Saturday, October 13, 2012


We were at my son’s school concert when the text message came…”se murio Fidel”, “Fidel is dead…”.     Even as I dismissed it as yet another rumor, I was overwhelmed by a flood of memories, long forgotten! Memories of a childhood marked by insecurity and fear, of my dad being taken from our home and missing for weeks. Memories of hushed whispers about the government, of long lines to buy basic necessities, of feeling as outcasts because of my parents political views.

Our childhood was one of constant waiting for the day of the “salida”, the day we would be allowed to leave our homeland, of nervous anticipation, yet fear of how our lives would be changed forever.  The most intense memory I still hold is of the night of our departure! My grandmothers tearful prediction that this would be a parting until forever, my mother’s sad eyes, my father’s muffled voice as we said goodbye to our home, seem so vivid today when, once again, rumor has it…”se murio Fidel” .  Children may not understand the complexities of politics nor the reasoning which goes into their parent’s decisions, but they certainly understand sadness, despair, pain and loss.

I never saw my parents look back, cry nor shrink back from the decision to leave their home for a new life in the United States. They had too much ahead, a new language to learn, the struggle to find work, to adjust to a life and culture very different from their own. They relentlessly encouraged me and my sisters on the path to education, to not accept circumstances as final, to have faith in God and ourselves, question authority, be skeptical of politicians, and never to forget how uncertain life can be….theirs was changed in an instant. I am sure that privately they grieved, but we were not made privy to their sorrow!

So what if Castro, now 86 is dead? We call the US home, our children were born here, and our oldest family members rest in cemeteries in Miami and across this great land that we have learned to call our own. Few of us would contemplate going back to the land of our parents, yet the news affect us still!

Today in a dark auditorium, hearing my youngest, American born son sing, I was reminded of much I had chosen to forget, feelings long buried, unspoken losses, unshed tears!  My children sympathize, but they do not really understand how or why an old dictator’s life or death should mean anything to their grandmother, their aunts or to me. To them it is all but a story, and Fidel the comic book villain therein. To those of my generation it is much more!

 Fidel is dead…se murio…yet again! Should I pray, mourn or dance for joy on that day which is sure t to come….who knows?  Perhaps, for those of us who still recall life as children in Castro’s Cuba, his passing, whenever that occurs, will give us a chance to truly grieve, to heal from the wounds of our childhood, to finally turn the page in a story that has affected us for as long as I can remember.

For tonight, with those I love and still can remember how it was, perhaps it will be enough to speak about old times and sip a few mojitos.