HERNANDEZ – Francisco
It has been thirty years and not one second of any day gets any less devastating. We still hear your voice and see your infectious smile every day. Heaven is lucky to have you, we just wish not now. We miss and love you forever and ever and ever.
Love you always. The Family
No matter how many years had passed, the pain was still vivid. Andrea closed her eyes, saw the two of them climbing the wall of a church ten year-old kids laughing out loud terrified – she opened her eyes. She could only get a glimpse of him, ‘no more’, “no more”. Someone has to appease the overwhelmed and impose silence on the truths that must not be spoken. Andrea could name the day she had become Atlas.
“Me trae salsa habanera?” Hector displayed his shiniest smile for Caterina’s maid. His wife sighed but didn’t say anything: she was too preoccupied making sure that their son was watching television with his cousins. Cristina turned towards her father. He had asked her to move back to Mexico to take over his business. She had refused. Now, she asked in a gentle, almost apologetic, tone: “How’s the company, dad?” “I’m doing some remodeling, and I’ve talked to a lawyer about expanding the place and – Why do you care?” The dream of a peaceful conversation faded away. Armandita, the Mother, seized the opportunity and told Javier, the father, that he still owed her money.
Caterina made a joke about how Hector was sweating. Hector cleaned his face with a napkin. Cristina announced that she was with child. “Pregnant? Again?” exclaimed Armandita. “I only have one son.” “Yes, but I already have eight grand children.” “Cherished ones.” At this, Armandita smiled. She spent her old age travelling to take care of her eight – soon to be nine – grand children. She insisted on everyone following her lead: to brush their hair as she would have done, to brush their teeth as she would have done, to love theirs husbands as she should have done.
Armandita had considered since the hospital, gloom corridor falling apart on a filthy floor listening to the silence that devours his words — she had considered that it was Javier’s fault. Even if she tried to be rational, the feeling came back, like nausea. She cherished him and she couldn’t forgive him. During the funeral, Javier had seen the accusation in her eyes. He had stayed. He had spent most of his time working and – years later – cheating on her. Then, he had left.
“Mom, it is only the flu. Please let me go.” Armandita had turned towards him: “Francisco, I said no, you’ll have other opportunities to have fun with your friends. Tonight, I’m going out with my sister and I want you to stay tight. Read a book, since you love so much poetry. Maybe you could write your masterpiece in the next hours, who knows?” Francisco returned to the room he shared with Andrea and sat down on his bed. He opened a José Marti anthology. “You look grumpy. Did you ask permission again?” Francisco laughed. “Mom told me to stay and write my masterpiece. Duty calls.” “Paco, the great poet. I can picture it. Your face will be in the newspaper, and I’ll come into the library of Columbia University – where I’ll be studying art history…” “Of course.” “… and I’ll find your books. The librarian will recommend them. He’ll say this book, Miss, this book is extraordinary.” Andrea didn’t exactly know what ‘great people’ signified but she was certain that it didn’t mean becoming as cribbed with debts as their father.
“It’s time for the children to go to sleep” said Gaston, Cristina’s husband. “Let’s finish dinner first, and put them to bed afterwards.” answered Caterina. Cristina intervened: “Surely, Caty, you don’t mind if we put our son to sleep?” Caterina sighed. She disliked how Cristina stood by her husband instead of her family. She turned to Andrea for wisdom. Thus, Andrea spoke. “Now that Gaston has spoken about putting the children to bed, what is the only thing we are going to think about?” A silence. “It would make us hurry through dinner. That would be a shame.” Everyone got up. The parents fetched their children and divided them between the several bedrooms. It was a tumult. All of a sudden, the children were in bed, the lights were out, and the parents had regained the table.
“Where were we?” asked Gaston. Half the table laughed. Gaston was funny and clever and empathetic, but he was the man that prevented Cristina from coming back to Mexico. Wasn’t he? The truth was that Cristina had chosen the family she had built over the family she was born in. When Caterina went to visit them in Spain, she saw how meaningful her sister’s quest was, how her family looked like a work of art, sculpted smoothly over the years. When anyone saw them in Spain, they understood why Cristina’s choice was to stay in Europe, even if she cried because of how much she missed them. She was working on a lifelong masterpiece. There was still some resentment, but no one was bewildered anymore. It made sense.
