Friday, August 19, 2005

A Small Tribute

Antonio Fernandez-Vina

By Frater Bovious
9th Level Adept, THOOTR
For those that know us, you know that Rosie's father passed away last Friday, the 12th. He had Alzheimer's and had been in the memory unit of a managed care facility in Dallas called The Veranda. During one visit I wrote some notes about what I was seeing, and then fleshed it out a bit after another visit. I sat down and wrote this the morning before he died.

Saint Veranda (God's Porch)

Bits of trash. Shiny metal, feathers, discarded wire. Beads, mono-filament line, and patience. Fishing lures. He was keen to try his latest creation, kind of a spoon lure that should have just the right action.

He couldn't quite get it all together just so. Interruptions. Sometimes he could just ignore the nuisance, and keep focused on the task at hand. This time he was mostly successful, and he made his way to the pier. It was a pretty day, no humidity. His spoon lure forgotten, he was going with the ones he seemed to always find. He admired his Abu Garcia rod, and noted the leader he was using, and absentmindedly wended to the pier.

He was there. It always seemed to surprise him. He'd be wandering about, and then, like a trusted friend, it would be there, looking out over the water. He stood on the pier, squinting in the reflected light. His eyes weren't so good anymore, but it didn't really matter. Here was his chair, his personal seat on the veranda, as he came to think of it. Part porch, part pier, part salt sea spray, part chills, part heat; it wasn't home, but it was familiar. And of course, there were the angels.

Bending forward, he looked for the right lure in his tackle box, and began the arduous task of attaching it to his leader.

“Hey Papi!” The voice startled him, and he dropped the lure. Looking around for the source of the voice he noticed how crowded and noisy was the pier. Too many people, too much noise, and no idea if anyone really addressed him. Dismissing it as yet another irritant, best ignored, his fingers stretched to finish some task, and fumbled around in his lap. Looking out over the railing, he lost himself in the rhythm of the sea. In and out, in and out. The familiar swooshing sound retreated in his ears, the susurration taking him back in time. He was quite young, and heading for the water to fish. He cast himself like a lure, a particular memory took the bait and there he was, hip deep in the ocean, where he wanted to be.

With an accomplished flip of the wrist he whipped his line far out beyond the sandbar, out to where the big fish swim. Spanish Mackerel. That's what he was after. Two or three, and dinner would be served. “Hey Papi!”

The pole dropped from his startled hands, and he reached vainly, trying to regain it. It was just out of his reach, and as he strained toward it he was knocked backwards and off his feet by a surge of water. Regaining his footing, he stood in the surf, someone tapping him on the shoulder. He needed that pole. Where was it? Turning toward the tapping, squinting in the tropical sun, he muttered “Eh?” and tried to see who was standing over him. The sun was in his eyes. Always in his eyes.

“Papi! Tu no recuerdas?

He considered that for a moment. Remember what? What remember what? What was he doing? There, the tug, the bait had been taken! He reeled, catching a glimpse of his prize. Oh it was putting up a fight. This was a worthy combatant. He might even land it this time. It was something to do with whoever was tapping him on the shoulder. If he could just get it in. If he could just say what was right there. Ah. Lost it. What was it? Casting, he struggled in the waves and the undertow, striving to re-capture... What what? He cast again. Maybe he could even land it this time...

“He's off somewhere again. God, this is so hard.” The lady stood looking, watching the fumbling hands that used to fix everything. Mr. Fix-it he had been called. With a clever wit, always a laugh, always some pun. One of the staff walked up, the Cuban one named Ana, and asked, “How you doing today?”

“I'm fine – just sad. This just isn't fair.”

The older lady looked up at her. “No dear, it just isn't. He ate real well today though. And I've got him walking some. And we talk and talk. Sometimes he thinks I'm his wife. Sometimes maybe you. He plays his bongos some, and we all dance. It's been a real blessing, him being here.”

The younger lady just looked down at her father. Sadness whelmed her being. “He was a chemist you know,” she said to no one in particular. Leaning down, she hugged the old man. “I miss you Papi.” She blinked against tears.

The nurse patted her shoulder. “I know dear, I know.” Turning to the old man, she said, “Hey, you have a visitor! Let's get up and show her how you can walk.”

Walk. Walk, walk, walk. That angel wanted him up and walking again. She has a sway on him, he owed her some courtesy for some reason, something she did - he needed to get up and get to the pier. He stood, grabbing for his tackle box. The sway, the rhythm took him, and enraptured by the sound of the sea, the pull of the tides, he was there, hip deep, where he wanted to be. (August 11, 2005)