What are you running away from? That question slaps me across the face. The unmitigated gall, I remember, of a stranger. I was 24 years old and I wanted to leave. I passionately….no. I violently wanted to leave. I wanted to extricate myself. Yank myself. Tear myself out by the roots. I wanted to leave and never return. It felt like death right down to my bones. And there it was — just a small New England town, parochial and gritty. Two generations of family that came before me called it home.
Why are you running away? Here I am seated around an oval, kitchen table –a family table, It feels like I’m sitting on a war panel and I’m in the hot seat. I’m Cambodia. Instead of maps and push pins that indicate points of upheaval and plans for deployment, this table has a tablecloth. It is plastic so it protects the table from the sticky Italian pastries and Sanka brand coffee with saccharine that are arranged across it with cups and plates for reaching and passing. “Well, no. I’m not running away. I just want to live somewhere else.” Here come the “Cannoli Bombings.” “Yes, but why Mexico? Why do you want to live in Mexico of all places? Can’t you just go on vacation?” “I went on vacation to Mexico. That’s when I decided to live there. As a matter of fact, these earrings I’m wearing, I bought on a beach in Mexico. I made a promise to myself to leave them on until I returned to Mexico to live….” Why did I say that? “Umm,” I continued, “as a symbol…of my resolve…to return.” Silence. “Are you gay?” My uncle blurted. This is where the Gringo says, “No comprende.”
When I was in college twenty plus years ago, I read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, by Simone de Beauvoir. Apart from having a penchant for alliteration, I understood the book title: …a Dutiful Daughter. It fit me. However, Simone de Beauvoir was a French writer and existentialist. The original title written in French, Memoires d’une jeune fille rangée , literally translated means “memoirs of a well-behaved girl”. That translation could not have caught my attention. I’ve always felt I was a bit of a bad girl who worked really hard at being good. At any rate, after college graduation, I rarely lived near my parents. Sometimes we lived on separate continents and spoke distinct household languages. Despite distance and diction, I knew the time would come no matter where I was or what I was doing, I would have to step away and step into my destiny as the dutiful daughter. I received the call in March of 2009. My dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Six months later, my husband, our daughter and I returned to my place of birth, my natal spring, my hometown —the fly in my ointment. The time had come to step into the role as the dutiful daughter and stand at my parents’ side. I willingly embarked on this anticipated journey, but when I was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer, I soon realized I had lost my way. Fate, coincidence and destiny collided and blurred. I thought I had chosen the journey, but the journey had chosen me.