The bed seemed almost as old as their marriage. Over fifty years. I wondered when they stopped cuddling. Two big dents. The middle up high. Did they ever just throw their arms around each other?
I finally called Cuba this morning. Calling Cuba is one of the biggest struggles I have to deal with. The call drops, the repeating of words, the delay. “¡¿Me oyes?! The expense. $1.25 a minute. Cuba is 90 miles off the coast of Florida. You can call Africa for less than that.
My Tía Rosa just lost her husband. He died on Sunday. He fainted. Twice. His son gave him a bath and right afterwards his breath stopped. So typically Cuban. Our cleanliness always in check even when going to the next life.
She is the matriarch. Her strength has pulled together the whole family. Even with her iron fist she is able to break down into tears. Unlike my mother. Before calling I had to prepare myself. Had to remember all the prayers I made for her, my family, and my Tío who just passed away. I thought of them and the light that I see around them. How I wished I could be there to make her café and lift water from the well. But I am here in Oakland, a place she forgets to write down. She hears stories of what happens in the US on the three TV channels in Cuba. She prays for my safety not knowing the distance between New York, Iowa and California.
Tía Rosa wants to come here for a visit. I have been trying to get a closer appointment date for her interview at the embassy. The only date available is December 23, 2010. I made this appointment last year. Every so often I call again and get $11 charged to my debit card for an 8 minute phone call to hear that no one has died or cancelled their appt to speed up hers. I try. I will keep on trying, insha’Allah. The woman more than ever wants to be with her sisters.
It’s moments like these that I really pray that Barack Obama will lift the embargo. I hope that having an immigrant experience in his family while help shift things. I wonder what would happen if it was this difficult for everyone who makes these laws to see their family. Like my niece once said, “Bush gets to see his family everyday. Why can’t I?”
This week I kept on trying to change her appointment and each time I was told I had the wrong passport number. I called my aunt in Miami. Same number. I called my father. Same number. I called my Tía today to give her love and listen to her in tears. Same number. I called again. I was so frustrated but knew I had to persist because if I could give anything to the woman who believed in me before my mother ever did, I would give her this trip to be close to her sisters. Finally someone helped me figure out the right passport number. Fortysomething dollars later no one has died, no one has cancelled. I will have to call again.
I wonder if she will now sleep on his side of the bed. Have the dent cradle her. I wonder if she smells his clothes. Touches the hair left on his comb. I wonder if she hears his footsteps behind her or calls his name forgetting that he is no longer there. Over fifty years is longer than I have lived. Even in moments of bickering and yelling the love was still there. I saw this when I asked him why he loved her. His eyes brightened up and talked about her as if she was 20 again.
She told me that he loved me. This I know. He used to say that I was sweet. I just listened to his stories even if it took him a long time to speak. He planted spinach for me. He talked about the revolution and why he chose to stay. He was a good man. I pray that his soul is where it is suppose to be, that the light on 217 24 de febrero entre Martí y Cucalambé is bright, that I will keep on the embassy to change the date for my Tía, that someday, somehow this madness ends and we can have a normalized relationship with Cuba.