“How’s business?” asked Javier to Gaston. “Been better. The crisis in Spain gets worse everyday.” Cristina wondered if her father would mention his own business. He didn’t. “I’m not feeling that good” uttered Caterina. She was struck by migraines. Andrea asked: “Have you thought about the operation?” “I’ll be back in a second.” They used to be able to celebrate. Time hadn’t cured anything. The newspaper was on the table. Javier said: “I miss him”. Armandita slowly turned towards him and muttered: “How dare you.”
“I’m going to ask father.”
“Ask him what?”
“If I can go out.”
“I promised my friends.”
“Such a rebel, kiddo.”
“Gangster 2 Pac’.”
“Mom will get mad when she finds out.”
“Let’s keep it a secret.”
When he was pleading, his smile magnified. He had that sweetness and that generosity that made Andrea capitulate.
Caterina came into the bedroom and ran into Francisco’s arms. “Y ahora por qué estas llorando?” “Cristina stole my toy and she won’t give it back.” “Baby girl, stop crying. She’ll give it back.” Cristina came into the room, Caterina stopped crying and Cristina gave her the toy back. “Sometimes, I wonder if they fight just so they have an excuse to come and talk to you.” “That would be flattering.” “What do you think of being a German TV producer?” “Or a lead singer in an African band?” “Or a communist?” “Or a dictator?”
When Armandita went to check on how the kids were doing, she saw that they had fallen asleep. Only Hector’s son still asked for a kiss from his father. Hector’s first marriage had been hell. He fell in love with a woman his family hated. “You’re a nice guy and she’s a hysterical woman”. He married her and they had two kids. He cheated on her. She threw him out. To prove a point, he slept with dozens of women. He met one he liked. “You’re a womanizer and she’s too young for you and you don’t want the same things out of life”. “She’s a wicked witch”. He married her. They had a child together. And no one said it but everyone wondered: would this son feel as abandoned by his father as the two others?
Hector thought honestly that he did his best. Sometimes he lay awake at night, in his bed, asking himself: is there something more I could have done? His ex-wife had taken his two children next to the frontier with the United States, in one of the most dangerous areas of the country. He couldn’t afford to go visit them often – he had to pay for the furniture, and the apartment, and his third son, and his wife, and the presents, and the sports clothes, and gas for the car. Is machismo despicable? Imagine the anguish you feel when your family depends on you. Everything you do has a consequence on the people you love. There is no time for depression or laziness. You cannot come home and be a jerk to your wife. She is locked up in your house, so you try to make it resplendent. You buy furniture. You buy presents. You buy toys for the kids. She doesn’t work. Why would she? She’s the one that gave birth. She’s the one that carried them in her body.
Hector sighed. His sisters frowned. You shouldn’t sigh when your son asks for a goodnight kiss. You should find it adorable and smile. So Hector smiled. On his way to the bedroom, he thought about the deal he couldn’t manage to close in his office today, the consequences it might have on his position, the drinks he would buy to his boss to elude the issue. He pictured the woman he had seen in the cafeteria but then he remembered his wife was looking at him, only a few meters behind, waiting for him with a family that hated her, and she was thinking “Could he hurry up and not leave me too long with them? They hate me as much as they hated the last one. They won’t respect anyone that comes close to him and yet they have no power over him. I do. I won’t let him go away. That makes them hate me even more.” Chucho was lying on his bed, his eyes open, looking at the ceiling, listening. He smiled when he heard his father’s footsteps getting closer. They hugged, and his father kissed him on the forehead. He said “Go to sleep now” and his son asked “Will you be here tomorrow?” and he answered “No, I have to go to work, but I’ll be there in two or three days, meanwhile you’ll be with your cousins and your aunts and your grandparents, and that’s great, right?” and Hector left quickly to prevent himself from hearing the silence that would expose the disappointment and resentment of his son. Good graces, he would have to hear it all when his sons became teenagers. He had ruined his deal. His wife was angry with him for coming to this family reunion. His sisters were angry with him for bringing her. He went back to the dinner table.
“They look satisfied.”
