Vanessa Mari

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Ana & José Mari & family

AFTER EIGHTY YEARS –

How can an eighty-year-old picture of my grandfather resemble him so much in the present? How does this child who looks at the camera so intensively remind me of my grandfather?

When I walked in to the Ramey Golden Age Home to visit my grandfather, Juan Mari, there were other families like us visiting too. As soon as I spotted him, I walked towards him with my dad.  He was sitting in his wheel chair in the middle of a big and bright room, waiting for the nurses to bring his food. He wore his same red shirt and short pants that I always see him in. He looked silently at the empty table, expecting to see food soon.

My dad hugged him from behind, over the awkwardness of the wheelchair. I did the same and then we both sat in the beige sofa beside him.

“Who are you?” He asked with a sharp, raspy voice. His eyes searched my face, trying to recognize it.

I watched my father to see what he would do.

“This is Vanessa, your granddaughter,” he explained.

By the time my grandfather acknowledged me, I had already forgotten all about the picture that lay in my hands, an old photograph I wanted to ask him about of him and his family when he was a child. In the center of the portrait, beside his mother, is the same person who sits before me right now, only then he was just a toddler.  But there is something about how the boy stares so intensively at the camera that reminds me of him, something in his eyes that hasn’t changed in eighty years.

The other figures in the portrait are my great-grandmother, Ana Mari, who holds Juan’s older brother, José, in her lap and my great-grandfather, José Antonio Mari, who balances Juan’s sister, Lourdes, on the arm of the sofa. The children wear exquisitely detailed clothing. My great-grandmother’s dress drapes gracefully over her knees, and my great-grandfather commands an air of success with his tuxedo and tie. The fine clothes the family wears points to the fact that they are wealthy. Such a well-made portrait was afforded by very few in those days.

I looked into my grandfather’s weakening eyes hoping for a glimmer of recognition and then had to walk out of the Golden Age Home; I felt completely devastated. I was overwhelmed by the sudden need to cry. His questions of who I was had pierced me deeply.

After a few seconds, I realized my grandfather had transformed into that boy in the photograph. They were both sitting unaware of anything about the real world. He had become as dependent and helpless as he was as a young boy. He couldn’t cook for himself or dress himself. Now, I know what it means when they say that old people are like little children. They live one day at a time without having the capacity to care much about the people beside them. My grandfather, a man well known for his strength and love, isn’t the same man I knew, but still that boy in the picture.

13 Comments

  1. Time is one of the hardest things to grasp when you are younger. You feel invincible, and are never in any hurry because there is always tomorrow. When we come face to face with mortality, especially in the eyes of one we care about our perspective gradually evolves.

  2. Most definitely Vanessa. I am in total agreement with the last sentence. I see life as a graphic. We start going up into adulthood, and then we go back down when becoming older. Is similar to becoming a young child again. Even though it is not the case in every grown person’s life. Great analogy though. I love the retro and vintage element that the picture itself possess.

  3. Carol DePriest – This picture is so AWESOME, Laurel. Not just buasece it’s of my beautiful granddaughter, but the detail the stalk of grass! I love your talent and your discerning photographer’s eyes! MOM

  4. Dear Vanessa:

    Your story touched me deeply. It is a lovely story of how delicate life is and how important it is to have a great amount of love in our hearts for our family and above all give attention and consideration to the older members of our family. Your Grandfather and Great Aunt were two of my husband David’s favorite relatives, they had wonderful times together and he had very good memories of times spent with them. Congratulations, please continue to write about the family and your experiences, they mean a great deal and are important in a time when family values and relationships are not as important as they once were. Hopefully I will meet you one day.

    Lovingly,
    Virginia Pennock Mari

  5. Saludos Vanessa: No nos conocemos personalmente, pues me vine a residir a San Juan en los años 60 y no vi nacer ni a tu padre ni a ti, pero si conoci muy bien a tu abuelo Tao, T abuela, tu tia Lourdes y a tu bis abuela Tia Ana. Mi mama, Georgina, era prima hermana de tu bisabuela con quien se crio la fallecer su mama. Recuerdo que la conoci cuando vivia en los altos de la torrefaccion Luri en la San Rafael. Siempre que ibamos a visitarla nos regalaba cinco centavos a mis hermanas y a mi. Luego de mudarnos para San Juan, de vez en cuando mami me pedia que la llevara a verla cuando vivia en la esquina de la calle Muñoz Rivera y ambas se divertian mucho al recordar su epoca de niñas en los comienzos del siglo pasado. Te deseo exito y muchas bendiciones. Saludos a tu papa.

