ESTA ES SU CASA—NOVEMBER 2009
Touched by an angel
Honduras is going to the World Cup! With seconds left in a game with Costa Rica, Jonathan Bornstein scored a goal for the United States. That goal, combined with Honduras’ victory over El Salvador the same night, clinched a berth for Honduras in the World Cup, the global soccer tournament that makes the World Series look like hopscotch. (Of course, if the Cardinals had gotten a little farther…) Both games were played at the same time, the whole country was flipping channels all night. Honduras’ game ended, and we held our breath for the longest minute of our lives. If you felt a sudden lift beneath your feet, it was 7 million Hondurans—and at least one gringo—all leaping into the air at the same time. With one kick—actually, it was a header—Jonathan Bornstein did more for peace between our countries than anyone has in 5 months. Hondurans waved American flags, gingos donned Honduran soccer jerseys. Let’s just say it was a miracle.
The celebration was overdue. The last time Honduras was in the World Cup was 1982. In those days, I didn’t even know what the World Cup was. But I soon learned. In those days, Padre Patricio and I rode mules from village to village, and we would get updates from folks glued to radios spitting static. Ever since, I’ve agonized with Honduras every 4 years, hoping maybe this time…
In Las Vegas, a spontaneous erupted as the whole town poured into the streets. All 6 cars in town formed an impromptu parade, bristling with cheering fans, a conga line wound around the soccer field, the Las Vegas Band, who just recorded a CD, set up their keyboards and loudspeakers, folks shook my hand to thank me as for the U.S. assist to Honduras’ hopes, finally fulfilled. So we’re going to South Africa, the host of the 2010 World Cup. We should feel right at home, since I understand their crime rate is about the same as ours.
Speaking of crimes, that night of celebration ended horribly for me, when I lost track of Chemo in all the hubbub and finally found him dead drunk in a mud puddle in a dark street, barely breathing. Chepito, of all people, helped me with him, carry him home, pull off his wet clothes, and cold shower him for about 40 minutes, then get him into bed. Chemo was unconscious, and I wished I were. Because I did blame myself, you know. I thought I’d killed my son. I checked him every 10 minutes to be sure he was still alive. When I touched him about 2 in the morning, he was soaking wet, and so was the bed. The inevitable had happened—the liquor had recycled through his bladder. I got him into a dry bed and started over.
The next day was a national holiday to celebrate the World Cup, so I assumed there’d be no school. But when I saw kids heading for class, I told Doricell to tell Profe Nancy that Chemo was ‘sick.’ About 8 a.m. Chemo stirred. ‘I’m hungry.’ He wanted soup, so I fixed the biggest Cup o’ Soup I could and he slurped it up in a couple minutes. At recess time, Profe Nancy sent a couple little classmates for Chemo, lest he miss the last day of regular class (the next day was a party). Chemo bounced up, threw on his uniform, and ran off to school, just like nothing had happened. I went along behind, to tell Profe Nancy what had happened.
Maybe I have finally become a father. I thought, I have to take care of Chemo FIRST. I can’t be feeding half the neighborhood when I don’t even know sometimes where Chemo is. I can’t be running off to all these meetings and groups and celebraciones and not spend time with my own kid. Actually, I had already decided to cut the nightly spaghetti suppers down to Sundays only, once ‘summer vacation’ began. Now I decided to implement the new regime at once.
It’s been a delight! I told Chemo I’m not trying to punish him or hog-tie him, I’m just trying to put him first. So I don’t do ‘my’ thing until I know where Chemo is. He’s usually with Santos his brother and Alba and the kids at their house. They just got electricity—I paid for 350 feet of wire to connect them to the nearest post—so it’s better than ever for evening visits. Now I can leave my house, hang around at the soccer field as Chemo and I wait for Santos to leave the AA meeting, and I’ve even gone to their house for supper, to enjoy Alba’s version of spaghetti, with a little bone of chicken on the side. Delicious!
One Sunday, instead of Mass—and it was going to be big, with First Communions and all—I skipped out to accept the invitation of our AA group to go to Las Cañas for their chapter’s anniversary. It’s just about 20 minutes outside Victoria by car, and it was great. I took Chemo, Santos took his son Santitos, Don Jose took his kids Uladislao and Rigo. There was just as much grace and faith in the men’s testimony—plus a few cusswords for spice!—as you’d find in any church.
This CASA may look a little different this month—if indeed I can send it at all—because I’m patching things together after my laptop got mangled when someone tried to pull it out of my office through a slashed screen, a broken window, and an iron grate. That was on my birthday, October 12. Some present, huh? But that was after the party, with delicious food prepared by Dora and Brenda, whose husband Wilfredo celebrates the same day, so the whole day wasn’t spoiled. My MacBook is at the biggest electronics store in Honduras, where they sell Apple products. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they will honor the guarantee still in effect. Only ‘Normal Use’ is covered, of course. But hey, in Honduras, defenestration of all types is normal!
In fact, ousted president Mel Zelaya may be coming back inside, thanks to an 'agreement' that was suddenly announced between Mel and de facto president Roberto Micheletti when some heavy-hitters from the U.S. State Department came down here and twisted some arms. It would create a 'government of reconciliation': Mel-chiletti? Obi-wan-Kenobi said, 'Use The Force,' looks like Obama-wan-Kenobi used The Prize, the Nobel Peace Prize, that is. Dear God! if we do get peace, it will be another miracle.
After the class party, Profe Nancy took Chemo aside and quietly counseled him for about 10 minutes. I wasn’t close enough to hear, but I could tell she loved him, her wings enfolding him. She’ll be his teacher again in third grade, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better.
Meanwhile, Lily graduated first in her class at the National School of Music, and she’s not even 18 yet. Elvis and Dora went to Tegucigalpa for the ceremony. I was invited as a special guest, but suddenly, Doctora Karla fired a flare to come to Tegucigalpa--with Rosa! I stammered and stuttered. If she had told me to take a flight to the Moon and get back by Wednesday, I would have thought it more likely. I grabbed the fattest little book I had, Charles Dickens' 'Bleak House,' and off we went, Chemo and I. We got from Las Vegas to Tocoa in one day--9 hours, 6 buses--and back to Tegucigalpa the next--9 hours, 1 bus--with Rosa and her husband Tonio. The key here was another angel, when Tonio's buddy gave us a ride to the bus station at 5:00 in the morning. He saw us standing in the dark at the edge of their village hoping for a local bus that never came.
Next day, Rosa had her appointment, and Ron Roll just wrapped his big arms around her and told her, 'Everybody knows about Rosa!' And he's all over Chemo, 'Get over here, big guy!' A doctor and nurse who had arrived early in advance of the Brigada checked her out and consulted directly with her soon-to-be surgeon Dr. Christian Gilbert, live from his office in Memphis via Skype. 'I'll bring the valve,' he said. The man's a genius, an angel you could say.
But he can't make blood. The hospital needs 6 pints, a sort of downpayment before the surgery. Tonio gave the first pint. It took all morning waiting in 4 different lines, and I couldn't imagine getting any more. Scavenging for donors, qualified donors, you see, because not everyone willing to donate CAN donate, like me, with my hepatitis still cobwebbed in my bloodstream.
From 'Bleak House': 'What the poor are to the poor is little known, except to themselves and God.' Sometimes the door opens a crack, and you can see inside.... Pray for us, be good to us, and I will update you shortly, I hope, on Rosa's surgery.