“I sure hope so. Did you hear what happened to the last one? Caterina sacked her because she had put too much sugar in the lemonade.”
“That won’t happen to me. I’ll be the exception.”
Yet there were those days, the days when the sun was high and you could hear the ocean on the sand and the kids were being calm, the days when you wish you could just lie down. One by one, they yielded to temptation.
Omar was different. Armandita and Caterina called him all day long, so he could fetch them and take them to the city, and back to the suburbs, and to the supermarket – and then the kids called him so that he would take them to parties or to the beach or to the movies. You would get in his car and put on your favorite tune. He had to listen to it. If he had been an artist, he would have learnt everything about human condition and characters right there. Seeing another culture or another country or another religion or another color of the skin is nothing compared to what appears if you watch a human being for long enough. Omar had watched them long enough. He had understood that the human being is – before anything else – details. He knew almost every detail about every human being in this family: how their face contracted when they were holding back their tears, how much Tabasco they would put on their corn, what music they would listen to while going to the movies, what they would fight about and how much they yearned to be right.
He had to listen to every argument, to hear them sob without asking why, to notice their joy without sharing it.
He never trespassed.
The presence of a silent witness assuages families. Omar had left at six. They were alone. He wasn’t there to measure the chaos. Three hundred and twenty-seven thoughts and emotions fired around the table. To prevent chaos, one person had to be neutral. Exteriority enables you to see others’ shadows and to hush them away before the explosion. The maids know the potential of destruction that the Family possesses. They leave after serving the main dish. Armandita takes care of the dessert and the sisters bring the plates to the kitchen and bring clean ones. The father and the husbands laugh. They talk about money and sports. They don’t talk about politics. Politics is chaos in Mexico. They’ve heard Mexico is the new Columbia. They don’t talk about politics. “We’re thinking about going to Brazil for the FIFA world cup.” said Jean, Andrea’s husband. “Really? Great for you, bro” answered Hector. Javier had some cigars. He said they could smoke them after dessert on the terrace.
Javier usually wasn’t invited to those dinners anymore, he was welcome because of the anniversary of his son’s death – and isn’t that the saddest reason to be invited anywhere? He had only one night to prove that he wasn’t the son of a bitch most of the family said he was. He had gone to the first grandchildren’s Christmas parties. Then, Armandita had woken up from a long dream. She had decided to fight but had picked the wrong fight. Instead of fighting for her own happiness, she fought like Medea to make him as unhappy as she was. She didn’t have to kill her children, just to make them hate their father. He would lose everyone and be alone, as much as she felt alone since he had let Francisco out of the house. She had begun living in the past. She cried – daily. She listened only to those songs that made her sob and remember what had occurred twenty years ago. Her stories had become the truth. They had been accepted. It was easier to accept that vision. It was easier not to think, not to look back at when Francisco died, not to consider how huge the suffering and the guilt of Javier might still be, not to imagine him sitting alone at night in his apartment. Inflicting him pain was punishing him for everything he had done in the past. They were all Christians but when it came to him, there was no forgiveness. They didn’t forgive the fact that he had beaten them up during their childhood, they didn’t forgive how he disappeared in his office instead of watching over them, they didn’t forgive how he had cheated on Armandita. Most of all, evidently, they didn’t forgive him for saying: “Sure, go out with your friends.”
It’s fascinating how words can destroy everything.
Words can steal a life.
In a world where everything goes fast and everyone feels lonely, a family got trapped around a dinner table. Time slowed down. They were all facing each other. They could have fought or forgiven. However, they didn’t trust words anymore.
Andrea was the first daughter, as Armandita had been, as her mother had been. Their family was cursed. Three men had died at fourteen years old. One had killed himself, another had been in a train accident, Francisco had been hit by a car. They didn’t know each other. They didn’t live in the same city. They shared the same blood. Three sons had died. The grief had been unbearable. The terror, though, was worse. Andrea had a son. He was thirteen. Every time he went out the door, she said I love you. What she meant was Don’t go. Often he would go out at six to play football and then he wouldn’t come home for hours. He had missed the bus, lost his way, or waited for a teacher. He saw how crazy this was driving his mother. Maybe it was his way of punishing her for giving him Francisco’s name. Maybe it was his way of proving to her that there was no curse, because no matter how long it took him, he always came home. They didn’t talk about it. They were afraid that words would provoke traumatism. Their naiveté was to think that silence would not.
