Whether I come to Panama for two weeks or three weeks, the time seems to zip by. We’re now in countdown mode, buying little in terms of new groceries, thinking about what we’re going to leave behind — I always leave my sneakers and buy new when I go home — and planning the despedida. When we come, we go to the village and drive house to house, greeting all of Minga and Gloria’s families. When we leave, we do that in reverse, giving each person a hug and a loving good-bye. It’s the cultural expectation, and the gracious thing to do.
Minga always looked me in the eye and promised that she’d be here when I came again.
Now, the worry is that I will no longer come. They’ve said it to me in various ways, at various times all through the visit.
What I’ve said is this: at some point, I will be too old to travel, and the trip here is arduous. But as long as I can, I will come. I love them, even without Minga present.
They think of me as much younger than Minga, but in fact I’m not. She died at 77, and I’ll be 74 in May. Right now I can travel unencumbered by physical or cognitive concerns. But many of my friends who are a bit older than I have stopped traveling sometime between 75 and 80. I have no idea what my situation will be going forward; that’s the kind of uncertainty one lives with at this age. At a younger age, I never thought about whether I could travel — only if I wanted to. Life now is different.
But I will come as long as I can.
This picture is from February 2017.