January 30, 2013
At this moment, I find myself in the midst of transitions of the most unexpected and most gentle kind.
At this moment, I overheard mom talking to her half-sister over the phone. Another McCalla, Victor McCalla, my mother’s brother died. Death is usually the only reason a McCalla would contact another McCalla. The drama of he said, she said and there will be no burial, cremation, and the ashes will sit on the living room shelf until someone goes to Honduras mantra starts after the death announcement.
If I remained a Walsh, my reaction to this news, the mantra not the death, would be comic relief but since I became a McCalla my reaction to the mantra remains, trying not to react. I always cry at the news of death.
Mom’s side of the family is dysfunctional and I believe Webster honoured them with the definition. Mom’s family is also large. Out of ten children, only four are presently alive and only two communicate maybe once a year. Two are on the east coast, two on the west and east does not speak to west.
All the McCalla’s (except me…sigh) were born in Honduras, when Belize was British Honduras. Some were born in Tela, others in Roatan while La Ceiba claimed another. Some were born with Indian hair soft as silk, while others had coarse wavy hair that refused taming with VO5, while yet others had the kinky cotton kind of hair which only a lye relaxer could control. The relaxer ruined the hair passed down from their ancestors. The hair from Africa by way of Akan, Bantu, Igbo, Fon or possibly Yoruba, way before Scotland via Jamaica than onto Honduras and mixed with a bit of India saturated the blood.
Mi Tío could not stand his African hair. He could not stand his last name either and changed it to Mangroo. It sounded more Indian, which he longed to look like but did not.
His kidneys could not stand his body for they failed. His weekly battle with the dialysis machine was just that, man against machine and of course, the machine was in control. As the machine cleansed his blood of waste, it also cleansed his alma (soul) leaving it bitter and in disarray.
Was I close to my uncle?
I did not like him. He favoured my light-skinned sisters with Spanish lessons and his version of Indian history. He was mean to me and spoke harshly to me and about me. He once accused my mom of jealousy towards her sister’s kids, for they were born with the wavy hair that refused taming with VO5. I was born with the kinky cotton kind of hair which mom coated with lye relaxer to control.
I hope my uncle, mi tío, is in a better place now. A place where there are no dialysis machines, where he does not have to endure living in his house with an ex-wife and her boyfriend because he refuses to sell and pay off the ex, where skin colour has no meaning and speaking Spanish is irrelevant. I hope the angels are soothing his soul or that karma will take pity on him when he returns.
Once, I could not stand my African hair and yearned to look Indian like my mother with her Indian features and Indian hair, soft as silk. But, God gave me what I was born with for a reason and I am grateful for his gentle everyday reminder of who I am and where I come from.
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