Panama 2018: Gloria’s New Grandbaby

Gloria’s youngest son Luis and his partner Lynette have just give birth to their first child, a little boy named Axel Antonio. This is Gloria’s fourth grandchild, joining Gabrielito and Alia, and Milenys.

Luis has a good job working security at the Decameron Hotel. He and Lynette have been together since she was fourteen; she moved in with the Samanegos and lived with Luis in his bedroom. They are still living there, but Gloria and papa Luis are finishing a small house for them next to the main house. Gloria is extremely straightforward about sexual matters; a condition of Lynette moving in was that they not start a family until they were ready as a couple. Luis is now 22 or so, and I imagine Lynette is 20 or close to it.

Friend and regular readers Phyllis and Sally will remember our first visit to Panama 10 years ago, when we and our late friend Marilyn sat around the dining room table looking at XRays of Luis’ clubbed foot, showing all sorts of metal in the foot from previous interventions. He had a badly withered leg that kept breaking just because of his body weight, and at that moment had been in a cast for many weeks — far longer than he should have been. Luis was being treated at the free public hospital in Panama City, which is one rung below the hospital where Minga goes. I can barely imagine. I intervened to have Luis see a private orthopedic doctor, who removed the cast, prescribed shoes with a lift to compensate for Luis’ uneven leg lengths and a toe box in the front to provide better balance. Luis also got six months of physical therapy to strengthen the leg.

Some of my interventions are more successful than others, but this was a big one. Luis’ entire life has been different: no more sitting inside in a cast while the other kids were outside playing. His bad leg, while not normal in size, has held up even as his body has evolved into a heavier adult male size — Gloria was afraid he would wind up in a wheelchair, which hasn’t happened. He is able to work, and walks pretty normally.

Now he is a father, and in what appears to be a stable long term relationship. He is a loving son. Those of us who have visited Panama and know this young man can take great joy in seeing him grown up.

Welcome to the world, little Axel Antonio. 🙂

Panama 2018: Ana’s Birthday

Ana celebrated her 63rd birthday on May 3, and here she is with her mother, Minga. Minga is 76; she had Ana when she was 13. Ana was actually raised in the village by Minga’s aunt, and when I was in the Peace Corps in the late 1960’s, Minga already had five more children. She was by then 26. Ana used to come around regularly, but she didn’t live with the Delgados.

These days Ana and her mother are close. Ana is providing Minga a home, and care, during the week while she undergoes dialysis in Panama City.

Ana is a kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful, lovely, deeply religious woman. She has a long term spouse, Raoul. They have raised their own family, and now are raising Mileybus. They are good people. Ana is a good person. Like her mother.

Happy Birthday Ana, from all of us. 🙂

Panama 2018: Mileybus and Minga

Mileybus is Minga’s great-granddaughter. For those of you interested in the family tree, Minga’s eldest daughter Ana is the mother of Titi, who is the actual mother of Miley. Titi lives in Rio Hato and has a large family — you can practically date when birth control became widely available by the size of the families in this generation. Miley is the youngest. Ana and her husband Raoul have raised Miley since she was born, and Miley calls Ana “Mama”. Miley does know that Titi is her mother, and that all the kids in that family are siblings. She visits when Ana and she are in the village. Miley is already an aunt. One of her elder sisters, Joelis, lives in the village and has a young baby.

Ana and Raoul and Miley live in Panama City, where Miley has won a scholarship to a private high school.

Miley is celebrating her quinceaneros in May, a very big coming of age for young women in Latino culture. Ana, a skilled seamstress, is making her dress — pics are promised. Miley will have a small party, not the huge, expensive event typically hosted by wealthy families. She is excited to host her friends.

They called yesterday on WhatsUp so that I could wish Miley happy birthday, they could wish the same for me, and Minga and I could talk. Minga wants to know when I am coming — she hopes it is before next January. She is managing her 3x weekly dialysis and is happy living with Ana and her family during the week — apparently going home to the village after every treatment has proven to be too hard.  I’m glad Minga had the chance to try. She wants to tell me again, face to face, what dialysis is like.

We talk about what is central to our lives. Right now, that 3x weekly dialysis that lasts all day and leaves Minga exhausted and dizzy is the most consuming part of her week. No surprise that she wants to be heard on what it’s like. And no surprise that I will make every effort to go, hold her hands while she talks, and listen.

