The Prodigal Daughter
Roberto Ramirez was abandoned.
He was found one on a bright june morning, in a residential building complex in Maracaibo. He had a cardboard sign the address of a close family member that apparently lived in the building. His possessions were limited to a black plastic bag with his clothes, his ID and a few bs.
The neighbors quickly notified the supposed family member. She took one look at him, replied that she could not take care of him as she was about to go on a trip and suggested they call the cops so he could be sent back to her uncle’s place, where Roberto apparently had been staying.
Roberto remained a few days in the complex. The neighbors took care of him and notified the authorities. He laid in a mattress during the day, and slept in one of the neighbor’s house during night.
A few days later he was taken to INASS and given proper medical attention.
But Roberto was not a child. He was a 95 year old man, with 6 children and 11 grandchildren. But still, no one to care for him.
About a month later, Roberto passed away. Only one grandchild showed up. He said that the family could not afford the funeral costs and that his body could be donated to the LUZ medical faculty. Once again, the neighbors stepped in, and gave Roberto a funeral.
How could their children do this? The comments on facebook screeched.
I just lowered my gaze in shame.
It’s a cellphone video, sent over via whatsapp.
In it, you see a gaunt man, mid 60s maybe early 70s, hard to tell in his state. His wearing a greenish tartan plaid shirt and khakis. His clothes hang off his body, like a child playing with their parents outfits. He’s looking inside a blue duffel bag.
“Mani! (Peanuts)” He squeals like a child, taking out a jar of peanut butter and showing it to the camera.
He continues to take out other packets of foodstuffs, saying the names slowly as he takes each item out, as if he’s remembering something forgotten.He holds on to the bags of sugar, making calculations in his mind.
“This will last me till November ” he declares, and keeps on scavenging. His hands hold the packages of spaghetti delicately, like a fragile treasure.
“Tuna in a bag.” He says wide eyed ”Amazing.” He murmurs to himself.
He takes a deep sniff at the coffee and stays there a second.
Everything is placed carefully into another suitcase.
The family has just received a box filled with toiletries and foodstuffs from abroad. They’re dividing everything between them.
The video is sad, is miserable, it’s overwhelming.
But for me, it was much more, because the man in the video is my Father.
I have been estranged from my father for a few years now.
When I was little, I always wondered how people could spend 20 years without speaking to another family member, It just didn’t make sense, time was slower back then of course, months were years and years were decades.
Now, at 32. I find that I haven’t seen my father in almost a decade, and I can’t truly remember the last time I spoke to him on the phone. Months? Years? Time creeps up and makes the divide insurmountable. I never wanted to look back.
The guilt has begun to build inside me.
If he was well, if he had made it, if he had another family, perhaps I could just go on with how things are. I could keep on feeding my anger and pain and keep digging the divide. I could keep remembering all the shitty things he did, I could remember when he lost our house to loan sharks when I was in college; when he tried to blackmail my mother into giving him money; when I learned that I had six other siblings; when he stood me up on my college graduation; when I invited him to meet his grand-kids before leaving Venezuela and he never showed up.
There’s a limit, isn’t there? To people who hurt you, who abandon you.
But, do you leave your family to starve?
Do you turn a blind eye or do you turn the other cheek?
Of all the things Chavismo has done, I never thought it would be them that would actually make me look back one more time.
“For this … of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (New International Version. Luke 15.24)