An Estranged Father’s Optimistic Refrain

The concept of family is, at best, in transition, at worse, just a memory.  Its permanence is surely, in most cases, passé.  While the plight of mothers is often articulated, that of fathers, especially fathers left behind, is virtually ignored.  But some of us still manage to salvage the essence of what might have been.

My relationship with my three sons is strained at best, perhaps in some instances non-existent, but that is the present and recent past.  The more distant past is beautiful from my perspective, and remains, not only vivid, but healthy and alive:  I visit it frequently and its vibrant joy is not dissipated or diminished thereby.  It is seemingly unquenchable, a cornucopia molded through long days and arduous nights in frequently difficult times but with yields too beautiful to adequately describe. 

Living in the past is often criticized but to me that seems to be criticizing fulfillment of the fruits of one’s past sacrifices.  Streams of images of my three sons as they were growing are always nearby, images preserved when hope that everything would turn out positively was more than a mere possibility, as long as I persevered.  All I could ever want was inchoate and seemingly assured. 

It has not turned out that way, not the way I hoped and expected, at least not for me, but the impetus of those joyous times is the wind in today’s sails, echoing with fragrances and mirages of what was and what might have been.  So, rather than dwelling on what is, I revel in what was, insisting that having been real, the past is also permanent and that the love created there may be more than enough to see me through.

And that is true for so many, many, many fathers, most of whom believe that

No matter what,

It was all worthwhile.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Confused Reflections as another Solstice Passes By

“Poignant with loss”.

The phrase resonates. 

Not in the sense of self-pity but perhaps a bit melodramatic.  Can one just as easily be poignant with joy?

Birth is the beginning of death and every gain is also the beginning of a corresponding loss.  A full life, one worth living, one where one has truly plumbed the depths and heights of feeling, one full of useful errors, is full of both loss and joy.  With vulnerability, dominion and confusion in equal measures.  With un-chainable emotions carefully balanced, control lost and regained and lost again.

For a very long time, most of my life really, the twin solstices have been poignant.  More so since I became estranged from my sons.  They are flying on their own, free to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons.  To be deceived and perhaps enlightened as well.  To make their own joys and suffer their own sorrows.  To betray and be betrayed.  To accumulate and share experiences with their own, unique families.  The permanence for which I hoped proved transitory but in my life, transition has been the only constant.

Perhaps the poignancy I feel so often but more strongly during the solstices has to do with how often I’ve moved, starting when I was around two.  Back then, the constant change of situs was not yet impactful, at least not consciously so, but as I started school at five and changed schools at least once every year until I was fifteen, the changes become more and more difficult.  Friends were made each year only to be quickly lost.  That taught me how to make friends easily but also not to count on them.  Sadly, separations became easier and easier to bear until the seemed almost inconsequential, regardless of how strong bonds had once seemed.

That changed for a while when at the age of fifteen I became a “cadet”, first at the Eastern Military Academy in Huntington, New York, and then at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina.  Seven solid years of building bonds with schoolmates, ties which have persevered for decade after decade.  Then a return to Eastern as a faculty member; nine more years during which the nature of evolving bonds changed.  Bonding was no longer, for the most part, with peers, but rather, with my own pupils, young off-white tabulas almost rasas whom I sought to mentor.  Apparently I’d grown and passed through several rites of passage.  Some of those students have remained in my life, albeit at a distance, for more than half a century.

Fifteen was memorable for other reasons too.  I’d always had a crush on some girl or other but before I attained that lofty age, they rarely knew (I wonder though whether any suspected what I felt).  That changed.  I started developing intimate ties with young ladies, ties I rarely handled well.  Relationships seemed a game then.  I had so much to learn and they had so much to teach, all too frequently bittersweet.  Especially at this time of year.  Julia Iglesias (my favorite singer) singing “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” has come to have a special meaning for me, but one more often than not tinged with regrets.  Seemingly, perhaps I stayed fifteen for way too long.  I’m still in touch with some lost loves, but not many.  However, looking back, many more of them have stayed in my heart. 

