Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in Lithia, Florida, on Monday, March 21, 2022. It is a warm first day of astronomical spring in the Tampa Bay area; meteorological spring began on March 1. Currently, the temperature is 80˚ F (27˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the east at 11 MPH (18 KM/H) and humidity at 38%, it feels like 80˚F (27˚C). Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and high of 84˚F (29˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 60˚F (15˚C).
As you know, 1972 was a landmark year for me. I started the year when I was eight-going-on-nine in Bogota, Colombia, celebrated my ninth birthday in that often chilly, sometimes frightening, but at-the-time familiar metropolis…and ended it in Miami, Florida, my birthplace and – after the spring of 1972 – my home for just under 44 years.
If you’re a regular reader of A Certain Point of View, Too, you probably recall that not long after my ninth birthday (an occasion that I do not remember with any clarity) I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that landed me in the pediatric ward of Bogota’s Hospital Militar, which apparently is located relatively close to the apartment where I lived with my mom (Mami), my older half-sister Victoria (Vicky), and our two live-in maids, Lily and Olimpia.
As a result of that hemorrhage, I was hospitalized for some time. I don’t remember how long, the nature of my illness (For all intents and purposes, I had a stroke, but I don’t know why. Maybe I fell and hit my head too hard sometime after my ninth birthday? I don’t remember.) and the passage of time have made early 1972 a hazy, confusing time. I do recall that shortly before I was discharged from the hospital – indeed, after a therapy session that included time in the hospital pool – my mother took me aside and told me that we were moving back to Miami as soon as my attending physician, Dr. Roa, cleared me as able to travel in a plane.
I wish I had talked more in-depth about this period in my life with Mom before her health declined in the late 2000s and 2010s. We didn’t avoid the topic; in fact, we discussed some aspects of our “reverse migration” to Miami after living in Colombia for almost six years often, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But the focus wasn’t so much on the timeline – but more about how quickly Mom had to do things like arrange for stuff to be moved from Colombia to the U.S. and either sell or give away the hundreds of items that we obviously had to leave behind. (According to my mother, with the help of the U.S. Embassy’s consular staff, she made all those arrangements in less than a month, mostly while I was in the hospital and going to my rehab sessions.)
And, of course, Mom opened up – especially at the time when she was making out her last will and testament before her operation 12 years ago – about the most negative consequences of our move back to Miami – Vicky’s abortive effort to stay in Bogota, and the resentment she harbors – to this day – toward me because Mom and I returned to the States 50 years ago… and that when she tried living with our maternal grandaunt Gabriela, she was forced to join us in Miami a few months later as a result of her behavior.
For me, the first six months of 1972 are just a blur of fragmented memories. I remember that we lived for a while with the Valbuena family; the paterfamilias, Guillermo, knew my mother and me because he had worked with my dad at Aerocondor in Miami. Guillermo, I think, was a gate agent for that Colombian airline when my father was an Aerocondor pilot. His wife’s name was Alicia, and they had three teenage kids – Fernando, who was 19, Mario, who was 17, and Elsa, who was 14 – and, incidentally, my first crush in the States. They lived in a large house in the neighborhood called Village Green – I shared a room with Fernando and Mario, whilst Mom had the guest room.
How long did we stay at the Valbuenas’ house? Honestly, I don’t know. It couldn’t have been more than a month. I do know that we left because the family dog, a male Doberman pinscher named Caron, attacked me in the middle of the night when I got up to go to the bathroom and woke him up when my foot encountered the sleeping pooch. (Caron slept on the floor between my bed and Mario and Fernando’s bunkbed.) I didn’t kick him or step on him; either my toes or the side of my foot brushed his head lightly. The next thing I knew, I was on my back on top of my bed, with a growling Doberman biting at my face and the two Valbuena brothers trying to get him away from me before he tore my face off.
Mom bought a house in Westchester that summer, and I vaguely remember attending a school in Hialeah to “sort of” get me ready to go to my neighborhood school – Coral Park Elementary School – at the start of the 1972-73 school year. I also remember – vaguely – that the U.S combat phase in Vietnam War was winding down, Richard Nixon was running for re-election against Senator George McGovern, the Miami Dolphins were getting ready for their Perfect Season (though I had no idea of that at the time), and that Hurricane Agnes had missed Miami but hit the Gulf Coast of Florida and caused death and destruction in several states and even Canada.
I still have some vivid memories from later in 1972, and I’ll write about those in the future. For now, let’s just say that I’m amazed to learn that The Godfather premiered on March 24, 1972 – 50 years ago this week – and that I was probably in a Bogota hospital room that very day, convalescing from a brain bleed, unaware of what life had in store for me.
Apropos of The Godfather: my Amazon order of The Godfather Trilogy 4K UHD box set shipped today and is scheduled for delivery here tomorrow.
Because I have owned the Coppola Restoration box set on Blu-ray released by Paramount Home Media Distribution in 2008 since 2013, I am not going to worry about this order as much as I did about my Best Buy-exclusive Limited Edition Steelbook of West Side Story. Yes, at $85.13 (including sales tax) it’s more expensive. But I know it shipped (I just got the email from the e-retailer!), so there’s less uncertainty involved in that order.
