THE PERPETUAL GIFT
Semanawak Part One
By Lucia Natalia Aguilar Gaona
The sorrow which has no vent in tears, make other organs weep.
Many things happen in our lives that seem almost a coincidence, yet a hidden gift emanates from inside the universe that provides us all with a particular form of personal destiny or restitution; unusual opportunities or attributes, even when we are way too young to acknowledge them, our perception allows us to immediately identify with other gifted (or compensated) persons. Whether we come across a sudden turn of unfortunate events or people popping out of nowhere. These random acts of kindness are like the ripples of a rock thrown in water, actions of people and shared memories that will linger beyond our own existence.
If life hands us a pair of uncaring parents, somehow a strange force or an unspoken blessing appears to correct the misdeed. A forsaken baby is given another chance or pair of substitute parents; unexpectedly intervene to save him or her from starving to death or parish in the cold, rescuing them from the indifference of their biological parents. Imagine an endless chain of gifted persons in which perhaps you too were rescued and a linked to a loving mom. I Lucia was rescued by my aunt Ana, the fifth of six children, she was a tall slender teenager when I was born to her sister Caroline, my biological mother second eldest female of the Garza family, who ten months earlier had given birth to my sister Victoria, which she unconditionally worshiped, and thus as a creature of an unwanted pregnancy I was tossed aside, into my aunt's arms.
Ana’s loving arms cradled and loved me in a way that straighten the gifts and deepened the roots of our ancestry with songs and throughout my life Ana, became my role model. Later in the late 60’s, after the first divorce still a child, I was welcomed into her home, a new family spent many of weekends, happily playing with my baby cousins, unaware that my mom was content to have one less mouth to feed.
Two decades earlier in the mid-forties by another strange coincidence Ana was also partially adopted by another surrogate mom, Natita, who happened to be the paternal grandmother of Celia, one of the upstairs neighbor’s girl, who was an only child and was five years younger than Ana. Celia’s mother and father had to work on weekdays and weekends Ana spent most her evening babysitting and playing with her, this went on for some for five or six years, of course Ana’s summers, springs and winters were also spent away from her home and biological family (one less mouth to feed), living with Celia’s grandparents in the town of Queretaro.
Needless to say that Celia was a spoiled brat at home, but at the grand parents place she had to restrain herself from being the center of attention; her aunt Carmen who was well into her late twenties, had been born with Down syndrome; a sweet, obedient child in a woman’s body was a highly educated person, taught to read, write and speak in both English and Spanish by her mother Natita. This situation was part of many unspoken layers of domestic anxiety for Celia’s workaholic family. Natita, was gifted and a devoted catholic. Also, she had a private shrine to “Saint Carmen” a life size statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, her personal sanctuary where she prayed for guidance and condolence. Carmen was a source of inspiration for Natita’s compassion towards the mentally ill or disabled.
My aunt Ana became the answer to her prayers, the embodiment of miracle in an eight-year-old child. My mother and my uncles knew this perfectly well and I believe they silently envied Ana her whole life. As Celia’s inseparable childhood friend, she also had another set of parents that saved her from starving and cherished her presence. Ana was naturally very tolerant, she felt she wasn’t special at all, reserved yet attentive, obedient, gracious and compassionate in contrast to her siblings, four rowdy brothers that she didn’t miss at all. Yet, Natita understood that Ana had the gift; her intuition, the way she could invent all sorts of stories at any given moment, or activities convincing Celia to eat her meals, also how to distract her from making a scene, coming from a pair of narcissistic parents, Celia was a drama queen.
Her parents both Bertha and Alex were professional actors, always touring around New York or Chicago, they had no time for children. Ana was emotionally mature, an aspect of the gift a kind of natural serenity, which allowed her to understand and embrace Celia’s elderly grandparent’s strict and frugal ways with ease. This environment was a paradise compared to the chaotic, testosterone rival ridden apartment where she would have to return eventually. Natita’s husband Arturo, was an attorney, writer, a poet and a local town judge who didn’t believe in tolerating any kind of tantrums and yes, to him children were to be seen, never heard! They all lived in a large old house, very polished and dignified, Ana was seven when her father Jesus died, being gifted helped not just to become a companion to Natita and a sister to Celia but also an accomplished artist, mother, caregiver and a protector of gifted people around her including me.
It was a series of unfortunate events that brought us back together, after my parents divorced on two different occasions. Ana was content with her life, gave birth to four children, just like her mother before her, she over protected them and worried to death, after ten awful years she lost the battle to lung cancer in 1992 at the age of fifty-two, I was thirty-three at the time; since then, her absence is indescribable.
Fast forward to fall of 2011, my biological mother Caroline, Ana’s older and only sister met with Ana’s widower Paco and nephew Paquito at her home in Los Angeles California. I had picked them up from the airport, happy to have them come all the way out from Mexico City, Ana and Paco were very fond of my step father Tex, Caroline’s second husband, after a year of painful pancreatic cancer, was terminally hospitalized. Paco, wanted to see him to express his and Ana’s eternal appreciation.
Tex was also a gifted genius, emotionally intelligent and there wasn’t a place where he went or a person that he met that didn’t respond to his warmth, fun filled caring nature. At the age of twelve he too, was given an extra pair of caring parents, thanks to the Southbay foster care system. His father abandoned his mother and nine siblings. Tex was a maintenance worker, highly appreciated by his customers, coworkers and his family, a lovable guy always attentive and trustworthy; plus, Tex was also an unbelievable grandfather to both nephews and my sons, doting over them; taking them fishing or camping. He knew what it is like to be forsaken, while he did forgive his father for his cowardly behavior, he had no children of his own, but the universe gave the opportunity to be a substitute dad/grandfather.
Two years prior to his illness he gave my eldest son his classic Ford pickup truck as a birthday gift. Although my uncle Paco suffered from Alzheimer’s he could not forget how Tex took on the responsibility of an instant family, his immense generosity needed to be acknowledge, it could not be postponed another day, a kind of sacred mission to show his affection and appreciation. My uncle Paco and cousin Paquito stayed two nights, I drove them to the airport, mired with the inevitable loss of Tex, secretly mirroring Ana’s passing, we were together but sadly torn by the grief.
Tex passed away a week later, at age of sixty-four. Although he was 15 years younger than Caroline, his generosity impaired his ability to perceive the source of his disease. This was not the first time I had a front row seat to a slow execution; Ana, my beloved aunt was guilt ridden for years, because she felt unable to save her brothers from eternal damnation; her religious beliefs gorged her body, drowning silently in shame, no matter how many times they drained the liquid from her lungs, it was to no avail. I observed her religious fervor demanded unconditional obedience to a merciless god, in Ana’s heart lived that unspoken contradiction, we pondered about god’s intentions and his never ending tests? why did he not see that her bothers didn’t contest her true love and loyalty? So she gave her life for it.
As for Tex he too fell into a dark and hopeless trap, the love for Caroline, died when she lured him away from his reunited siblings, all of them longing for emotional support they had been lacking and in the end was secretly killing him. Her skills of a covert narcissist dragged him out to Baja to live on a beach front home, and become business owners; starting a restaurant and liquor store with no previous experience. When that adventure didn’t work, they quietly returned to Los Angeles, omitting the failure of their business and marriage. But all his good deeds were cancelled by her greed, poisoned by her endless excuses, his body endured permanent state of fear and insanity of losing touch with friends and access to his surrogate family…
First published February 2021
(story continues in Semanawak Part Two)