My one day off winds down as I stare at my computer for a bit. Y. has gone off to bed, exhausted as she is, and D. is chatting with her friends a little too loud. She will of course come out and pretend she’s not sleepy, and then go to bed. I feel tired, and I know the snoring little ball of (short) fur on the couch will need walking in some eight hours and I should get to bed. But this called me. So I answered.
As I sat and stared, I remember the weekend. Back in Caracas, my family got together. A big part of my family. They all gathered at an aunt’s house where less pleasant memories finally died. My parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law, my two beautiful nephews whom I am yet to hold; they just turned two this past Friday. My one-hundred-and-one-year-old great-uncle. My cousin flew in from Mexico with her husband and their triplets, who are now tweens; when I first saw them in that house they were very active toddlers. Another cousin and her husband are there with their two daughters. The oldest, who was the ring bearer in my first wedding, is now a beautiful seventeen-year-old, and I tremble for her father. And of course, I see my parents, delighted as they are to have so many of their loved ones with them.
And I’m there. We’re there.
Emigration requires a level of selfishness, no doubt. You try to loosen any ties you have with what you’ve known all your life and at the same time use it as inspiration for the future. I’ve read stories, heard comments, of people that simply burn all bridges, never to return. It happened during the early and mid-twentieth century when Italians and Spanish landed in Venezuela, or when the Irish and, again, the Italians got to New York. Considering how much we’ve been hurt, you can’t be surprised.
But I was still there.
I’ve always been a family man. Or so I thought. My parenting skills still need a little adjusting, but I am grateful for the life I’ve had in the last six years and for the life I will have in the future. And yet I can’t and won’t erase my life back home. Those are my blood, my first and longest love.
But with those pictures I saw, such a large group of people I love dearly, finally together after so long, I realize something: it doesn’t hurt to watch.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I still felt all the nostalgia you can imagine. But I felt nothing but joy. Pure and adulterated. The younger cousins have probably not met each other, and my niece and nephew got to know more people. Still waiting on their uncle Juan to show up, but that’s coming down the road. Not as soon as I’d wish, but sooner than we fear, I hope. And just to know how much love Mom and Dad are getting is more than enough.
Because I was there.
I know they asked about us, wondered how we’re doing and what we’re up to. I know my cousin felt sorry that we couldn’t get together because of our hectic schedules when they came to Orlando. But I also know they all wished me, Y. and D. were there. That they were happy for us, but still wished for our embrace. I remembered that we are nothing without the people that love us. I felt it so strongly that I was there.
I was there and that made me feel happy.