep and they loved her very much.
Miracles seemed her specialty, especially where I and where her brother’s children were concerned, his many, many children. To them certainly “la Tia Rosario” was a godsend, especially around Christmas time and on their birthdays.
Only Billy, my eldest son really got to know her and they loved each other very much; my granddaughter bears her name, albeit in much shorter form, just the “Rosario” part. Alex, my second son was too young to recall her, other than in stories, and Edward, my youngest was born four months after she passed away. But Alex and Edward did not lack for stories about her, mine and Billy’s.
For some reason, our small family has been cursed by modernity’s tendency to drift apart and as an adult, the telephone was our main point of contact, and never as frequently as it should have been, my fault. She wrote beautiful letters which I treasured, I still have many, more than a quarter century after her passing, but I rarely wrote back, or at least I didn’t write back often enough, too busy working and raising my own family for more than hurried calls. I regret that with all my heart and wonder if she knows.
We usually lived on different ends of the continent, except at the very, very end. That was a terrible shame but she seemed to treasure her independence. Or perhaps we just interpreted things that way. My own life seems much the same in that respect at least and I’d have it differently if I could.
I keep a few of her mementos close; an old, stained address book, a copy of a newspaper article with her photograph wishing her a good life as she left her home for the United States, the box that once held her ashes, a few books of poetry in English and Spanish and French, a few others on philosophy. I’ve filled the box that held her ashes with tiny keepsakes from my children’s lives, an old bathing suit they all wore, Billy’s high school ID, my sons baby teeth and now some from Salome, one of my two granddaughters, and I keep it all on the first shelf above my desk, centered so that it faces me as I write.
All too frequently I dream of just one more hug, one more kiss, one more word; of a chance to have been a better son, … but it’s too late. Still, the memories remain warm and bright and my love for her grows stronger every year, and as I too grow older, now older than she was when she left us, I understand her more and more. Or at least I think I do.
I love and miss her very much.
Happy Birthday Mom!!
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.