Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. It is a hot early spring day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 88˚F (31˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 61% and the wind blowing from the south-southwest at 6 MPH (10 KM/H), it feels like 91˚F (33˚C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 90˚F (32˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 70˚F (21˚C).
If you are a regular reader of A Certain Point of View, Too, you might recall that on Saturday, March 5 I celebrated my 59th birthday and that, even though the people I live with wanted to take me to a theme park, I opted to keep things simple and low key. I didn’t feel festive, and even though I considered going to my favorite Colombian restaurant in the area (Cali Viejo), I opted for takeout instead of dining there in person.
This week – although I’m not sure on what day – is also the 50th anniversary of the cerebral hemorrhage that sent me to the pediatric ward of Bogota’s Hospital Militar. Not only was that one of the worst episodes of my childhood years – I had never experienced such a severe headache before, for one thing, and spending several weeks in a hospital room and undergoing physical therapy to reverse the effects of the cerebral hemorrhage wasn’t much fun – but it altered my life forever.
Before March 5, 1972 (the last time I celebrated my birthday with most of my family in Colombia), the notion that Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and I would relocate to the United States had not crossed our minds. Mom co-owned a business with, I believe, my Uncle Octavio (her brother). Vicky was beginning her career as a nurse (not quite yet in nursing school but volunteering as a Colombian equivalent of a “candy striper” in the Colombian Red Cross), and I was starting – I think – third grade at Colegio El Nogal, a private Catholic school not too far from our large and well-appointed apartment near Chapinero.
I don’t have too many memories about my Colombian childhood – the passage of time and the unreliability of memory have sandblasted most of the details of my 1966-1972 sojourn in Bogota from my brain – but I do not remember being especially unhappy when we lived in South America. After all, as members of a well-respected family of privilege and some influence in Bogota, we had a good life. My mom could afford two live-in maids, plus my maternal grandparents loaned us the services of their chauffeur, Arias. And our landlady in the apartment building was my maternal great aunt Maruja R. de Lince.
For the most part, I think, I was content with my life in Bogota, although I must admit that I wasn’t enamored with Colegio El Nogal. It was boring, I hated math class, and I didn’t care much for the mandatory religion classes, either. I did well in a few courses – when I was going through my mom’s things after her death in 2015, I found that she had saved a couple of medals I had received for academic achievements of some sort. What subject did I get good grades in third grade at Colegio El Nogal? I can’t remember, but if I had to guess, I would say reading or geography. Certainly not mathematics, though.
I was so content in Bogota, in fact, that I do remember feeling anxious about being separated from most of my relatives, including (ironically) my half-sister Vicky, who had just celebrated her 22nd birthday and was determined to stay behind while Mom and I ventured forth to a new life in Miami.
I can’t remember many specific details about my last months in Bogota before the move back to Miami. I vaguely recall that my stay in Bogota’s Hospital Militar seemingly lasted forever, although in reality it was probably a 14-day stay followed by another couple of weeks of follow-up visits to the physiotherapists, swims in the shallow end of the hospital’s pool – the doctors told me that it was necessary for my recovery – and evaluations by several doctors who oversaw my treatment.
I have also forgotten when I was told that Mom and I would have to fly on an Aerocondor aircraft to the city that I would call home for the next 43 years – Miami. Sometimes I think my mother broke the news to me while I was still in a hospital bed with an IV drip stuck in my left arm. Other times I think it was when I was discharged from the hospital and saw that Mom was packing the belongings that we could ship back to the States and either selling or giving away the rest.
Mom and I hardly ever talked about this difficult transition in our lives, even though it set in motion the chain of events that culminated with the estrangement between Vicky and me and my move from Miami to the Tampa Bay area in the spring of 2016. I think it was because we both threw ourselves into the tasks of rebuilding our lives that we didn’t reflect on it much. After all, most of the consequences were positive, and I assimilated easily into mainstream America. So much so, in fact, that I consider myself to be an American of Colombian descent rather than a hyphenated Colombian-American who is comfortable in both countries and their cultures.
However, the dearth of conversations about the spring of 1972 has created huge gaps in my memories about anything before I started school at Coral Park Elementary School in September of 1972. When, exactly, did Mom and I leave Bogota? Was it in April of 1972, or early May? Or was it as early as late March of 1972?
Mom, of course, is dead, so I can’t ask her. I doubt that any of my cousins – at least the ones that I can contact through Facebook – remember. And I’m painfully, regrettably, but necessarily estranged from the other person in the family with first-hand knowledge of what transpired 50 years ago, so I can’t ask my half-sister. And my own memories of that time are fragmentary and unreliable.
I guess, in the end, it doesn’t matter. All I know is that around this time of year in 1972 I lived in Bogota, blissfully unaware that permanence is, at best, an illusion.