Silence sometimes cuts deeper.
The dessert was a basket of fruits and yogurts and beers and a strawberry cake and cigars. Caterina put on a song of Miguel Bosé. She sang. The husbands considered it was time to smoke their cigars. They went to the garden. The ocean was roaring.
“I need one of you to take over the company” finally said Javier. “I’m not feeling that healthy anymore, it will happen to y’all.” No one answered. “I worked hard to maintain this business and it’s as clean and healthy as I could make it, and I can’t bear the thought of abandoning it.” Gaston frowned: “If you’re saying this to make us…” “I’m not trying to make anyone do anything. I’m asking.” There was a silence. “Please.”
Suddenly Jean said: “We’ll find a solution.” He understood the importance of either maintaining it or selling it to the right of price. They were in a crisis. They were not going to find a buyer who would pay enough – except a drug dealer. Someone of the family had to take over the company.
Meanwhile, the women, on the other side of the glass window, were singing. Cristina and Caterina smoked light cigarettes. They all drank beers with lemon and salt. They sung with their eyes open and with their eyes closed. Armandita was petrified. Knowing that Javier was on the other side of the glass, she couldn’t sing. She had been saying for months that their marriage would have been saved if she had sung and danced and shown joy. But now that she saw him, she feared his judgment. She didn’t want to seem futile or dumb. She couldn’t cope with his look of hatred or contempt. The problem was she didn’t love herself very much. She didn’t take care of herself, she didn’t realize any of the projects she cared about, she didn’t make new friends, she didn’t travel to the places she dreamt of, she hated her body but wouldn’t try to change it.
It was only when she got lost in a city that she felt happy. What she loved most was the disintegration of her self. That was why she took care of her children and grandchildren and lived with them, existing through her descendants as projections. She was a great grandmother. Still, she wasn’t happy.
Her daughters saddened when they saw her so vulnerable, sitting on her chair, trying not to look at Javier. Their new mood called for a new song. Music was a collective catalyst. When one of them was depressed, she smiled all day long, all week long if necessary, all year long most of the time, and then she sat down, put some music, sang and cried. Armandita asked for Gloria Trevi and they all knew it was not a good idea but Caterina obeyed anyway. Armandita wanted the song that talked about solitude, about the loneliness that follows break-ups. It had been twenty years since her break-up with Javier. Her daughters didn’t say anything this time. They had pronounced too many times the prayers and admonitions. The song began and Armandita startled. Her voice was trembling at the beginning. Then it got stronger. Javier opened the door to go to the restroom. He turned towards her. Everyone was looking now, the girls in the dining room, the boys on the terrace, and Javier stood still staring at Armandita. The song was a curse. She was pleading the loneliness to make Javier feel as abandoned as she did. Everyone stopped breathing.
Javier left the dining room. He went to the bathroom. He thought How many times. He thought How can this still be going on after twenty years. He thought Is there no way she’ll leave it alone. Then he thought about the divorce papers he had refused to sign. He thought about how he had managed to see her by not giving her enough money for the month. He had made her come to his office and ask for it, and they had fought. They weren’t in love with each other anymore, but they still knew and hated and loved each other’s details, and that was maintaining them close. Everyone had a hypothesis. Some thought that they wanted to grow old and die together, that they were used to each other. Others thought it was Francisco. His death tore them apart. Signing the papers would mean acceptance.
They all said they had mourned. They all said they had understood. But how do you understand that your fourteen-year old son, who was a poet, who was generous, who was an extraordinary son brother human being, how do you understand that he’s gone? It was easier to fight. It’s always easier to fight.
