Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Memory's stories, all that remains.

A pair of essays & an Intro
Michael Sedano

Intro: Big Event. You Get Only One.
Some enchanted evening, we had no strangers only familia at the celebration my daughter’s familia put on for us, my 73d birthday and my wife’s 50th wedding anniversary.

My kid is raising a daughter who, like my wife in her day, can handle any social situation with total aplomb, and china service. That’s a good thing ‘cause we’re out of the big party business at casasedano and we’re transferring our chinacloset.

I put together a slide show, to the piano playing The Anniversary Waltz. Growing up, my folks had me play it on their anniversary. Fotos of my wife from months old to her recent hospitalization and all the wondrous highlights in between flitted across the large teevee screen.

I printed the fotos, and others as a memory box. Gente passed around fotos to exuberant conversation. “Is that her?” “Look at that hair!” Saturday was the event of our lives, and these gente knew it.

The gift of their company was all we wanted but some gente added a wine here, a tequila from Santa Cruz Califas there. Mario Trillo gifted a lino cut "Ante Mexico." Margaret Garcia painted a portrait of the two of us that is off to the framer.

Los Sedano One day Frozen In Time.
Scanned and 3D printed  by Angel and Mario Guerrero in August 2018.

Korea, 1969. I spent my first wedding anniversary on an anti-aircraft missile site.
“Crawl on out of there!”

And, as Pinky ordered every morning at 0530, more or less, when he walked through the barrack, I lifted the mosquito netting and crawled on out of bed and headed for the day’s duty. The manning truck left at 0700 hours for the hour ride up the mountain.

Two nights up, one night down. I did that from the moon landing until mid-December. I arrived in Korea a few days before the lunar touchdown. The jeep ride up to the battery went past putrid rice paddies fertilized with human shit. Miles and miles of inescapable stink and jostling terrain until reaching the head of the valley and one final rice paddy, a farmer knee-deep in the muck, driving an ox.

The black and white teevee carried the only signal, AFKN. BC invited the locals to come see the moon landing. A man sat next to me in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ traje of bleached homespun hemp waistcoat, baggy pantaloons and black camisa. I wondered if this man were the same farmer I saw in that rice paddy downwind from the U.S. uniforms who sat watching teevee with him. He didn’t have electricity and we were landing on the moon.

In his cups one night, Pinky and I sat talking about home. Pinky was mountain folk, I came out of orange picker country. Johnny Cash was singing into the darkness from a troop hootch and Sergeant Pinkerton went silent, listening. Told me he heard the Orange Blossom Special when he was a kid. Does it call you home, Pinky? All too much. He never wanted to go back, he said. But the way Pinky listened to that melody like he was far away, maybe he was already home.

Memorial Day
Pasadena, 2018

Age might make you feeble. There’s a name for it, “dementia.”

For many, the word is pejorative as all get out, “demented.” Pero sabes que? cognitive decline hurts like hell.

My Dad went deeply into his mind. My Mom couldn’t manage. I spent a night and I couldn’t manage. My mom and I had an ambulance take Dad to live in a facility where young, strong people could make sure he ate and took care of himself. She still refused to come live with me. “It wouldn’t be strong,” she said. Her mind was brilliant until her final breath at my dining room table.

That wasn’t my Dad, that last day I saw him there. I made my Dad’s favorite candy, divinity walnut fudge. I tore off a chunk and he took it, then spit it out, making an awful face like he’d tasted caca. I tossed the gift in the waste bin. He used to rub his hands in delight and dig in when I gave him divinity walnut fudge.

My son-in-law was saying goodbye when a flash of recognition crossed my Dad’s face. He looked into John’s eyes and asked, “Are you the German tank commander I killed? I’m sorry.”

All his life, Dad had nightmares about that tank, about the people he machine-gunned while they hid behind wooden walls, the dead German who “looks just like you, Sedano,” or the line of figures straddling a backlighted ridgeline. When he opened fire he saw light shine through those people.

Dad sat in a wheelchair at the juncture of the long exit hall and his ward. The shiny linoleum floors reflect the familia’s figures disappearing into the brightly lighted portal ahead. My Dad, a man who wasn’t there anymore, and I looked toward the departing people. This would be our final visit with him. I turned to leave when he called down the hall, “Say ‘hi’ to Charlotte for me!”

Dad’s great-granddaughter was his final cogent thought before he returned to the Battle of the Bulge, the race to Leipzig, the 20-something PFC orange-picker from Redlands in the nose of a Sherman tank named C’est La Guerre.

“Why do you say I’m the future, grampa?” Charlotte asked me one day.


Chuck said...

thank you for this. For everything.

Daniel Cano said...

Michael, thanks for sharing such personal, insightful moments. I think it is this vulnerability (difficult for a Chicano) that makes great literature.