Going Up There!
By Bonnie L. Phillips
Mexico was the “paradise” we dreamed of. It was to be the place we would live, until we died. Where we immersed ourselves into this wonderful culture, where we were lucky enough to have Mexican extended family, where we all laughed during the Mexican lottery game at our mistakes (Corona is a crown and the name of a beer, carona means fat face). Where we joked with our friends about El Chapo finding Trump, where I spent hours making 50 tamales with my friend’s mother, where we spoke Spanish each day with strangers, people with businesses and with our friends who are meseros (waiters). (Every Christmas we’d bring the restaurant staff two bottles of tequila and jugo (juice) for those who didn’t drink).
Where we started up “baby pools” for the meseras (waitresses) who were pregnant, the customers and staff paid 20 pesos for each guess about the birth date and time of birth for the four women who worked at our favorite restaurant. Half of the money went to the mother and the other half went to the winner.
Mexico is where we’ve felt honored to be treated like family and where we’ve been included in all of the fiestas (New Year’s Eve, baptisms, funerals, weddings and more.) I once got wrapped up as a mummy, with toilet paper, at a baby shower while the women laughed and the men watched, smiled and drank beer.
With deep anguish and broken hearts we have to say goodbye to our family and friends in Mexico.
My husband has been sick for many weeks with multiple respiratory problems and only one good working lung, along with his M.S. I, also, have been sick for far too long with respiratory problems. Between the altitude, pollen, dust, humidity and mold we can no longer ignore the “elephant in the room.” Our doctor said it would only get worse if we continued to live here.
We grieved for weeks while searching up north for a dryer location at a lower altitude, as we anticipated what the doctor would say. And we dealt with other things: our cat was seriously ill for over a week and almost didn’t make it, we had a “surprise” visit, for ten days, from my sister and her wife, my computer no longer accessed the internet, and we found out that our dog also has an auto-immune disorder. At one point, since Emily is like a “service dog,” I suggested Bill might want to swap places with her and be Emily’s “service human.”
After I took our dog for one of her weekly injections, I took her across the Carretera (main road) for a walk, and when I was ready to leave I discovered I’d lost all of my keys. I couldn’t drive my car home, nor contact my husband for the other key because my phone didn’t work. All the keys to our house and the digital chips to the car had to be changed. Thank goodness my husband has as warped a sense of humor as I do; it helped us get through a lot.
Amidst all the chaos and knowing we absolutely “had” to leave our “forever” home in Ajijic, and return to Los Estados Unidos, we realized the seriousness of the situation and focused, with tunnel vision, on the upcoming move that would tear us away from the people and life that we loved.
We have said our good-byes, we have cried, we have told many how much we will miss them and believe it or not, we went through everything in our household, eliminated most of our possessions, and had a yard sale six days after the doctor said “Fuera, mas pronto.” (“Go, very soon.”)
On the first day of the sale, my dear friend, Kathy, manned, I mean “womaned” the table where people paid for what they wanted to buy. She was cool-headed and fantastic even though she looked like she’d disappeared inside of a flash mob, or a subway train in Japan, during rush hour. When I looked through the window I saw only the tips of her blonde hair and heard her calm voice, “Momentito, por favor, Momentito.” (“One little moment, please.”)
On the second day of the sale, there were still many items to sell, but something felt off to me. I remembered when our children were young and, like all parents who find an unexpected opportunity, I wanted to buy them something.
I turned over the yard sale sign and wrote in Spanish, Muchas cosas estan gratis (Many things are free) and removed the price tags. I told everyone in the garage only the wrought iron rocking chair and the tapestry weren’t free but everything else was. Then I asked them to tell their friends and family members. I was pleased to see lots of people looking, but still not quite sure about taking things. I realized a special moment was at hand con mi vecinos (with my neighbors) and it gave me one of my most treasured interactions with them.
“Gracias,” I said to everyone, “Para comparti tu pais con mi esposo y yo. Ahora, nosotros gustan comparti nuestro cosas con uds. Todo estan gratis.” (“Thank you for sharing your country with my husband and me. Now, we would like to share our things with you. Everything is free.”
Something happened. Strangers and neighbors alike, we laughed and joked with each other, children politely asked how much if they found a price tag left on an item. I would tear it off, they would smile. One neighbor I hadn’t met before told me she and her family lived six doors down and across the street from me. Another said, “I’m the wife of so and so.”
My husband talked with our neighbors, laughed with them and brought out more things as he found them. People spoke with muted excitement, they helped correct our Spanish and we thanked them. They hesitated with arms full of things as they started to leave and when I smiled, they said “Muchas gracias.” (“Many thanks.”)
I answered with, “De nada, pero, gracias a uds. para ayudando nosotros.” (“You’re welcome, but thank you for helping us.”) They smiled, some took my hand or touched my shoulder and they left.
They left us with memories of why we’ve loved living in Mexico. And they gave us so much more to look back on when we live “up there.”
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com