Simon, bajate de ese campanario antes de que mates a alguien!
Life was pretty easy in Cuba before the revolutionaries took over. Every afternoon Simon Del Valle, the local Roman Catholic Priest would get drunk on communion wine and climb up on the church bell tower with rifle in hand taking pot shots at anything that moved in his vicinity often revealing all the secrets told to him in the sanctity of confession. And every afternoon Lucio his brother who was the local Babalawo called out to him, avoiding the flying bullets, begging him to come down from the bell tower before he killed someone! You could set your watch to Simon's responses. He would continue shooting, ringing the bell and yelling back at his brother that he was a demon sent by the devil himself to corrupt his pure soul.
Grandpap would sit in his rickety rocking chair outside Dad's store named El Gallito (The Rooster), laughing and smoking his Cuban cigars. The smell permeated all over the surrounding area and I remembered thinking that someday this scenario would stay forever registered in my mind. My father would often stand by grandpap on a slow day, which was most of the time, to watch the events unfold.
"He just called Sra. Adeliada a prostitute, says she's sleeping with Jose Martinez." Granpap would tell dad as he smiled big exposing some gold teeth before taking another drag of his Cigar.
Dad would just stand there and smile, keeping grandpap company before he scolded Simon down from the bell tower. Simon always listened to my dad, when he didn't fall asleep up there after exhausting himself with threats and gunfire. My dad was one of those iconic type figures everyone looked up to, straight laced and decent, and with a genuine caring for each one of the town's people. He was known to all as Luicito, and often many would come in and ask for monetary help, and my father would happily comply. He purchased a huge house in El Vedado for his childhood friend Miguel Angel and mom was always kept in movie star style both in clothes and in credit cards. She used to frequent the biggest department stores often requesting that all her purchases be delivered to her home. Everyone at El Encanto more than graciously accommodated her for all she had to do was mention she was "Luicito's" wife.
Old Cuba at sunset brought with it pachangas at Auntie Sofia's house. Conga and Merengue Rhythms, strung up Chili peppers that lit up door frames, darkened rooms, Cuban Cigars , meat patties, coca cola and sandwiches made from deviled ham and cream cheese, and even some gambling on the side. Everyone always had a wonderful time and a bond of close friendships were established, never to be broken. Even Simon would dance and be somewhat civil at Auntie's Sofia's. The highlight of the evening was when the American tourists arrived and Lucio gave them a tarot card and spiritual reading, warning them about each other giving each one signs of betrayals, gossip, often pretending the spirit of Elegua had entered his body. The blue haired Americans, as he often referred to them, would turn on each other with each one of his revelations and when the arguments got heated enough Lucio would pretend to faint as the others ushered the unsuspecting Americans out of the home, with tons of their money in hand.
They say that a vulture of silence will eat away at your gut. When grandpap and daddy came to the United States, Cuba was never again uttered in the new household. Auntie Sofia stayed behind, as did Miguel Angel, Lucio and Simon. We never saw them again, yet sometimes when I close my eyes, I'm there. I'm at daddy's store, watching Simon on his bell tower, I'm at Auntie's Sofia's dancing and eating surrounded by love and feeling oh so safe and protected. I once asked dad why he kept so silent about the past.
"You're turning your back on reality." I said.
"You think I've turned my back on reality? It's the times that have changed, my Teresita, and we must look forward with clear conscious." He replied.
I want to remember. I want to talk about it and remember, I want to write about it and remember, when grandpap and dad were still alive in the country they loved and that loved them back.