Miley is taller than most young women in Panama, and Minga is tiny — getting more so all the time.

Conscious Aging: Call from Minga

Ana and Miley made a WhatsApp call on Friday, so that I could talk with Minga. Her port has been moved lower down on her chest — again, I’m not sure why. But she seems happy about it and relieved that the procedure is over. She looked and sounded better than the last time we spoke. Perhaps her dialysis is working better with this new point of access.

This is the original port — the new one, to the best of my ability to see it on the WhatsApp video call, is two or three inches lower.


Conscious Aging: Talking with Minga

Minga’s daughter Ana called on Thursday, a WhatsApp video call where I can not only hear Minga but get to see her face. She looked terribly tired, although it wasn’t a dialysis day and she said she felt okay. Soon the doctors are going to move her port, not to the most likely alternate sites in her forearm or abdomen, but a little down from where the port is now. I asked her why, and she was unclear. She said the doctor told her that her veins are thin, whatever that means.

I’m not sure if Minga isn’t getting much information from her treatment team, or whether they are explaining things and she’s not understanding. Her hearing loss doesn’t help, and although she has to have a family member with her on dialysis days, it isn’t always the same family member. They all work, and they have to take turns at the all day commitment. Minga is adamant that when she first went to the hospital, no one told her she was going to begin dialysis and that she would have to continue dialysis forever in order to stay alive. She says they simply told her they were going to do something that would make her feel better. On the other hand, she was critically ill in September, when her son Angel drove to the village and brought her into the city, and who knows what information she was able to take in. I believe that one of her daughters signed the permission for Minga to be treated.

I wish I knew if moving the port was a good sign, a neutral sign, or a bad omen.

Ana asked if I will come again in November, like I did last year — a second trip, beyond my usual mid-winter two week visit. I said I will try.

Ana said that Minga is having trouble walking up the stairs to Ana’s second floor apartment after dialysis, on those days that Minga chooses to stay in the city after treatment. I’m not surprised. On the two days I accompanied Minga to dialysis, I thought she was exhausted and dizzy when she came out. I have no idea how she was taking three busses to Filipio, or for that matter, how she gets herself to the central terminal and then on a transport on those days that she goes home to the village.

I fear that we’re on a gradual downward slope, although I have no hard evidence of it. Minga is entering month 7 of dialysis, managing as best she can. She might just have been having a bad day — all of us do. Or, dialysis is taking a terrible toll, and it’s beginning to show.

Trump Gone!

I know — those of you who are not Trump fans are thinking I’m announcing that Trump has been impeached, or resigned. Alas, no such luck. The Orange Tornado is still with us.

But the Trump name is on the way out at the glitzy Panama City hotel that bears his name and his brand. The new owner of the majority of the hotel units seems to have successfully ousted the Trump organization and won the right to remove the Trump name — which Orestes Fintiklis did with a crowbar. Trump Inc. is apparently contesting that they have lost for good, but possession is 9/10 of the law, as they say, and right now the Fintiklis group is in possession of the hotel and condo building, with the backing of Panamanian courts and the police.

Trump properties in the U.S., at least some of them, appear to be a big hit with Republicans seeking to curry favor with Trump and his family. But properties overseas, especially those in countries Trump has disparaged, are not faring as well. This would seem to fall on the shoulders of the Trump sons, who are running the business with wink-nod attention from Dad, who has supposedly stepped back. I recall reading an article about Trump family nepotism which suggested that based on talent and work ethic, if not for employment in TrumpWorld the sons would be parking cars for a living.–alert-national&wpmk=1

Trump Hotel in Panama

I follow the news of Panama, and so was amused to read about a dust-up involving the Trump branded hotel and condo building in Panama City. Like most Trump ventures this is a branding deal — his company didn’t build the place. They run it, and slap the Trump name on the front. I know the building; it’s right on the harborfront in Panama City.

Occupancy has been low, and an investment fund run by Cypriot businessman named Orestes Fintiklis bought a majority stake in the building’s units at fire sale prices, then tried to evict Trump management as incompetent. The Trump staff belligerently refused to leave, and a scuffle ensued. Police were called. Right now things are at a standoff, with lawyers for both sides involved.

