La familia

Last week I received an email with a suspicious subject heading from an addressee I did not recognize.

So, I opened it.

The email was entirely in Spanish and every single word was CAPITALIZED. After reading the first two lines, I realized it was from my half-aunt with two arms who currently resides in Cuba.

I continued reading with incredible curiosity. Would there be a hidden message? Some sort of code I would have to crack to figure out if she needed me to send her freeze-dried rice and beans or to get the exact coordinates of her possible raft landing on the sands of Key Biscayne.

Unfortunately, there was none of that. It was the most mundane email ever written, with bits and pieces about her family and her thwarted efforts to come to Miami for a visit.

We're not yelling...We're Cuban.
We’re not yelling, we just don’t know how to take off the caps lock.

For being the first time you talk to someone, it was awfully familial. I almost became indignant about the whole thing until I remembered that this is just the way it is. When your mother is an only child from a divorced marriage, you get weird hyphens and halves for family members: a step-grandfather, a half-aunt, a great-aunt with one arm, a fourth-cousin, a guy you have to call your uncle even though he is not. And when your mother is from Cuba, all of these hyphens and halves get the right to become intimately involved in your life – if you let them.

Which is why I keep them all at arms length. They’ve struggled against communism for 50 + years. I’ve struggled against their meddling for 35 years.

Fight as I may, I always end up losing. All of the halves and hyphens I’ve met, and continue to meet, have this intense instinct to connect with relatives – no matter how distant in blood line. They don’t hesitate in calling me family and immediately asking me why I’m so fat.

They don’t care that I’m clearly different in so very many ways. They can care less about what I do for a living or my opinions on the Pope or socialism. They don’t want to get to know me, because knowing that we carry similar DNA is enough.

So, here I am, replying to an email from a stranger and contemplating whether or not to make a joke about my period being late this month and not having to worry about the possibility of her becoming a half-great-aunt with two arms.


I see him everywhere.

My nephew.

I also see him in stock photos.

I see him in little boys and older boys and in babies, too. I see him in the places I go and in planes and on ships. I see him everywhere. Even though I haven’t physically seen him in more than two years.

I’d like to think he sees me in crowds at the mall or as an extra on his favorite TV show. But, that’s wishful thinking. I know he doesn’t. I’m sure he doesn’t give my absence a second thought. As well as he shouldn’t. He’s a teen with a whole host of problems. With obscene amounts of homework and extra-curricular activities. He has enough on his plate.

In a few short years, he’ll be an adult. An adult with conviction and opinions and free will. And as such, he will most likely call me out on walking out of his life – that’s if our paths will cross again, which I’m sure the chances are really high on that happening.

But, for right now, it’s best that we stay in our corners.

It’s for the best. I mean, the only things I could offer a fourteen year old are lessons in defying authority, spinning a story and charming the ladies. Seriously. That would be negligent on my part. No teenage boy should be privy to these things. I mean, I’m sure it would be very helpful, but I would probably end up getting a 4 AM phone call from him needing a ride home from a kegger. Something that should never be done before the age of sixteen, in my opinion.

Okay, this is just for Peter, so everyone else look away.

My beautiful boy, I’ve never stopped loving you. I’ve never stopped thinking of you and seeing you. Everywhere. Especially in my heart.

As for your sister. I see her too. Every time I look in the mirror.

Love you both.