Every time someone mentioned the second hypothesis, Hector was silent. The heaviness of Francisco’s cadaver was on his shoulders. Hector was the second son; he was, in fact, the other son. When someone dies, you forget what he did wrong. You apologize the fact that he asked his mother and that she said no and that instead of obeying he then asked his father. Since Francisco was remembered as being the person who took care of Cristina and Caterina, who shared Andrea’s happiness and pain, then Hector himself could only appear as egoistical. He would never be altruist enough. He would never be as poetic. He would never be as responsible. He was nice, but even that tended to fade away. At times, he had wished to be dead, so that people would praise him. He thought It’s unfair; it’s unfair because they’re praising him but I’m trying and no one is acknowledging it. Then, he felt guilty. He couldn’t forgive his brother to be dead; he couldn’t forgive himself to be alive. His nightmares had lightened when he had decided to stop thinking, to be numb – he followed the orders of women very demanding; he had children he couldn’t even visit; he tried different jobs in a lot of cities; he exercised in a gym; he went to a psychiatrist and then told Cristina every word of every session. He thought all the time about women. It was a struggle, and at least, he was trying to live through it. Sometimes, he woke up and he thought, how can I be so angry towards someone I loved so much?
The funny thing is, no matter how many memories were told about Francisco, Hector was never a part of them.
When Javier got out of the bathroom, there was another song playing. The melody was happier. Armandita was in the kitchen, probably crying. Javier went to the terrace and immediately came back to his business. The women had stopped talking. Andrea finally stood up and joined her husband. Her sisters did the same. There was nothing to be done about Armandita. She wanted to be saved but she didn’t want to cure.
Seeing that almost everyone was there, Javier talked about his business again. “I’m glad that we are all gathered here. Thank you for your hospitality, Travis.” In a world of men, a man thanked the man that owned the house for his hospitality, not the woman that prepared the event. Travis was Caterina’s husband. Caterina shrugged her shoulders. Her father had ignored her from childhood to present day: it hurt, but at least it wasn’t a surprise anymore.
“As I explained earlier, I am retiring. In this family, everyone has contributed to the business. I know some of you found other jobs. But I care a lot about the company, and all the memories it contains, of you, of him, of us when we were all together.” He cleared his throat. The memories of them being together was usually an ensemble of happy memories – except for the memories of them with Javier. Francisco hated the company. His father didn’t give him a choice, he had to go and learn about the business, he was thirteen years old, he loved poetry, but he needed to focus on the job’s requirements. Andrea was already working for her father. They went to school during the day and worked at night or during the weekend. The tradition was perpetuated with Cristina, Caterina and Hector when they turned thirteen. But Francisco was rebellious. He made a point in not learning. He would resist. So why would Javier mention Francisco as part of the company? Didn’t he understand how much Francisco despised his business?
“And then, there’s our old house, the one where we all used to live in.” Armandita appeared on the doorstep: “Stop it. Don’t try to weaken them into accepting your business proposal. My son’s memories will not be used like this. I won’t tolerate it.” Javier rose. “I still remember everything about him, everyday. I almost wish I could be like those people who are worried because they forget the details about the people they love.” “Oh yes, certainly, I’m sure you’d prefer to forget, to forget how you killed him, how you murdered him.” At this, Javier sighed. He had waited twenty years for her to say it. “Armandita, I just said he could go out with his friends.” “I had said no, I had said no, he wouldn’t have been out, he wouldn’t have been in the streets, he wouldn’t have got hit by that car, it’s all your fault, you shouldn’t even be here, you’re not a part of this family anymore.” Javier wanted to punched her. He stood still, in silence.
Armandita looked at each child, as if asking Don’t you agree?
Finally, Caterina got up. “No, ma, I don’t agree.”
Armandita gasped and then entered the house. Her battle was over.
A long beat, then –
“So, as I was saying, there is a lot of emotional attachment to this business. I know the grief can seem unbearable when you start thinking about him again. It gets easier. I’ve been doing this everyday for years. I sit down and I close my eyes. I try to remember him as precisely as possible. At first, it made me cry until I fell asleep. Now, I’m calm. I believe that he was a wonderful person, and that we will meet him again in Heaven. Well, that’s what I hope.”
He cast a look at the sky.
“Look, guys, a family business is about carrying traditions and memories and building something from them. You know how tough it was for me when I created this company. I had left school at thirteen, I had -”
“Dad, we know the story” said Cristina, gently. Javier smiled. He seemed happy that they remembered, as if that meant he was still a part of their lives. They all thought about his definition of the family business. It was appealing. It made them eager to take over the company and connect with their roots. They felt as if there were a mystical touch to this matter. It wasn’t their greedy father beating them up at night anymore. He had changed.