The other order I’m waiting for – John Williams/Berliner Philharmoniker: The Berlin Concert – is “in the system” with the Post Office. A tracking number was created, and when I check the USPS website, I see that a legitimate source has a package awaiting shipment. The Berlin Concert 4-disc deluxe set has a March 23-25 delivery window, so I will just have to be patient.
Well, I don’t have anything else to report; it’s not like I go out with friends in the Tampa Bay area or have a girlfriend anymore, so I really have nothing to share in the way of news. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 Luckily for me, Caron did not close his jaws, or he would have bitten my nose pretty badly. As it was, he tore a gash on the right side of my nose that required emergency reconstructive surgery at what was then called Variety Children’s Hospital. Man, 1972 was not a good year for me.
It also was not a good year for Caron; before Mom and I hastily moved out of our host family’s house, the dog and I could not be in the same room. He became overly aggressive after he attacked me, and he had to be handed over to Dade County Animal Control a few weeks later because he attacked Guillermo a couple of days after we found a temporary apartment in Sweetwater while Mom found a house to buy in Westchester. Caron, sadly, was euthanized.
5 thoughts on “50 Years On: Remembering – or Trying to Remember – March of 1972 is No Easy Thing”
Thank you for all the interesting information. I am curious about why your family moved from Florida to Colombia. Maybe your father’s job? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. I am just curious. Too bad about the Doberman. Things like that can give you a negative feeling about dogs. Some people get mad when you say it but different dog breeds are really different in disposition too. The most important is of course the owner and that the dog is raised properly, but there’s no question dog breeds have different inherent personalities. Our neighbor’s doberman was a bit aggressive. Leonbergers are big fluffy gentle goofballs. Our neighbor’s doberman attacked our Leonberger Bronco but Bronco was significantly bigger so it was the doberman who had to go to the vet. We paid the vet bill even though it was not our fault.
My father died in a plane crash near Miami International Airport in February of 1965, and that tragedy was compounded by a fire that burned down our house near SW 97th Avenue. (Weirdly, both houses where I lived with my mom were within a few minutes’ drive from that house) The insurance paid for the reconstruction of the house, and things apparently were going back to normal when, in 1966, my maternal grandparents flew up from Bogota to visit.
The story goes that one night my grandmother broached the subject of Mom moving back to Colombia. The incentives were, of course, the usual: “Here in Miami you’re a widowed mother with a young kid with special needs (meaning me). You’re by yourself. Vicky won’t graduate from high school (in a private Catholic institution for girls in West Virginia) until 1969. If you return to Bogota, you’ll have the family (the two grandparents, my mom’s brother and sister, their spouses, and some of my older cousins), plus you can hire maids,”
Mom was somewhat reluctant – she owned a beauty shop with a business partner named Lou, and she loved the house – but my grandparents made a decent case, plus they were persistent. So sometime in 1966, we left Miami. I went ahead with my grandparents so Mom could find tenants for the house and make other arrangements. I don’t recall how long that took…to three-year-old me, it seemed like forever.
Re the Doberman: Because my grandmother (I only knew my mom’s mother. Dad’s mother died before he did, so I have no memories of her. My paternal grandfather lived long enough to send me a card for my third birthday but died the following year.) feared and hated dogs, she transmitted her fears into me as a kid. Caron – the Doberman, was well-behaved and mostly gentle. In fact, he had a ritual where, every night at nine, he would go from person to person and proffer his head so you could pet him. My mom had done her best to teach me that dogs are usually friendly, and Caron was usually laid back and got along well with everyone else.
Apparently, though, he did not like being awakened. I was told this by the two teen boys that I shared a room with, and I did my best to not wake Caron if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And that’s what happened. I woke up to go use the “loo,” inadvertently brushed the dog with my foot on the way off my bed, and GGGGRRRROOOOWWWLLLL. That was not fun.
That is a rough start in life. You weren’t even two yet when you lost your father. Thank you for giving such a detailed answer. It was very interesting reading.
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My first dog was a Doberman I got from my then-boyfriend’s mother who bred them. Mookie was a great dog, but we crated her every night and she liked going in her crate at night. I never had a fear of her, I was definitely the alpha to her. My hound has given us more problems with aggression than Mookie ever did. It’s just something in the makeup of some dogs and once it happens it’s hard to curtail again.
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To this day I regret that Caron had to be put down. He was usually a pretty mellow dog – for a Doberman, anyway – and I still remember that every night, when we watched TV (the Valbuena family had a huge Zenith color TV, and I had just arrived from a country that still only had black-and-white TV broadcasts),Caron would walk into the family room, lower his head, and go from person to person, asking for a pat on the head. You just had to be wary about disturbing his sleep. Unfortunately, he chose to sleep at a spot that was too close to my bed on “the night in question.” And, honestly, I didn’t step on Caron or deliberately touch him.
It took me a while to get over my fear of most dogs larger than a poodle. And, to this day, I still don’t feel comfortable around Dobermans or any dog that resembles one!
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