Saturday, May 23, 2009

Algo sobre mi Mami


My indefatigable grandma, or Mami, as I like to call her, walked directly to the single illuminated bench in the otherwise dim interior of the Morelia Cathedral and carefully placed her eighty year old body on the varnished wood. I thought about how much I loved her as the light allowed me, once again, to perceive her characteristically braided grey hair and her favorite faded red sweater. Rejoicing in the almost biblical image materializing in front of me, I quickly retrieved my camera and fired a couple of shots—one of which accompanies this essay—fearing that her untiring character would lead her to walk away at any moment. I smiled, thinking to myself that the photographs would turn out to be great, even if they looked staged, and proceeded to explore the rest of the place. When I looked for Mami after a few minutes, she was still sitting in the same place, cleaning her glasses as the limited amount of sun coming through the lateral window seemed to have been divinely selected for her. I took another set of photographs and continued my surveying, assuring myself that if I had wanted to fabricate those lighting effects I would have never been able to do it. I was happy, because of the photographs and because Mami was there. She said that she had never visited the place, but I was certain that she had. After all, she claimed not to remember having gone to places we had visited together barely two years before. When I told her about my idea of going to Morelia, she had said, “Yes. Morelia. That’s good. It’s a nice place and it has an enormous Cathedral.” I imagined that in her youth she had been there and that the experience contained one of the many secrets that she has kept from her family and that should never be revealed.

I wanted to see the Cathedral, but something kept me glued to Mami’s image. During the previous road trip she had maintained the fullest energy possible for her age. In fact, she had always been my accomplice in planning and realizing several road trips around her home town, but during this trip we both began to accept the effects of her age at around kilometer one thousand. Pondering on the beauty of the image, on the beauty of Mami herself, I remembered that the day before she had stumbled in a poorly lit restaurant. She had selected that bench not for aesthetic reasons or the possible warmth that the sun would provide, but because the light shining on it promised the security of a safe landing. An excruciating sense of sadness began to assail me. For years, my family and I had become increasingly aware of the loss of energy and mobility Mami had been undergoing. Intellectually, in consideration of my background in Psychology and Social Work, that awareness should have rendered my feelings as infantile, for what was appearing before my eyes was nothing but the outcome of age in every human being. I felt sad, nevertheless, because Mami was the first person to make us believe that she was as strong as a forty year old woman and because, being so attached to her, I was the first in the family to believe her. I felt sad because of my delusional naiveté. I was sad because, in spite of all the logical preparations and biblical foreshadowing, I was unwilling to accept that she would eventually die.

I sat next to her and asked her how she was doing.

“I am fine,” she said. “I was cleaning my glasses. This place is beautiful.”

I held her hand and kissed it. We then silently sat for a few minutes while I caressed her head.

“Do you want to go back home?” I asked.

“Don’t you want to go to other places?”

“Not unless you feel like going back.”

Mami remained silent for a moment.

“Actually, I am a bit worried about your uncle,” she said.

I smiled, happy to know that, as usual, she had seized the opportunity, for she would never have asked me to do something that she believed would hurt my feelings.

During the rest of my vacation, our road trips amounted to quick visits to the market or to my uncle’s house. I spent all possible time by her side: cooking, watching television, cleaning the house, talking until dawn or sleeping by her side. When I showed her the photograph at the Cathedral, she did not really care much for it.

“You are leaving in four days,” she interrupted as I told her how beautiful the image seemed to me. In denial, I did not care to know when I was leaving, but she was counting the days.

“I hate going to the airport,” she said.

Swallowing my tears, I pretended not to have heard and continued babbling about her photograph at the Cathedral.

Mami, however, was more concerned about the mental photograph of our upcoming farewell.

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