As it is for all of us eventually, as time slipped by, I lost precious family members and then classmates and students and friends and perhaps former lovers as well.  The other side of the veil becomes more and more crowded so much faster now.  Losses of places and people accumulate in profound pools of nostalgia weaving melancholy tapestries in shades of gray and the colors in rainbows fade.  Melancholy becomes a place, one I visit as accumulated memories croon siren songs and I brood on things I’d change.  Things that once seemed so right but now seem as though they might have been mistakes.  Mistakes I’d correct, … if only I could.

So many people have touched my life.  So many have shared sadness and happiness, ecstasy and despair.  Others have merely crossed my path for an instant.  I recall people I should have met, people who I saw in passing without a shared word and who immediately moved on but who I’ve never forgotten and wish I’d gotten to know.  Roads not taken are always more plentiful than the paths we’ve trod and who knows where they might have led.

Hopefully I’ve grown wiser but wisdom is strange.  It’s an imperfect mirror with distorted reflections and more and more unanswered, perhaps unanswerable, questions.  Time alone doesn’t make one wise but perhaps it makes us more sage than we once were.  Mistakes overcome bring wisdom, and mistakes, I’ve had my share.  And not too few to mention.  My way was not always the best.

This season is not only about gift giving and festivities but more importantly, it has always also been a time for reflection and introspection.  A time to ponder how we’ve become who we are.  As we age, some of us become less egocentric and our contemplation expands to the collectives of which we’re a part, to our future as a species.  Those of us who study history professionally but by some miracle at least try to do so objectively, at some point realize that truth is more than just elusive.  We come to realize that our own memories are at best an imperfect motley, an indecipherable collage, and that our collective memory tends to be even worse.  What we call history, what we pass on to our progeny, is not only usually inaccurate but all too often cynically scored, liveried in beautiful music and soaring rhetoric designed to mold us into sated sheep and lyrical lemmings easily misled.  To our collective detriment.  Apparently, as we age, we become cynics, although the wise among us may attain that status sooner.

Things seemed so much easier to understand when I was very young, so many things seemed so clear, so obvious.  Faith made belief easy.  God was in his Heaven with Père Noel at his side taking notes.  Fantasy seemed as likely to be true as what passed for reality.  Truth and justice were tangible rather than imagined.  One once among us, a Prince of Peace, had ascended to sit at the right hand of his father and certainly would never take sides in wars where we slaughtered each other in his Holy name.  But then faith became more and more elusive and harsh “realities” slowly took its place, purported sanity replacing benevolent chaos.

Like so many others, I wonder: “do we lose cognitive capacity as we pass from the magic era of early childhood into the realm of knowledge acquired”?  Is accumulated wisdom the antithesis of infancy’s faith or are we each a unique melding of instinct and pain, knowledge and joy, deception and rejection, unable to really communicate with anyone or anything else, even with the people we were and those we’ll become?

What a depressing thought!

Can’t we be both unreservedly alone and completely connected with everyone and everything that’s ever been?  Quantically linked since before eternity was conceived, when everything was part of the primordial proto quark?  After all, once upon a time, every part of what we are was joined together at the starting gate of a Big Bang, before we became Magellanic Clouds and then stars and rays of light.  And isn’t light both an isolated particle and a collective wave?

Confused reflections as another solstice passes by.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Marina and Teddy and Mom and Pop: a Christmas Carol of Our Own

The aroma of melancholy and nostalgia subtly scent the air and echoes faintly sing as memories flow.

I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas when it was Teddy, Marina and me (in inverse chronological order), and, of course, Mom and Pop.  “Pop” was my stepfather with whom I lived from ages six through fifteen (when he and my mother separated).  Nonetheless, he remained in our lives until he passed away suddenly when I was a few months shy of twenty-six.  He was about to turn sixty I think.

