I left home for the first time in 1996. It was for 10 months, then I was back home for 10 months again, and then I was gone forever. In reality, those 10 months when I was back I was in a sort of purgatory of being home and away at the same time. It was a hard time for me. When I left again in 1997 I just went to graduate school in San Juan. I was home (in Puerto Rico) but not home (in Cabo Rojo).
From the first time I left I have always called my parents on the weekend. Always. For over 20 years. Back in the stone ages of the 90s we had to rely on land lines and long distance calling plans. Remember the “Nights and weekends” plans? That’s why I called on the weekend – it was usually cheaper. If you called during the week you had to wait until after 9 pm to get the cheaper rate. The good old days.
When I lived in San Juan I took off the long distance plan to save money and would buy calling cards (remember those?) just to call my mom and tell her I was fine. When I lived in Germany it was tricky because it was international calling and there was a 5 or 6 hour time difference depending on the time of year. I still had to call home. I was travelling somewhere one weekend and didn’t call home. I thought “I’m in my 20s, I’m in Paris, I don’t need to call home EVERY weekend.” When I got back home I had an email from my brother saying “better call Mami, she is upset.” I learned my lesson and even now in my 40s, if Sunday night come around and I have not called I put in a quick 5 minute call to say “I’m fine. Just busy. Will call tomorrow.” She always says “You don’t have to” but I know I do.
I’m not going to lie, there have been times it felt like a burden. I know my brothers are not held to the same standard. Kano goes months without communicating with anyone. But I know I am the only girl, the baby, “la regalona” and so I keep on keeping on. As a consequence I have developed a reputation for “being in the know” sort to speak. I am the one who calls. Even now with all the connectivity where we can email from our phones and video chat from anywhere I still call. I wake up on Saturday and think about what I am doing this weekend and I always think “when am I calling mami?” I try to do it when I can give her an hour (at least) of my time. Sometimes with a second cup of coffee, or while folding laundry. We have to catch up. I need to hear her complain about my dad or give me some local gossip. They are in their 70s now so there’s always the inevitable “So and so died”. She wants to hear about how busy we are, the girls, the business, school, the tumbling classes, even the laundry. So many days I call and the first thing she says is “What are you doing? Laundry?”
I have not heard from them since Tuesday evening. It is Saturday morning and I still cannot get through to the landline or the four cellphones that I know are in that house.” I know they are OK. I know the house can take the Cat 3 hurricane winds it surely got. I know the town is flooded in the usual areas where it has flooded in the past and theirs has not flooded in 35 years that they have lived there. I know they should be ok. But there is always the “what if” that nags and tears you up inside. You do the mental list of “30 inches of rain, all creeks and rivers out of their banks, all communications down, dad is 75 and full of ailments…” Followed by the “They got this, my brother is with them, his wife is super resourceful, my mom is the toughest woman I know, my dad hoards water, he has a generator…” and now you know what is going through my head at all hours of the day every day for four days now.
I hope I can get through. It has to happen. It’s the weekend….