Hector remained suspicious. Every time his father talked, his sisters were seduced; but every time he walked out, they said they didn’t want anything to do with him. “Y’all know I’m not made for that kind of responsibility” Hector said. His father answered: “Maybe it’s about time you become someone that is. Being a father is not easy. I tried my best, I worked as much as I could so I could provide from you. What are you doing?” “Look, if it’s about judging me, I’m not interested. I’ve had enough of this.” “Hector, for Christ’s sake”, said Caterina, “he’s not trying to judge you, he’s trying to help you. We all are. You need to step up. You are not a child or a teenager anymore. Are you willing to lose everything you care about?” “Look now, I’ll be just fine.” Andrea stared at him, “My sweet, sweet brother, I know you’re lost, I know you’re fighting and feeling that the results are not grand enough, but keep fighting, and try to fight harder. You are strong. You cannot fail if you try with all the energy and kindness that I know you have inside of you.”
Hector wanted to cry. He excused himself and went to the bathroom. He put water on his face, waited until the intensity of his emotions decreased.
“He is right, though, he’s not ready to take over a company.” said Javier. Everyone nodded. Andrea responded: “But maybe that’s exactly what he needs to grow up.”
The husbands all stood up at once, “This is a family business, we’ll leave you to it, you will tell us what you’ve decided”.
“And then they were three.”
“What about you?”
“Consider me gone, Cristina, I’m an old man less wise than a child. You’re the three Graces, and I knew it was going to be one of you that took over.”
“My husband doesn’t want to move here. He says we’re making it work in Spain. He says we have a life there – he has a job, we have friends, we have a house. The idea of moving, of change, is contrary to the security he took so many years to build. He is a great father to our children. I’m very much in love with him. I miss you, I miss this country, but I won’t come back – not without him. See, my two sons have a house they love. They feel Spanish, not Mexican. We have a garden. We have a television. We have a car. We have social security. I know what you’re thinking and what you say when I’m not there, you think I should aim for more, you think I should be as rebellious as I was when I was a teenager. But I know what I’ve done. I don’t blindfold myself. I know I’ve chosen a path of security and family and peace. I know some of you think it’s better to reach for the stars or to build a company or to travel around the world. The thing is, even if we are a family, each of us has a very distinct way of comprehending life. We all have our own priorities and values. Maybe it’s because we all reacted differently to Francisco’s death. Sometimes, I believe we were all born that day. The pain, the level of pain, that intensity, created a new identity in every one of us. We were never the same after that. In other families, these differences are created by how people reacted to the pain they felt when they were born. We were born again when Francisco died. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about back in the plane. During a long time, I thought, and I made you think, that it was his fault – my husband’s fault. I thought that I didn’t move because he had trapped me. Recently, I realized that I’ve made every decision along with him. I’ve decided to live in Spain, to live in a village, to put my children in that school, to buy that house. See, I don’t regret it. I understand my life could have been different, but I also know that it’s impossible to move forward if you spend your life thinking about the alternatives you had in the past. I’ve decided to be where I am. In our own way, we are happy there. I hope you can understand that.”
