Stuff Happens. Right? Sometimes it's small stuff, like an off tune note on one of those recorders we used to play in school. It's barely noticeable and it hardly makes any difference at all. But sometimes stuff happens like cymbals slamming together right next to your ear. Right on time too, no mistaking it. Obvious. Obnoxious. You even saw it coming from the beginning of the frigging song. And still you are surprised to find that suddenly the sheet music that you were sure you were so familiar with has been irrevocably altered to the point that it barely seems familiar. That's life, baby. You turn around in a full circle experiencing amnesia that your basically forcing on yourself because you just can't believe it. You just can not believe that this has happened.
This lady here is Olga Eugenia Lopez Naranjo. Pretty? Yes. This picture was taken in Cuba where she was born on November 15th, 1933. I think she's about 15 in this photograph. At this point, she had probably already known my father for a couple of years. They met while they were really young and stayed within each other's periphery until I suppose she reached the conclusion that yeah, he was the one. Can you blame him for falling so madly in love with her? And he was. I didn't get to know her very well, but I know, regardless of how complicated relationships get, that he loved her until early last year. And maybe he still loves her; maybe love really is infinite. Maybe they spend their nights in a reincarnated Tropicana listening to Celia Cruz serenading her homeland with Salsa, and dancing the night away. Especially tonight that it's my father's birthday. Azucar! I loved watching them dance. If they were dancing, everything was right in the world. I know they would have wanted to be back home too. The home of back then before you know who.
There's very little known about addiction. I mean, you can read a gazillion books about it and you can attend seminars and you've seen commercials guaranteeing a cure, etc. But really, no one knows what's going on there. Some people think you develop it, like breasts, or a cold sore that goes away eventually if you stop picking at it. I think it's born with you, like an evil twin growing out of the back of your neck. Well, addiction isn't any more evil than I am... So there I am, minding my own business in 1989, I have two kids, so far nothing has turned out anywhere near where I would have wanted it to except that my kids are absolutely and incredibly beautiful and healthy. Nothing is perfect except for them but I am not addicted to anything. I'm an addict already but I'm not addicted yet. And here comes the crescendo. In this particular symphony though, it comes out of left field. We knew she wasn't feeling well, but there was never any indication that she was departing that night. None. We were in a motel room in Virginia for Pete's sake. We only had like 400 miles to go to get her back to New York. Here I was, thinking I had plenty of time to get to know this woman in my adulthood. That she would watch her grand kids turn into men and women. That she would continue to be that beacon for me, not necessarily physically available but always shining the light in the right direction.
All of her grand kids were with her the night that she died in that motel room. She was almost quite literally surrounded by all five, from my 3 year old daughter to my 13 year old nephew, and they are now well into adulthood. Her two daughters were there, too, who are now well into middle age. The only person that was not there was my father. He was on his way there, driving from New York to Virginia to pick her up because she had called him and told him she wasn't feeling well.
It took 22 years for him to finally get to her.
Ahhhh, stuff happens.
I didn't pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels that night to start obliterating my senses. For me it was slow and accumulative. Sneaky, if you can imagine, like it was okay at first. Like alcohol was friendly, helpful even. But eventually... Well, here I am anyway. It was all I could do at the time to get through it. And maybe it did help me a little. Maybe it did save me a little. I didn't know what else to do with what I was feeling.
I know, we all die. Sad, but true. All sorts of stuff happens, but thankfully now I'm familiar with my doppelganger, and I've learned a few things to keep it... well, to not keep it at all. Hey, I can do this life thing without having to take any detours. It's okay. And if it ain't okay, well guess what? It is what it is. Doesn't sound like much to hold on to, I know, but that's faith for you, and I don't even believe in God. Not that one anyway. So, those two humans gave me life. Poof, just like that, there I am. A part of him, Jose Manuel Naranjo, and a part of her. To honor that, and them, and the tree that I am a part of, all I need to do is be grateful for my life. And today, I am really, really grateful.
Anyway, I hope that in between the mambo my parents can look in my direction and know that I'm trying really hard to live the life they gave me as best I can.
Happy Birthday Daddy.
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