I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas especially in New York; especially during the morning watching the Macy’s Christmas Parade on our small black and white television set with Santa bringing up the rear and sometimes, if it had snowed, I remember making angels’ wings on a common lawn in our small apartment in Queens Village (overlooking Hillside Boulevard).  It was on 215th street as I recall.  I was happy there, at least for a bit; good friends quickly made, especially Bobby, the Italian kid from across the street, then all too quickly gone, as usual.  We moved a lot.  But back then there was always my sister Marina and my brother Teddy, and my Mom and Pop and me.

I remember Thanksgiving as the start of a special season, one featuring various festivals of light, a season which was, then, for me, flavored with introspection and speculation on the nature of the Prince of Peace, the one I so loved and admired way back then.  Then, when I was so blissfully innocent (at least some of the time).  And I remember optimism and hope, and a general feeling of delightful wellbeing, not realizing that we were not all that well off but feeling that we were.  We were all together then; but not for long. 

Those days, like so much else, lasted until about 1961 when the world changed.  The Pope, Pius X I think, purportedly read the last Fatima prophecy and I went off to boarding school (I don’t think the two events were connected, although, who knows), a military prep school, a wonderful place in its own light, and many new adventures began, not all happy but rarely sad.  I remember the gloomy thanksgiving in 1963, when for a second, the world was united in shock, but then, a few months later, the 1964 World’s Fair, and the 20th anniversary of D Day, and then, college, but a very different college experience than most.

And of course, the “police action in Vietnam.  Wars are bad so we didn’t have them after World War II, just like we’ve had a Defense Department rather than a Department of War since 1947.  I recall Simon and Garfunkel’s devastating version of Silent Night; actually, devastation was everywhere but so was change and optimism, even in the face of the Democratic Party’s display of fascism, American style in 1968.  Flower power, and love-ins, and miniskirts and long, long legs slowly fading into the same old us.

Months have merged into years and years into decades.  I’ve met so many people and been so many places.  Made so many mistakes but learned from most.  It’s been a very full and very complex life, one with numerous starts after barely realized ends, as though I’ve been at least five or six very different people, each living in different epochs, in different contexts with different settings and different casts.  Social changes accelerated at a dizzying pace in some aspects but not at all in others.  Some changes were essential and positive but too many now seem just illusory, ugly, even malign.  Right became wrong and then right again, and then, … who knows.  I’ve seen a country that adopted me as I did it dissolve into bickering, polarized factions with the wealthiest, even more that usually, astronomically increasing what they have at the expense of the impoverished many.  I’ve seen our bravest and most noble destroyed in useless foreign adventures and then, all too often, cast aside when some managed to return home.  I’ve seen hope replaced by resignation, but with all that and through it all, I’ve seen a beautiful People still prepared to give thanks for whatever they have.  In fact, those with the least are often the ones who most sincerely continue to believe in the magic season at the end of the year.

Today, I think of a marriage once so bright gone bad and miss Billy and Alex and Edward, now living lives of their own without me but at least together.  And I think of all the wonderful women I’ve known intimately but who just didn’t work out, and as always, I wish most of them the best.  I recall a dazzlingly beautiful young woman who once introduced herself to me as “Diana, as in the goddess, not Diane” and I remember the lyrics “all day, all night Marianne, down by the seashore, sifting sand” and I’m grateful and amazed that some of us are, from a distance, somehow still in touch and every once in a while, still speculating about might have beens.

Places as well as people have treasured places in my heart.  I think of Miami and Miami Beach and of Central Beach Elementary and Biscayne Elementary and of Hellen Mansfield and Maryanne Bass.  I think of Charlotte and Wesley Heights Elementary, an awesome place with great friends, albeit, as usual, only for a season or two.  And then I think of New York and Charleston and then, New York again; and of Fort Lauderdale and Hendersonville and Ocala.  All among the too many places I’ve called home.  I miss them all, now back in Manizales where I began, but I sometimes wonder for how long.  This holiday season marks the start of my 15th year here.

I’ve attended almost too many schools to count, usually briefly, until that fateful 1961 when I enrolled in the Eastern Military Academy college preparatory school, a fabulous castle where I’d spend almost twelve years, first as a student but eventually as a faculty member too.  And of course, the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, is emblazoned in my soul, I think of it daily and even after more than half a century, interact with beloved former classmates and friends, and fellow alumni.

Even before those halcyon days in New York though, before the good old USA, I remember how once upon a time, in another continent to the South, one I now once again call home, my grandmother and my two aunts, and an all too interesting uncle remained, at least for a while. 

What a ride life’s been and it still has such a long way to go.  A seventh version of me now cohabits with Natalia and sometimes with Dalia and Maia, her teenage daughters, and with Maria Elena her mother, and with Caro her sister and Jose Jesus her father and Edwin and Odair, her brothers, and with all my Mahe cousins and with all the friends and colleagues and students I’ve made during the past fourteen years. 

During this season I nostalgically recall Jimmy Stewart at Christmas reevaluating his values and Ingrid Bergman as a Christmas story nun, and Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on the road, and Abbot and Costello, and the Three Stooges with Officer Joe Bolton (before police officers were perceived of as swine) and I recall meeting Perry Cuomo at Eddie Kowalski’s house where his pretty cousin Bonnie, now gone, enthralled us all. 

But I come back to Marina and Teddy, and Pop and Mom. And a very young and optimistic version of me delighting in white Christmases and decorations and Christmas carols, and even in ghosts of Christmases past and present and future, and of Tiny Tim (the original one, not the one tripping through the tulips with a ukulele) wishing us a Merry Christmas,

One and all.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Introspection

He, who I’ve been, has some accomplishments to his credit balanced by some errors and a good deal of time for which there is, as of yet, no accounting, the latter either dull or full of as of yet unqualified mystery. 

How to explore the one I’ve somehow become but who I’ve rarely understood, how to get to know him. 

Does anyone? 

Do I really want to?

_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Fathers’ Day Blues

Holidays.  Strange things. 

Generalizing, many are supposed to be festive occasions although all too many deal with profound tragedies.  Like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  Or celebrate mass murders, like so many Hebrew feast days.  Or, bastardize religious events, like the Easter Bunny and candy and egg hunts.

Fathers’ Day is a strange holiday, like an onion in a sense, with layers of meaning.  For functional families it is a happy occasion with a touch of gratitude for sacrifices joyfully made, but functional families are becoming more and more rare.  Dysfunction, i.e., functioning in pain, and non-function, are becoming more and more the norm, or perhaps it just seems that way.  Perhaps that’s always been the case.  And for many, many, too many fathers and their progeny, Fathers’ Day is not joyous.  The same is of course true of Mothers’ Day under similar circumstances, but I write this on Fathers’ Day’s Eve, so I’ll be a bit more focused on “dads”.

Like the holidays at the end of the year, Fathers’ Day can be a deeply depressing day.  Not a day filled with gratitude but with recriminations and regrets, one where the worst in relationships is highlighted and criticism rather than praise prevails.  That is especially true in those all too frequent cases where families have been torn asunder by parental separation, separation where one parent wins custody and the other is cast aside (except with respect to noncustodial responsibilities like alimony and child support).  In many such cases, the custodial parent creates a false narrative, implanting false memories in order to justify their own serious shortcomings and, in many such cases, the parent scorned disappears and is castigated as uncaring and irresponsible.  And sometimes that’s true.  But at other times, the loss of a family, especially of one’s children, especially when distortion and calumny become prevalent, are just too much to bear, and the only apparent survival mechanism is destructive withdrawal.

