Remembering My Mother
My Mother, that colossal Latina who gave birth and education to 10 children —me included—, made me the man I am still trying to become today.
Women make men.
Literally, inside and out, especially, obviously, if they happen to be their mothers.
My case, I bet, is not different from the many who this past weekend were remembering their mothers, as we couldn’t avoid the pink-colored reminders on the Roku screen, on the Google Doodles, on the billboards big and small, and now in ALDÍA News— with this posting that didn’t make it to the past Sunday deadline.
My mother was a very special woman, you’d still want to know.
She, like any other, would literally lay down her life for any or all of her offspring, 10 of them, down to the last one, the cubita, or La Raspa (the youngest, the very last one in the clan).
That would be me, born at the end of her long line of consecutive pregnancies (14 in total) this brave South American woman was capable of bearing and enduring, before collapsing to cancer in her mid 60s, but not before building a large family of 10 siblings with her husband, Don Pedro Guaracao.
She was already in her late 40s when I jumped off into the world, thanks to her and El Jefe of the Family, Don Pedro, another sturdy creature of callous hands, born and raised in the most northern tail of the Andes Mountains, in South America.
When I was 5 or so, I remember a woman in her 50s who would look after me all the time, caring and loving enough in her role as mother, as much as she probably did with her primogenital, my oldest sister, Angélica, and I am sure with each and everyone of her other eight children, born between the oldest and me, the youngest, over the span of over 20 years.
But I was the consentido, el niño— the spoiled youngest, according to the negative propaganda from my older siblings.
But indeed no less disciplined by my mother’s heavy hand that, if it knew how to tenderly caress her son’s head, it could also be quick with the spanking on the rear, with her knuckles turned on you, when it was absolutely necessary.
I vaguely remember only one time she did impart that kind of “tough love” to me.
I would like to remember I felt full shame for letting her down, while at the same time feeling overwhelmed by her unexpected decision to transform her gentle admonitions into physical punishment.
Only one time, sufficient for me to pick myself up and swear only to myself that I'd never dare again. I was probably only 10, and from that point on I was not, by the power of my will, going to to ever extremely disappoint her like that.
The most vivid memory about my mother was when she bravely confronted death, when cancer finally slowed down her still robust body which had endured 14 pregnancies and 10 deliveries, never complaining of any disease, up to her 60’s, when the deadly cancer finally intruded onto her.
I can’t help but remember the varicose and probably sore veins my eyes of a child noticed on her legs, later explained to me as the result of the long hours standing under the sun, working the land next to my father when she was a young mother, or giving birth in her own home to the Guaracao lineage of 2 brothers and 7 sisters and, finally, me— the foundation of today’s family tree of almost 40 grand and great grandchildren who survived her, or are today her proud descendants.
When cancer came to finish her off, like it was her most common attitude the rest of her life, she never complained. "Bendito sea Dios," (bless be God Almighty) was her quick verbal reaction whenever something went very wrong— perhaps her way to remain calm and silence the expletives.
She took the pain and her fate with humility, down to the final days and hours of her life, under extreme medicines made available to ameliorate the physical suffering of the terrible disease that was at the end her kind of martyrdom, very tangible to me through the quiet groaning I could overhear through the walls of the adjacent room where I used to sleep.
A deeply Christian woman she was, I can picture her today, Día de la Madre, only "victorious over her grave," as Saint Paul would put it, with an encouraging smile, no different from those moments when she gave me so many times, in her casual style, one her favorite pieces of advise:
“Mijo, there is always a solution for every problem in life— except death.”
She was Rogelia Calderón de Guaracao, my beloved mother.