Monday, August 17, 2009

My Grandma's 4Dead 4urious (Final Note on Guate)
Father Knows Best

It was my last day in Guatemala when my father showed up. I had accidentally made a date with this estranged vestigial appendage the prior day when he took my dismissal as a literal invitation to see his ceviche store.

I found myself sitting across from him, the Guatemalan humid sun beating down on my pale-ish NY moccha tan and his rubbery skin, outside of his Ceviche store.

The following takes place all in spanish so just imagine a confusing District 9 style alien guttering followed by English (or if we're classier, the Russian/English wipe Sean Connery pulls on Hunt for Red October).

" you drink beer?" he asks
"Yeah sure I'll have a beer."
"Alright! Listen don't tell your mother I gave you a beer alright?"

He called a young man over and ordered beers, "listen...I want to introduce you to my son!" He says
"Oh nice to meet you, I thought you only had daughters," the waiter says.
"I'm the American son," I reply, and we all nod and know the deal.

During our first round of beers he explains his ceviche store, "I used to run this place out of the back of my truck. The cops came up to me and said I couldn't sell ceviche from there and I needed a store, so i had the good fortune of finding this place. The trouble then was that my ceviche was SO GOOD that all of my customers took over this parking lot, and the neighboring stores complained. They ended up moving away and leaving my ceviche store as the only business here, just look around!"

I looked around and I saw that this was the truth. I looked to my left and saw that a police officer strapped with a machine gun chugging several beers was seated next to us.

My father continued; "I say hi to everyone here and they love me. You see how fancy those cars are? Those are MY customers! My ceviche is known around here, and I make everyone feel welcome. I try not to drink so many beers," he said as our second round arrived, "but they keep buying me beers! So when I think I'm getting too drunk I whisper to one of my helpers, 'listen...the next drink someone buys me, just dump the beer out of the bottle, fill it with water, and hand me that.' It doesn't work though because they'll walk over and notice that there are no bubbles in my drink and they'll go 'What the FUCK is this George? Are you trying to fool me? Get him a real beer right now!'"

Having a beer with my father was revealing at this point. This explained me. Know what I mean? My mother is introverted and cordial to a fault. Her idea of a binger is wine coolers with the family on December 26th. Here was my father; owner of a hearty laugh, social to a fault, and an alcoholic, but a functional one...

Our third round of beers came and we started to reminisce, latching onto the precious few memories we'd shared. "Remember the time you took me to the drive in zoo? And the lions almost ate us?" I said.
" I don't think so..."
"Oh, must have been the other guy my mom says might be my dad."
At this, George, my father, bellowed with a laughter that shook the table and rattled the police officer to my left. I have to admit, having a beer with my dad and making him laugh, it wasn't really on my to-do list, but it felt good having done it.

A fourth beer came, for him, as I reneged (I am the good son after all). The ceviche at his restaurant was actually delicious and he'd promised he'd share with me the recipe (but he's probably forgotten to send it to me). "I need to get back," I said, "I promised I'd go to the shopping mall with my aunt."

"Ok good good. Just wait a bit I have to check the store, then I will gladly drive you back" he said.

He disappeared into his store and I appreciated the outside. Guatemala is naturally beautiful. There are rolling green hills deep with forests. As I talked to my father it had rained, then the sun had lit up, then it had rained again, a heavy monsoon rain like water falling from a tightened wet towel.

"Alright let's go!" My father said as he carried ceviche for me to take home. In his right hand was a beer for the road.

We climbed into the car and I nervously glanced at the cop at my father's store. He was just sitting there minding his business not paying attention to my father who had started the car while simultaneously picking up the beer he'd placed between his thighs and slurping down a good 2 gulps into his gullet.

We were off driving in a foreign land, and I was at his mercy. I had no map and no way of getting home in case this car flipped over or something broke down. During a cross street, he edged the car forward, saw an approaching truck and jammed on the gas, jerking our vehicle forward and past the truck, then stopping at a light for a swig of beer.

I was ready to die. That's right, then and there I accepted death. "Well I've had some poignancy with my family, as is typical of a story, and now I will die here in Guatemala, my place of conception, and the place I hate the most, this has to fulfill some sort of Victorian novella quota, I'll be happy with a half-decent witty saying on my tombstone."

"I want to tell you something," my father said, rudely interrupting my internal monologue. "I want to tell you about what happened, in the past."

I looked at him and his eyes were full of tears that wouldn't fall. He looked like a sad Santa Claus. "Back then, when I was young...well sometimes...sometimes you can be more of a help by not being there. You know? Sometimes you know you shouldn' there."

I felt a sturdy vibration on the left side of the car as the two left wheels were now riding on the bumper dividers of the street. The car swerved right back into the lane as my father took another swig of his beer.

I clutched the seat as every muscle in me tensed up.

"And look at how you've turned out...I've always loved you." He said.

"It's a credit to your mother that she didn't poison you against me."

We reached my aunt's home, where I was staying at. And I jumped out of the car. After buzzing in he approached me. He said "I am going to bless you, and one day you should bless your kids like this too." He put his hand on my head and mumbled something.

His final words to me were, "I'm sorry about your grandmother. She was so brave. And she was so good to me."

His statement about absence preventing damage sounds incredulous, it did to me when he said it. But I gave it some time and I realized that in my case I couldn't really argue with him.

Things happened just so, and we were all fine.

My father wasn't there, but my grandmother was, wiping my ass when I was a kid, watching Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street with me when everyone else was gone, and taking care of me when I was sick. She was my strength as a child and all who saw us knew that, and no one dare interfere. She wasn't only living her life, she was also being the best person she could be under every circumstance thrown at her in life.

There's a lesson there.

I walked through my aunt's garden into her home to my mom and cousin and mom asked "so how was it? Did you have a beer with him? I bet you just made his day."

"Right outside the door, he put his hand on my head and blessed me..." I said.

"He's such a weirdo," she said with a smile.

Yeah, he is.



im'mature said...

What is this, Lifetime?


Kevin said...

Thank god you didn't say Logo.

Anonymous said...

this is a really sweet story. you didn't tell me about the part at the end when you and dad had your heart-to-heart.

family can be weird, your past can haunt you, but it sounds like in this case nothing but good came out of your trip.

David said...

Really good stuff. I mean it.

Kevin said...

Yeah I felt good right afterward. It wasn't a haunting, it was more of a pestering :)

Thanks david, this comment means a lot!