I have been thinking about you. Not that I don’t always think about you, I do. But this time I have been thinking about how you lived in Mexico when you were my age– before my mom, way before me. How when I was three, after you taught me the alphabet you taught me your favorite Spanish phrases. I would sit on your lap, slurping on a bowl of Ramen Noodles in our old Missouri farm house and wait to repeat after you. “Donde esta la biblioteca?” A phrase that would become classic to us yet was basically useless in the real world. But you were convinced everyone would need to know how to find a Spanish library at some point in their lives. All of the numbers up to fifteen, because you said anything higher would be too complicated for a toddler, even though I think that was just an excuse because you had forgotten everything after that. “No se,” you said was the correct response you could not, or were unsure of how to answer. “Donde esta la biblioteca?” “No se.” On Wednesday one of the white water rafting guides asked me if I had gone for a swim, AKA overboard. “Si,” I said. “Porque?” he asked, flirtatiously egging on my embarrassment. I thought about it. “No se,” I replied.
I don’t think you would have supported my decision to take this trip had it been three years ago. But ten months ago, when you were feeling worse and I knew our time together was escaping us, I think you might have. Maybe the fact that I’m continuing to be a writer would not please you like it would if I had an epiphany and became an engineer, even though my worst subject was always math. But perhaps the idea of me practicing my Spanish with the locals would bring you some sense of joy. I cannot be sure that death has brought you a change of heart, but I hope that in October, when you had been gone for six months, you fully supported my decision to come. Not just for the Spanish lessons, but for my happiness.
I think that in death you are faced with your biggest regrets, but are eventually absolved of all guilt and former misery. I hope this is the truth for you. I hope this mostly for my own peace of mind. I hope the times when Aunt Cathe would announce her upcoming plans to bike through Venezuela or move to Romania to live with the gypsies – and you would roll your eyes at her an question her sanity, now fill you with remorse. I hope you are on a bike ride of your own now. Or camel or rickshaw or zip line, visiting all the places you loved at some point in your life, and all of the places you never got to go. I hope you are drinking cerveza and salsa dancing and perfecting your Spanish. And I hope as you watch me sign up for writing retreats in Costa Rica, visit questionable looking bars in Glasgow, and dance in the streets of Brooklyn, you feel proud instead of embarrassed, understanding instead of condemning, sure instead of doubtful, and very much alive.