“Dad, you know I live in New York, and you know I don’t belong to the same social class as you anymore. You know my husband cannot work here, his business is there and it cannot be moved. You know that he’ll go mad if you drive him out of Wall Street, he needs that job, the stress prevents him from sleeping, but without it, he couldn’t live. Look, Dad, I understand what you’re saying. There is remembrance in this company. Now, consider what my life was like. I left the house, the city and the country as soon as I could. I went far away and married someone that came from another background. I fled. I fled you and your obsession of work, and then I married someone obsessed by his work. I fled Mom and her depression. I fled the memories of Francisco. I fled the streets we walked on together. It took me quite some time to find peace. I am okay. I’m holding on. Here, I can see how fragile everything is. I can see the ghost of Francisco everywhere, even in your eyes, even in Mom’s eyes. You’ll never get past it, and I understand. I need to get past it, though. Francisco and I, we were like twins. We were more than that: we were two halves. I don’t think Plato’s legend has to be about romantic love. I think it’s about love – and in our case, about fraternal love. We were two halves. When he died, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t cry either, because I had to take care of everyone here. You look annoyed. Dad, I have a life, and it doesn’t include you for a reason. You failed us in so many ways. I know you’re just human, but I am too, and I fought so much harder than you, as a child, as a teenager, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. I’ve managed to accomplish what you didn’t. I have a family that I love and who loves me back. Do you really think I would take over the company that made you leave us every morning and kept you until late at night? You abandoned us every day with a mother that was sick in bed out of depression; you abandoned us everyday so that you could go back to this company. Do you honestly think I would take over the one thing that made my dad disappear when we most needed him? No, Dad, I won’t. I hope it gets shut down. I do.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to take over the company, it’s that you never asked. You have asked the others. But you never came to me for help. When I was little, I used to be invisible to you. Don’t look at Andrea, she knows. She couldn’t do much about it, but she saw enough. I have made peace with you, Dad, because I have children and I want them to have a grandfather. But you have ignored my daughters as much as you used to ignore me. You only want to see Andrea’s children. I used to wonder what was wrong with me. I don’t anymore. I work in several benefits. I help kids with cancer. I teach classes to young women and I take classes about psychology. I take care of my children in a way you never did. I know you did your best, though. It must have been hard being hated and faulted. It must have been tough providing for a large family. A lot of struggles must have cost you a great deal. I believe you did almost as much as you could. Maybe it’s the almost that got you banished. Maybe you chose to be banished. Dad, I am not angry with you. But I am not going to act as if you wanted me to run this business; I am not going to follow you with a smile and my ears open to the knowledge you finally deign to give me. I grew up without a father. That is the truth. I grew up without a father and today I have neither the energy nor the time to build a relationship with a father. I wonder what therapists would say. I wonder what priests would say. I wonder what your grandchildren would say. You see, for a long time, I wondered about how our relationship was right, and how it was wrong. Now, I have decided that as long as I am concerned, our relationship is only a bridge between you and your grandchildren. So I am not going to take over your company but I am going to give you this advice: if what you care about is truly the emotions that this family has put into this company, then let go of the company and come back to your family; get to know your grandchildren; that is a relationship you haven’t ruined yet; take a leap of faith; you will teach them and they will teach you. Forget about the company, Dad. The company does not matter.”
Javier stood up. He stared at his three daughters. They wondered if he was going to have a cardiac arrest. That would have been the tragic answer to his past mistakes: the punishment, years later. They waited. Javier’s eyes filled with tears.
“Are you going to cry again, Dad?” asked Andrea. “It is useless: we accuse you of past mistakes and past mistakes cannot be solved by self-pity. They cannot be solved by anything. You have been banished out of this family. There is nothing for you here. You will be able to see your grandchildren if you wish to do so. Try to take care of yourself. I heard you remodeled your apartment. I wish you happiness and peace.”
“How could I have find happiness and peace? How can three Christian girls refuse to forgive their father? What did I do that was so terrible? I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Mother thinks you killed Francisco.” said Cristina.
“I have been confused for many years over that point. Maybe you did.”
“Francisco was a Prince.” said Caterina.
“I wasn’t a king.”
“Maybe not.” answered Cristina. “I think you started off as a king, though. After a while, you became a tyrant. I remember you throwing the half-cooked meat at Mom’s face.”
“I was scared of you.” added Caterina.
“Not during your teenager years”, stated Andrea, “when you left the house in the middle of the night to go to clubs with famous bands.”
“I used to run up back to my room.” said Caterina.
“And I used to be trapped with Dad in the kitchen. Did he yell at me? Did he tell me how disappointed he was? Did he beat me up?” wondered Cristina.
“I don’t remember.” admitted Caterina.
“He has left.” uttered Andrea.
“I know. I wonder where he went.”
“Maybe he went home.”
“Who would he go home with?”
“Is he going to die alone?”
“Who would he die with?”
“I miss Francisco.”
“So do I.”
“Let us stay in silence for a minute. Let us remember his face.”
“I don’t remember his face.”
“Try to imagine it, then. His name was Francisco. He died thirty years ago. Close your eyes. Try to picture him. If you see him, please tell him we miss him.”