I happened to be at my parent’s house when President Bush gave his speech on Cuba from the Rose Garden. I’d just turned on the afternoon news and they were running a segment on the upcoming speech. Dad said Bush was about to talk about Cuba and the embargo.
“No way, dad,” I said. “Its too soon still, maybe closer to the election.” I thought he was hoping the president would talk about Cuba. I mean, I’m a blogger, I’m supposed to know what’s going on. Especially when it comes to Cuba and the politics.
Turns out dad was right.
So we sat there and listened to the speech in English. I didn’t put the Spanish language station on as it’s hard for me to follow in two languages. I could see dad staring intently at the TV, listening to the words in his second language, trying to understand, to translate everything the president of his country was saying.
Then it struck me: What is going through his mind at this very moment? What is he thinking?
Was he remembering Cuba? In his mind, was he a little kid again, running around el Puerto where he grew up? Was he fishing with his dad? Maybe he was recalling the day he met my mother? And how he would go around town with mom on the handlebars of his bike?
Could it have been the day my sister was born, the first baby of the family? Or maybe it was my first birthday? Or a day at the beach with the entire family?
Maybe he was remembering everything he left behind. His mother. His sister which he’d promised he’d see again.
Could he have been experiencing once again that brief glimmer of hope, now in his 70’s, that he had lived through so many times before? That “maybe now is the time” prevalent when you are a Cuban exile?
Somewhere in his mind, was there the memory precise moment he arrived here? A man in the middle of his life, arriving in a new country with only the clothes on his back and his terrified wife and daughter clinging to his arms? His young son crying at the top of his lungs?
Maybe he was thinking about what his life could have been without there ever being a Fidel Castro.
I won’t ever know. But maybe I am just like him. I too wonder what my life would have been like growing up in a free Cuba. Who would I be?
All I really know is that I want to know the place where I was born. I want to see the place where my dad and mom came into this world. I want to breathe it, smell it, taste it. I wanna see where they met, where they married. Where I lived. I want to climb the same trees my dad climbed when he was a boy. I want to fish where he fished, drink where he drank, walk where he walked.
But most of all I want him to stop feeling that pain of what if’s. I want him to live long enough to see that day when his son can go freely to that little town in Cuba. I want him here long enough to hear me tell him the story of my experience. I want him to know how I felt that day, the one where I went to meet my grandfather for the first time, and laid a flower at his grave.