Caramel Candy

He was born, he may have lied and then he died.

I knew very little of about my father.  I know his name was Juan Lopez and the streets called him Papo. I know that he was born in Juan Diaz, Puerto Rico and the island called him Collore. I knew that his mother abandoned him but am not sure at what age. I know he’s got a sister that I love dearly. He has brother that look just like him who was recently released from prison after doing 20 years, just days after he passed away. Or was it just days before he passed away?

I don’t know where he went to school or if school was ever part of his history. The current state of the educational system on the Puerto Rico is in shambles. The teachers take days off on a regular in  protest to get better pay and benefits. There aren’t substitutes like there are here in the United states. In a past visit, my little cousin was dropped off for his daily classes at about 8 am and my aunt had to run back down the hill to pick him up at 11. There was no one to monitor the classes so the children are sent home. So I can only imagine what it was like in the 1960’s.

I do not know how he met my mother. Why he would be attracted to a 14 year old when he was 22 year old man. I’ve learned from listening to stories people tell while eating at the table that this was a normal way of life. The older men, “se llevan” the young girls to make wives of them.  They would bed them and breed with the sick intention of being the one to take their virginity. If the girl hadn’t already gave it away to someone else. My mother was no different.

I don’t know if he ever thought of what kind of legacy he intended to leave behind. What his dreams were. What made him pack up his little family from a little shackle of a house next to a small brook at the foot of a mountain in Ponce?  What was he thinking?

I have very few memories of the two of us together. I would say there are two, one as a toddler and one as a 16 year old carbon copy of the woman he once loved.  He wasn’t present for any of my life events. He didn’t hold my hand for my first day of school. He didn’t attend any of my 3 graduations, or defend my honor when my boyfriend slapped me for the first time. He wasn’t at the hospital when he grand-son was born.  My father never tucked me in at night or scared away el cuco.

He didn’t tell me what to expect of men. He never warned me about their ways and how they’ll take and take from me if I didn’t choose right. Instead, I was left to choose on my own and picked men just like him.

I will say I remembered the only ass whooping this man ever gave me. I almost burnt down the projects we lived in. I somehow started a fire in the living room when I was left unattended in the company of a lighter and matches. Both my parents smoked and while they were not looking I took it upon myself to try to figure out how this lighter works. In the process I set to flames some awkward looking thing my  mother had decorating this tiny one bedroom apartment that held two adults and 4 kids.

I never had anyone tell me that I looked like him. Whispers of the milk man followed me my entire life on this side of the train tracks. But I carry his last name and if I turn my head to a profile view, you can see the slope and tip of his nose. It matters not what the rumors say. He always bought me caramelitos when he visited me once my parents split. And those visits may have been once or twice but every Halloween for the last 6 years I buy a bag (or three) of caramel candies when Wal-Mart has them on sale.

I don’t know much about my father. He was born, he may have lived and then he died.

© 2017, Lopez. All rights reserved.

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