  6. Me emociono mucho lo que escribiste, pues hablas sobre unas personas que yo quiero mucho. Tu abuelo Juan Santiago Mari Mari convivio con mi familia unos años cuando yo era niño, ayudando a mi padre, Mariano Mari (Baito) en la administracion de la finca donde viviamos. Lourdes se pasaba largas temporadas connosotros tambien. No conoci a Tio Jose Antonio (tu bisabuelo) ni a Jose (Toto), pues habian fallecido antes de yo nacer. Luego de convivir con nosotros, tu abuelo (Tao) regreso a Mayaguez y establecio un Colmado, donde repartia amistad, consejos y muchas cosas buenas a todo el que pasaba por alli. Mis padres fueron padrinos de tu papa. Yo convivi con Tia Ana y Lourdes por 4 a☺ años mientras estudie agronomia en el Colegio de Mayaguez . Todosw los domingos, tus abuelos, Tao y Olga iban a casa de Tia Ana con los niños Jose Antionio y Ana Zoe. Guardo muchos recuerdos bonitos de esos años. Sigue escribiendo.
    Juan F. Mari (Manito)

  7. Hermosa historia. Te felicito.

  8. Precioso presentas una realidad que nos toco vivir muy triste. Aunque no te recordo en ese momento siempre los nietos estuvieron en su corazon. Continua escribiendo asi con el corazon, poniendo puro sentimiento es lo que escribes. Te felicito. Tia

    • Lucila, what a beautiful tritube to your Abuela! I will certainly be generous with my smiles today. I understand your sadness; I was very close to my grandmother who was full of smiles and laughter who died in 2001. She was my matron of honor in my wedding and held on to her life until she met my first baby, Maddie. She literally died the next day I still miss her and think of her every day. My heart is wrapped around you today!Darcy

  9. Poignant, touching and beautiful story that takes the reader to the nursing home of the man who stop being who he was…

    • Lucila,I know that your Abuela is looking down on you with huge pride. What a lucky,lucky lady to have had such a bfuetiaul grandaughter!Thank-you for sharing your story.Lucky, lucky Me for having you as my Facebook friend!Susanxox

  10. Vanessa, te felicito por la iniciativa de escribir y publicar vivencias electrónicamente. Tu escrito me causa particular emoción por varias razones. Primero, eres la hija de uno de mis más apreciados y admirados profesores, mentor y modelo de educador ejemplar. Le das mi saludo. Pero, ya, el protagonismo dejo de ser de tu padre. Ahora esto es entre tú y yo. Otra razón por la cual disfruté tu anécdota es porque me hiciste recordar la dinámica que viví con mi querida abuela Cecilia Poventud Gallardo. Te informo que fue la única, de todos mis abuelos, que sobrevivió hasta sobrepasar los 90 años, y esa longevidad, me expuso a lo que describes en tu experiencia. Todos los días le tenía que presentar a sus biznietas. Cuando ella murió, mis hijas extrañaban la presentación rutinaria. No sé si fue mejor por tenerla tanto tiempo a mi lado, lo que me hace extrañarla más que a los otros tres abuelos. A los paternos casi ni los pude conocer. A Cecilia la pude tener para mi sola, y el lazo de mujer a mujer, de nieta a abuela, se fortaleció más de lo que realmente fue en el período de su plena capacidad mental. La conocí como mujer fuerte y soberbia, pero después tuve que apoyarla en su debilidad y fragilidad de “niña otra vez”. Qué circular es el tiempo!

    Por último, me hiciste reflexionar sobre la transición que nos toca vivir, la conexión del pasado con el presente en la tecnología. Cuántas fotos familiares, como la tuya, escaparán el olvido, porque alguien se ha ocupado de digitalizarlas y darle “el nuevo formato del recuerdo”. Te deseo mucho éxito en cualquiera de las empresas que decidas acoger. Y, por favor, no digitalices la sensibilidad, que es evidente tienes en grande, porque a esa todavía le corresponde continuar siendo muy humana.

  11. Precioso. Estoy bien orgulloso de ser tu papá.

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