There is much to say about Family. Fathers and mothers can be particularly difficult to articulate. While I don't pick special days to call out my parents, I felt that I needed to continue this story about my father and his trip home to Cuba. This seemed an authentic time to share.
Can you imagine being forced to leave your home and your parents and little brother when you were 14? Emotionally I know at 14 I would not have been prepared for that. Can you imagine coming to a country where you do not speak the language and you are not living with any blood relatives? What about leaving a tropical island with amazing beaches and blue water and ending up in the hot desert of the New Mexico sun? To put yourself in that place cannot be easy. This was my dad's journey.
When we traveled to Cuba all I could see was the romance of this forbidden island. I cannot for the life of me imagine the emotions you feel to come home to a place where you no longer fit in, where your parents and brother are old and in the case of your mom, she has passed. The last time you saw her she was a young woman. The emotions weighing in on my father must have been intense. I think I've mentioned that the full two weeks we were here there wasn't a day that went by that we didn't cry.
Life hasn't been easy for Dad, but he's managed to carve out a decent life in America. While my relationship with him is not normal he has a great "family" support group. There is much I appreciate about this man. For one he's cool, he's an amazing artist, and he does genuinely care about people. While he never saw his own mom again, he's shown an amazing support for my mom's side of the family. Though my parents haven't been together since the 70's, recently my 94 year old grandmother needed some extra care. My dad still calls her Mom and he willingly volunteered to spend a few mornings a week to support my grandmother and help my mom out. I had to call him and thank him. I found this very touching and can't recall many in his shoes that would show such concern for their in-laws.
On this particular day in Cuba I took the image above of him sitting in the living room of his parents home. He was soaking it all in. So much to do and consider. What were you thinking this day Dad?
There is a story behind the image above, while I speak of my own Dad, he also had an interesting relationship with his Father. As you can imagine after 40 years their own relationship was strained. Usually when my Dad called Cuba he always talked to his mother, never his father. Resentment, anger, who knows.
However, this particular day we got my grandfather outside of the house. We had to rent a car since they only allow new cars to drive thru the tunnels here. Can you imagine an old 1950 Chevy getting stuck in these tunnels. Abuelo was not well and in much pain, but he came anyways. We drove to Soroa resort. There is a waterfall in lush surroundings.
Once we got there we drove up to this very high hill, Dad and Luis had to help my grandfather get out of the car to overlook all the lush tobacco fields and feel the sun. I vividly remember this scene and feeling very emotional. I stayed back and captured this moment on film, I knew this would be the last time my grandfather would ever see this scene and that this day would never be repeated. He and my dad would be in this place for the last time that contained so many fond memories. It was just a feeling and is now a reality. Less then a year after this visit my grandfather, my dad's Father passed away. I hope he'd remembered this day and of all the great memories with his son before he left this beautiful island.
As usual my dad neglected to tell me we were going to hike to this waterfall. And this day it rained, rain like I have never felt before. Buckets of water felt like they were pouring over me. I was so unprepared in wedge sandals, no rain coat and my Canon AE-1 manual camera loaded only with B&W film. I managed to keep my camera relatively dry. Only Dad and I hiked to the waterfall and later met up with Luis and Abuelo. Abuelo was not to happy that my Dad managed to get me soaked. I was fine and enjoyed watching this family dynamic.
A few years back I had made a deal with my dad to swap paintings of Cuba. He is a very talented artist and I didn't own anything he's ever painted. Mostly he painted as a hobby. I've told him for years he could make a living at it. Today he actually does do paintings and murals for clients in addition to other work. I chose an few images to piece together and paint, bright and colorful, with vibrant oils. It's how I viewed Cuba. When I was making a trip home to New Mexico I told him I had his painting in hand and that he'd better have something for me. He took two days off and did the pastel pencil image above. His was muted and soft, mine was in rich vibrant colors. Two different views of the same trip. I thought it interesting that he choose to put two people in the image, he and his father. They use to sit here on the Malecon viewing the Habana harbor entrance and the El Morro fortress.
I have so many questions that I would have liked to ask my grandfather. Where were you born, what year, why did you move to Cuba, how did you meet my grandmother, when and where did you get married, do you have any brothers, sisters, aunts, why didn't you come to America? Ah families are interesting and our curiosity is endless. Embrace your family, Fathers, Mothers all of them while they are still alive, even in all the dysfunctional parts, you know you still love them.
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