The Panamanians I know aren’t touched by any of this. None of them would have ever been in the Trump hotel as a guest or residence owner. The arguments of rich people take place outside their world. But I find the contretemps highly amusing. If I’d been in Panama City, I’d have run over to the hotel bar for a drink, just to watch the fireworks.

Panama 2018: Call from Minga

All of Minga’s grown daughters and sons, and all of her grandchildren, have cell phones. Her daughter Ana, and granddaughter Lily, are connected to me via an app which allows us free calling. On Monday morning, to my surprise, Ana called to tell me Minga was with her and wanted to talk.

Ana lives in Panama City, much nearer to the hospital where Minga receives dialysis, and nearer to the central terminal where Minga comes into the city on a small van called a chiva, than the daughter with whom Minga was living before. Coming and going between each dialysis to and from the village is what I left Minga money to do, and to my great joy, she is apparently doing it. She says the 90 minute ride is no more tiring than taking three busses in traffic out to Filipio, where she was staying earlier. I wasn’t sure Minga would be able to make this happen. Her family are acting protectively, lovingly — but have been driving their mother nuts. Minga says she can endure the grueling regime of 3x weekly dialysis if she can go home after, where she can see her neighbors and sleep in her own bed and eat food cooked in her own kitchen. I left her money for transportation, and that was the missing piece. Now that she has her own money, she is making the decision to come and go. On any day that she feels too tired, she will stay with Ana. She was with Ana on Monday morning rather than coming into the city on Tuesday because this is Carnaval week throughout Panama, and there is a lot of traffic both in the city and with revelers pouring into the city to celebrate. Minga didn’t want to miss her early spot at the dialysis center.

In the simplest sense, Minga has claimed the right to be in charge of when she comes and goes, and she is feeling much better about life. My sense when I was with her is that she is trying to find the middle ground between being 100% medically compliant in terms of her diet and fluid intake, and living every day in a way that she can sustain in terms of quality of life. Going home is a big part of what she needs. She has said so, clearly and unambiguously. And she is making it happen. She is one strong woman.

I’m taking note of this as well in terms of my own reflections on aging and where I will live. I’m seeing how important it is to Minga to be at home, and to have control of her life. Her younger daughter was giving her attentive care, but at the cost of too much of Minga’s sense of agency. Ana, the eldest, is a good bit more relaxed, and Minga seems fine about staying with her when conditions dictate.

Minga sends love to all of you who have been thinking of her and praying for her. She wants you to know she feels well and strong. She is praying for you as well, and asks the Virgin to watch over you and bless you and bring you peace.

Below a pic of Minga on the patio at my rented villa, and one of Ana and Miley, where Minga is now staying when she is too tired to go home after her treatment. Ana has a large family, but Miley is the only one living at home now, so there is room for Minga. Ana’s longtime marido is there too. Sounds as if Minga feels welcome and loved, and for now, all is good.

Photos by Bob Levy.



Panama 2018: Quinceaneros for Jeorgethe

Jeorgethe is Minga’s great-granddaughter; she lives in the village with her mother Jennifer and her brother Josue. Teri, Minga’s fourth eldest, is Jeorgethe’s grandmother. So, the familial line goes: Minga, Teri, Jennifer, Jeorgethe.

I started going to Panama regularly in 2009. The bottom pic of Jeorgethe in the pale pink dress is 2010, and the quinceaneros pic is now. How these kids have grown!

Do you notice that Jeorgethe is standing in just the same pose in both pics?

Happy birthday Jeorgethe, from all of us.

Panama 2018: 80% Back

I’m 80% back to my exercise routine and intensity, after one week post-Panama. I consciously decided to take a break from working out for the two weeks I was there. The sun comes up at about 6:30am, and by 7:30am it’s too hot to exercise, even at a fast walk. My friend Sally, a daily runner, gets up at 5:30am to stay on her exercise schedule. But not me. I love watching the sunrise, and sipping coffee on the patio, and having Gloria make breakfast. I love the slow start to the day.

But at my age, taking two weeks off means a fair amount of effort to get back on track, and it doesn’t happen within the first week. I should be back to 100% by the end of the coming week — two weeks off, two weeks to get back. I can live with that.