The other night I went to my friends, Abby and Frankie’s, for dinner. Abby and Frankie have been together since the moment they met as Freshman at the University of Florida. Abby’s family was originally from Manhattan and Jewish, and Frankie’s family were Cuban, Catholic and immigrants, due to the Castro regime. Despite differences, they have a strong, decades-long marriage. After dinner Frankie was making us traditional Cuban coffee and he and I were discussing his drive to get his familia together as his aging Tia’s (aunts) weren’t doing well medically. He spoke about the impact on his family having to flee Cuba, and how he felt the concern about the pandemic overshadowed the need to honor the families connection to each other—especially for the elders. His words pulled back a heavy curtain within my own mind, and it dawned on me “ Wow, it’s been years since my family were all together.
As most of you know, I was raised by Canadian parents in Berkeley. My aging aunts and uncles are all in Canada, and although usually I’m there annually, I haven’t been there in three years now. Part of me wants to say it’s due to storms and the pandemic, which is partially true, but prior to the pandemic I was in a complacent fog, “there’s plenty of time,” or “now’s not a good time.” But that conversation with Frankie struck me- my time remaining with them is precious.
There was a period in my early 30’s where I was estranged from my parents, then one day as I was traveling down a hilly road, I paused to let “the old man in the oncoming car pass.” Suddenly I was jolted, the “old man in the oncoming car” was my Father! I had been so wrapped up in my life, my concerns, my grievances that I hadn’t really considered that Life continues to unfold, whether I’m engaging with it or not, and he was rapidly getting older.
At this point in my life, I’m realizing that Love is the most important thing to tend to. I have some people in my life I do things for out of sense of obligation, however it’s still an obligation out of honor, care and respect. What I call “brotherly love,” or in the Christian tradition, Agape. But for those I love dearly, for those that matter deeply, that conversation over Cuban coffee reminded me little matters more than a heartfelt, loving bond. In my teens, my Aunt Joan was my spiritual counselor and my Aunt Helen brought me back to myself when I needed it badly. I want to tell them this in person. I want to make tea and chat with them, about anything really, and let them know their presence has mattered to me— and still does.
So I’m going to figure out a way to get to Canada, while keeping us all safe, and until I’m able, I’ll call often. And since mi familia is more than blood relatives, with my dear friends near and far, I’m going to do the same thing. Yes, we’re all busy, yes we actually have to schedule time to connect, but truly, of this I am sure: