My grandfather had so many brothers and sisters that still, to this day, at the age of fifty, I can’t name them all. There were sixteen siblings in total and consisted of everything from engineers to pintores de brocha fina – artists. One very special one of them, my Tia Dulce (literally translated “Aunt Sweet”) wrote poems. Long, beautiful odes to anything and everything that struck her fancy. On my 18th birthday I was handed a envelope that contained one sheet of ruled school paper with a poem written by Tia Dulce titled “Tetecoso.”
Tetecoso was about me. Penned in graceful cursive and in old school Cuban poetic metric, it described how I was the unique and perfect product of “Tete”, my mom, and “Coso,” my dad. Both of my parents loved it, and they read it aloud over and over that day to the point where I was embarrassed.
I didn’t pay it much mind, tho. I was eighteen and my priorities were elsewhere. Knowing this, mom took the poem, carefully folded it back as it had been, and placed it in the envelope. “I’ll put this away for you until you’re ready.”
Years ago, when Tia Dulce passed, mom and I remembered Tetecoso and she went to her secret poem stash place and brought it out. This time, I read it aloud and mom and dad and I, while pleased to have received such delightful and elegant verses, found ourselves in tears.
And I stood there as mom took Tetecoso from my hands once again, carefully folded back as it had been and slipped it backed into its envelope. She then held the envelope in front of her with both hands, kissed it and offered it to me.
I couldnt take it from her. “No, Mami,” I said through a slight lump in my throat. “You hold on to it for me. I don’t want to lose it.”
We laid mom to rest less than two weeks ago and I fear I will never see Tetecoso again. I’ve searched everywhere for it to no avail. Lamentably, Tetecoso became a victim of Alzheimer’s by proxy.
Mom’s dementia related to the disease intensified as did other related symptoms, including perhaps the most heartbreaking of all Alzheimer’s related phenomena, Sundown Syndrome or Sundowning.
Every afternoon, mom would get increasingly confused, increasingly agitated and increasingly restless. The restlessness caused her to bustle about the house, room to room, opening and rifling through drawers, closets, cabinets…She arranged and rearranged everything with no apparent logic or coherence behind it.
What were once meticulously organized drawers with costume jewelry became stockpiles of empty boxes and old photos and medicine bottles and calendars and make up. Clothes mixed in with papers mixed in with pens mixed in with knick knacks. Cluttered and incongruous, like her thoughts.
Tetecoso the poem may be lost forever or I may find it some day tucked inside a panty hose found in the back of a drawer full of confusion.
Tetecoso the me lives, however, pride and product of Tete and Coso. This blog is dedicated to my parents, whose loss has been profound but whose love will always be eternal.
Beautiful. I’m so glad to see you writing again. I imagine Tete and Coso holding hands and proudly smiling, while those of us lucky to have known them, can only reach for another tissue. God bless them and keep them always. Ziva