That, of course, is a gender neutral tragedy impacting mothers as well as fathers. Still, our purportedly paternalistic society idolizes motherhood and to a large extent disdains the paternal role.  Fatherhood is characterized by responsibility, its sacrifices largely ignored.  In general (albeit certainly not always), mothers deserve the credit society showers on them but perhaps fathers deserve understanding rather than disdain, even when they’ve not fully succeeded in their assigned role.  There is of course a huge difference between fathers who refuse to acknowledge their role, who enjoy their sexual partners and then discard them and absconded.  But what about the millions of fathers who accept their role, try, to varying degrees, to meet their responsibilities, but who, for one reason or another, failed?  Or even sadder perhaps, those who succeeded in their role but were cast out and disenfranchised through our blatantly one sided judicial system?

What does Fathers’ Day mean to them?  What does it mean to their children?

Perhaps the saddest day of the year.

_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Reformed, Recalled or Illusory Memories in the Post-Truth Era: A family affair

Continuing my rereading excursion, last week I started with Tom Robbins’ awesome “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” but Amazon, which I loathe and ought not to patronize (as I ought not to patronize Facebook), facilitated my recuperation of a bunch of Robert Heinlein philosophical novels (they really are more philosophical than science fiction) which had been lost to me many decades ago when a former friend’s now ex-wife decided they were demon inspired and confined them to the pit.  And so I’ve ordered duplicates, mostly used (for some reason I like them more when they’re used) and they’ve started arriving. 

I really wanted to delve back into Lazarus Long (as I approach the three quarter of a century mark) but somehow, I got confused and “I will Fear No Evil” came first.  I hope Heinlein`s writing style is not catching.  What was a delight in my youth frequently seems lacking polish and seems tedious now as I too have embarked in the writers’ art, but the themes remain challenging and fascinating and daring, and every once in a while, … a relevant pearl of wisdom drops.  In this case (excuse the long prelude; … I hate long preludes), in the middle of page 174 of an extremely well worn, possibly fifth hand paperback copy, Ace Edition, 1987, the phrase:

“Nobody knows how memory works

except that everyone is sure he knows

and thinks all others are fools.”

That seems so relevant today, perhaps more than ever. 

I know the memories my children and my ex-wife share keep getting more and more strange until they’ve become completely divorced from those I recall.  To some extent, I believe that is based on the deliberate falsification of memory (see “Purportedly Recovered Memories”), now a science engaged in by former spouses (male and female) with the assistance of purported therapists, and of course, on a societal level, by the corporate media.  Political differences translate from the civic into the personal and into irreconcilable pasts that break up families, something I’ve experienced. 

My kids blame me and Trump, I opposed but did not hate him, at least, not enough for their “awoke” tastes.  So now I too am (and apparently always have been) a horrible human being. 

I don’t blame them, or hold it against them, but the consequences are the same.  And since we no longer communicate, the consequences seem unlikely to change.  The truth is not something to be explored lest it not agree with what they or I recall, or what they’ve been told over and over and over and over again. 

Something to think about as everyone around us, including those once most dear to us, morphs into very different beings.

Or is it us?

_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution. Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Reflections on Alex

It’s a pretty day in late January, but in a world largely devoid of joy, full of hate and fury, injustice and deception joyfully triumphant, the future shrouded in malodorous mists.  But still, … rays tinged in amber shades of joy break through.

I’m plodding my way through Norton’s anthology of English literature, Volume 2 after fifty or so years, I’m only on my second Poet, William Blake, someone deeply inspired by religion but who contrasted innocence with reality’s depravity, and as so often happens with almost anything, it made me think of my second son, Alex.  Ironic given Alex’s current views, But Alex, unlike so many now, is still open to other views.

Nothing in my life has ever been as beautiful as Alex as a young child.  Generous, full of love, and reveling in delight at the smallest things, almost no matter what.  A cry so beautiful no music compared in stirring my heart and motivating me to succeed.  So sharing and generous he set an example for me which I’ve always tried to follow.  His faith in me, the greatest reward I ever received.  He is very far away and I love and miss him very much.

