on sunday, my family said goodbye to my godfather for what may have been the last time as he left with my godmother to the philippines to try and see his mother before he dies. he had been undergoing chemotherapy for the past few months, but had reached the point where he was too weak to continue. it has already been over a year since we had the first despedida. when both my godparents and all of us, thought that he was leaving LA to the phlippines for the last time. instead, they had decided to return to the states and try another series of treatments.
we were all worried that he wouldn't get the medical clearance to travel, even though my godmother is a nurse. my retired godmother even took a job at the convalescent home he was staying at, in order to watch over him during the day. saying goodbye to them at the airport made me think of how the lives of immigrants to this country can be so circular.
my godmother had come to the states as a young bacholerette, even before my family had emigrated here. it was here that she met my godfather. within the first year of my family living here, they got married. having no kids of their own, they ended up becoming godparents to so many of my relatives. my godfather ended up becoming one of those "funny uncles" that was one of the first to get blasted at the parties, gamble too loudly at the poker table and get too rowdy on the phone to his bookies.
i always remember him and my more reserved godmother getting matching perms and driving around in sports cars that bore their initials "LA CA." what i also remember, is how they bought my brother and i our first winter coats when my family had decided to move out of the "hood" in LA and into the cold, unfamiliar state of michigan. though i was only 3 or 4, i still remember sitting in our apartment with my godparents and my mom, opening the box that contained a bright red winter jacket with a pointy hood. in all the later pictures, i looked like a little red KKK member standing in the michigan snow.
those memories always make me both sad and happy. i think of how many patients my godmother nursed back to health during her many years in this country. and i think of her leaving on sunday, trying to nurse her dying husband. and i wonder if this country ever misses all those people that come through its revolving doors. i say revolving doors because so many of the people i know--including my parents--who come here, have a hard time wanting to stay here. i know why my godmother would never want my godfather to die here. this country can be such a cold, cold world, where everyone is isolated from each other. everyone only cares for whomever can fit in their own personal SUV. where very few people realize how lonely it can be as an immigrant and how oftentimes all the things immigrants contribute to this country are so easily overlooked and forgotten.
my relatives and i made sure to see off my godparents with a large, healthy crowd. i think it's because we all knew how hard it took to get here, and how heartbreaking it would be to go through a lifetime in this country, to only leave alone. when i cried my goodbyes on sunday, i was not only crying because i knew it may have been the last time i could tell my godfather i loved him, but also because i wondered how often immigrant stories end like this--lifetimes spent in a country that leaves you still feeling rootless and longing for home. i love you, l+c.