DAY TWO; MAY 6, 1962
Friday, October 30, 2009
DAY TWO; MAY 6, 1962
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Since this probably will not be read by too many people, I chose it as the venue in which to publish these thoughts. I will add one day at a time and, if anyone out there comes across these lines and likes them and wishes to share some thoughts, please drop a line to
A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A “PEDRO PAN”
DAY ONE; May 5, 1962
-“¡Abuelo!! I shouted, -“What are you doing here?” – “Why did you come today instead of Saturday?
I was excited to see my grandfather. More than a grandfather, he had truly been my father. My parents had been divorced when I was 2 years old and my mother’s father had been my granddad, my father and also a friend. I lived with him and my grandmother in Cienfuegos, a city on the south-central shore of Cuba for most of my life but, since the remarriage of my mother I went to live in Cruces, a small town nearby; he would usually come to take me for the weekend. But, today was a weekday and this visit was unexpected.
-“Hola”, he said to me, but without his usual smile and usual “semi hug” (he was a very caring and loving man, but not overly expressive about it) and this unsettled me a little bit. Because of my own personality, circumstantial life experience gained even in the short time actually lived, and the acquired survival skills needed in a politically highly unstable environment, my sensitive skills antennae were developed at a very early age. When he went directly to my mother’s room and closed the door, an unusual action for him, I really became concerned that something was very wrong.
-“Perhaps, since I am not going to school, he has come to take me with him earlier than usual. Maybe he has a trip and wants me to go with him”, I thought. “Well” continued my argument with myself -“he has taken me in his trips many times before”.
-“M’ijo” I heard my mother call out, -“Son, please come in here for a few minutes”. I did not know it then, but with that call, my life changed forever. I know now there are pivotal moments in life. That moment was, perhaps, the pivotal moment in my life. I walked into her room and felt the tension in the air; my mother’s eyes were sad, teary and troubled. I felt scared. Had I known what was coming, I think I might have run the other way.
“Si mama” I said, -“what did you want?”. She started to say something but, somehow, the words could not come out. She looked at her father, my grandfather, in a look that I understand today as being one of a desperate request for help… “You tell him”, she said, “I can’t”.
-“You know” he started to slowly say –“the situation here in Cuba has really become very difficult, and we believe it will get much worse as time goes by”.
As did many people in Cuba, my grandfather had originally supported the idea of a government change. But, unlike many others, he was able to quickly see beyond the glitter and the posters into the harsh reality of a potentially closed and ruthless regime. By late 1960, he had already disavowed any allegiance to the Castro Brothers, and was listening to the clandestine radio messages and programs issued through the short wave radio every night. Then, when the catholic school I was attending was taken over by the government, he began to earnestly figure out a way to get my sister and I out of the country. I just was never consulted about the idea.
“Because of this” he then continued, - “your mother and I thought that it will be better if you two were sent to El Norte” (The US was then referred to as “The North”, based on its geographic position vis-à-vis Cuba). It still did not register in my mind what I was being told. Until he added –“the reason I came today, is that the telegram just arrived; you are both leaving in 5 days”. It was well known that those who received permission to leave were advised of this via a telegram from the corresponding government agency. It usually gave you 5 days to prepare for the rest of your life.
At age 15, this was definitely not nearly enough…
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