Once again I’ve been stirred by my niece, Cassi Maria to write about mi apa, her Tata. Claro que si! She didn’t have to twist my arm, it’s always a comfort to me to share these memories. Reader, do you know the cancion que dice “Rosa Maria se fue a la playa”? When Cassandra was a wee little girl I loved singing that to her, por su puesto que I changed it to Cassi Maria, she recently told me that she believed it was my own created melody, confession is good for the soul.
When Cassi visited her Tata and me, she always loved to watch me prepare breakfast for him. She said that he got ‘special treatment’. Pero, I will clarify that at the time I didn’t believe it to be special, it was simply the way he liked to eat. He loved a nice hearty breakfast, which almost always included frijolitos bien fritos and tortillas. Sometimes I added meat, otras veces just blanquillos. The eggs would either be scrambled or fried, this did not impress Cassi. Pero, when I made a torta de huevo with all the fixings her eyes would light up as she appreciated my handiwork and she was happy for her grandpa.
I would scramble a couple of eggs and pour them over a hot skillet with oil. Luego, I’d cut up the egg patty, give it a quick and gentle stir fry with slices of onion and simmer it in a roasted tomato and dry chile sauce that mi ama taught me to make. Sometimes, if Cassi came in just as I was simmering la torta de huevo, she’d inhale the spices from the sauce; el comino, the garlic and pepper and the chiles all made her hungry for Tata’s breakfast.
As I’m writing this, I’m picturing my apa at the table, hands laced together, patiently waiting for his almuerzo. First his orange juice with Metamucil mixed in and his pastillas. He would always count them, and say, “Tantas pastillas?” In reality, he actually took minimal medication, compared to most 90 year old people. But still, he eyed me suspiciously. While I filled his plate with the beans and eggs and served his coffee, Cassi chatted with him and watched me, then chatted with me and turned to him. My apa was always one to appreciate a pretty face, and his eyes always lit up when he saw Cassi, almost always saying to her “que guapa” and Cassi would blush and smile. At that stage in his life, dementia did confuse him. The conversations circled in the same questions. He wondered about Cassi’s connection to him, then he’d be surprised that “Chicha” (my youngest brother) was her dad. This might be a good place to explain that cultural habit we Mexicans have of using quirky nicknames. We create funny names and stick to them, maybe it’s just my family? Here’s one version of that conversation:
Cassi: Hola Tata como estas? (Hug and kiss)
Tata: Buenos dias! Que guapa! (my apas eyes always had a teasing twinkle in them)
Cassi: Gracias Tata, si te acuerdas de mi? (remember this generation doesn’t know much about the proper use of “usted” so in Spanglish fashion she wanted to make sure he knew who she was.)
Tata: Parece que tu eres la Senora del Chicha?
Cassi: No Tata! Yo soy la hija del Chicha (doing everything to restrain her indignation at being called her dads wife and not daughter ☺)
Tata: Su hija! A pose deveras que ando mal! (embarrassed that he made such a blunder, he’d blame his memory loss)
Cassi: It’s okay Tata (and Cassi would quickly forgive him)
When breakfast was served, my apa always waited til we were all seated so he could pray. I can still hear his wonderful prayer resounding in my ear like a sweet melody:
“Gracias te damos Señor por estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta…”
Hijole! Now I see how right Cassi was, those breakfast days with my apa were muy especial
This Easter weekend, I am reminded of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for without his sacrifice and gift of salvation I wouldn’t be able to see him again.
Have a beautiful Easter y que Dios los Bendiga!