He’s grown and changed a great deal, at least externally.  He’s a father now, and a husband, and an aspiring author.  His writing is mostly of battles and monsters and gore but I wonder if somewhere there isn’t a beautiful fragile flower full of hope waiting to be born.  Little Alex is still there, not all that far from the surface.  I wonder how he’d enjoy writing poetry instead.  Not in verse, he’s too free, too independent for that.  But his empathy has saved many a friend, and sometimes, a dad as well.

I recall that little children always loved him, and animals did too.  And friends always trusted him even if they’d once been antagonists and treated him poorly.  It’s hard not to come to love Alex: ask Salo and Paula, and now Missy too.  Layers upon layers and dreams upon dreams.  Trials upon trials I wish I could have spared from him, but life’s like that, the best laid plans too often go astray.  But still, Alex is Alex and nobody else, which is as it should be.

Reflections and dreams, rays of sunshine on bitter days, memories to warm the heart.  That was, is and always will be, … Alex to me.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Christmas Eve, 2020, in the City in the Sky

It dawns in this city nestled high in the middle range of the Colombian Andes, always beautiful in diverse ways, whether brightly lit in amber rays of light or covered in low lying clouds or drizzling amidst chilly breezes, but always a shade of spring.

Holidays and special days always seem melancholy and nostalgic for me. As always I miss my sons and friends back in my other homes, Ocala and Charleston and New York and Fort Lauderdale and Charlotte and Miami, but I’m grateful for my friends and family here in Manizales. Christmas Eve, once a day of delightful anticipation, no matter how poor we then were, now a day for memories and reflections. And gratitude for the life I’ve been privileged to live, regardless of how often I’ve wallowed in self-pity.

The world seems awful today but it almost always has, with evil (purportedly lesser) in charge, evil setting us against each other, dividing friends and families in fruitless fights over which party will abuse, deceive and steal from us least, driving us to expend energies better spent in savoring the delight of those around us, in helping each other cope, in creating a more equitable and happy world instead of expecting someone to hand it to us on a holiday platter.

It’s been decades since I was comforted by our holiday myths, times when I believed that the Prince of Peace would soften our hearts and open our eyes, and his rotund emissary would bring the gifts I’d been promised while sitting in his lap in a crowded and happy shopping center, bills be damned. But still, hope that goodness is tangible and real survives somehow, just out of reach, as if we were in a nightmare from which we could not yet escape but already knew it for a dream and were fairly sure we’d soon wake.

A few friends will gather here tonight, seven of us, sharing food and drink and memories and aspirations. This will be a quite Christmas in the midst of a pandemic that may or may not be as serious as described but which is serious enough to require us all to take care. I’ll be thinking of Billy and Alex and Edward. I’ll be wondering what magic Candice and Paula have cooked up. And I’ll be imagining the delight that Rosey and Melissa will be feeling as they look at wrapped presents under beautifully decorated trees with mature Salome looking on indulgently; my sons, their wives and my grandchildren.

I’ll be remembering old Christmases when I was the child and my mother and stepfather and brother and sister reveled in that special day in small apartments in Miami, or Queens, or with my grandmother and aunts here in Manizales. Old Christmases when I was the father with my sons and their mother in Fort Lauderdale and Hendersonville and Belleview and Ocala, when Santa’s deer sometimes left hoof prints on our roofs, and when, whether we had plenty (usually) or very little (once) we were as happy as it was possible to be because we were together.

I’ll be wondering what the memories I make today will taste like in some future far away.

