Ma warned me about women. Ma could be disarming and disturbing but she believed in spoiling me and my sister because she was Cuban and Cubans believe you need to spoil children to give them happy memories to fall back on when life turns into LIFE, the way my mother saw it: through cancer, mental breakdown, institutionalization. I did visit her there but my sister didn’t. My sister moved to Cuba with one of our cousins. The restless spirit of an older sister can be a motivating factor for someone as attached to family heritage as me. “Your sister is a slut,” said Ma over supper. I know that’s a reason I tried to hide my interest in women from Ma. “They’ll always disappoint you,” she said. “All my women friends stopped calling after I got sick.” She never got over this. Dad tried to call her friends back to her but Ma broke down before anything could be done. Sarah, my sister, was already gone. “Me duele el corazon pensando en ella,” Ma used Spanish, the language of compassion, for all emotional statements. “No me dejan, mi hijo precioso." So, I’m the son that didn’t go.
Scham / Shame
Robert Kelly, Birgit Kempker