I’ve shared so much love with so many people across the years, my family and friends, lovers with whom I’ve lost touch and lovers who’ve always remained nearby (at least spiritually), my classmates and former students at the old Eastern Military Academy and my class mates and ever growing chain of brothers at the Citadel. My colleagues and former students at the several universities in Manizales with whom I’ve been involved during the past thirteen years as well as the civic leaders, journalists and artists with whom I’ve developed strong bonds. I’ve had and am having a wonderful life, one that even Jimmy Stewart and Satchmo, somewhere on the other side of the veil with many others I’ve loved and treasured, might find enviable.

I miss my mother and grandmother and Aunt Carola, who left too early, at least for my tastes, and Pop and my Uncle Pacho who were the first to go. And those of my classmates and friends who have gone on to join them. I’ll be thinking of them today too, and reliving memories, the best of presents when one stops to think about it, gifts that really keep on giving. Christmas, 2020, a terrible year in too many ways until we stop and remember those closest to us, and then, it really is a special time of year.

Merry Christmas to all, or Saturnalia, or Yule, or Chanukah or Festivus or Solstice (winter or spring depending on where you find yourself). May peace finally find a home among us, and equity and justice and tolerance and respect, and may honor and honesty prosper someday soon, at long last.

And may the legends and myths with which we seek comfort bring us together rather than split us apart.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thoughts on a Strange Thanksgiving

November 26, 2020, one more shopping month until Christmas.  A strange Thanksgiving.  But then again, as an American holiday, it is always oxymoronically strange.

This year, at the macro level, orchestrated polarization is the rule, distrust and an utter lack of confidence in the existence or importance of veracity.  Half the population is thrilled that the “despicables” have been taught their lesson and put in their place and who cares what the cost was while the other half is more bitter than ever and their worst instincts are probably honed for a rematch.  Not a pretty sight nor one that generates feelings of gratitude.

At the micro level however, we have our families and loved ones, our hobbies and pet projects, and for many, albeit perhaps not for most, the delight one feels when tangibly helping others by sharing what we have. 

Perhaps the latter defines that for which we can be thankful on this very complex and perplexing holiday, one with distasteful historical roots based on colonists deluding naïve indigenous peoples from whom they would shortly steal everything, spreading murder and mayhem in the name of a beneficent deity who, in their strictly enforced opinion, sentenced all who would not follow puritanical dictates to perpetual torture.

Columbus Day has undergone a drastic transformation in many places, now a day of mourning for the European invasion of the Americas and destruction of indigenous cultures. I ask myself: what will indigenous Americans celebrate today? Or what will the descendants of those Europeans who did not share Puritan religious perceptions and paid for their heresies in flames celebrate? Perhaps someday Thanksgiving Day too will become a day of mourning, mourning our own Holocausts.

The Puritans seem to be making a comeback although on a sociopolitical rather than spiritual level, with condemnation of nonconformance in the name of tolerance in vogue, the nouveaux “enlightened” supporting, with their votes, those who, in the name of democracy and liberty, spread death and destruction all over the world.  An echo from our past that never seems to end.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, history is not everything and sometimes, out of the depths of evil good things come.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thoughts on All Hallows’ Eve, 2020

Circa 1993, Belleview, Florida

All Hallows Eve, in its incarnation as Halloween, has always been my three sons favorite feast day and so, brought me great joy, especially with Alex, my middle son, who loves it the most.  But All Hallows Eve has a deeper significance that becomes more and more meaningful each year as more and more of the people we’ve known pass beyond the veil. 

Many cultures around the globe, in their mythologies and religions (same thing really), hold that the veil that separates the living from those who have passed on is thinnest on that night.  Tonight. 

So, whether or not that is so, tonight I will be thinking of my mother and grandmother and aunt Carola, of my uncle Francisco, of my stepfather Leon; of my mentors like Leo Hedbavny and Jay Kaufmann and my former professors now long gone.  I’ll be thinking of my Citadel classmates and of those from Eastern Military Academy, and of my former students who passed on too young.  It will be a melancholy and nostalgic evening in which sorrow will meld with joys shared, while I also miss my sons and their own children and wives now reveling so far away.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic consultant employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.