Someday I’ll Miss This Place Too

My father-in-law, who is very dear to me, is entering into hospice care. He was diagnosed with brain cancer last fall. A valiant year of treatment did not beget the hoped-for healing. Now it’s clear where Dan’s trail is to end.

After his diagnosis, with the bells of mortality ringing in the distance, Dan pushed himself to curate his many written works into a single memoir. The finished book, published recently by Cirque Press, is called “Someday I’ll Miss This Place Too.” It covers the thirteen-year period he lived in Western Alaska along the Kuskokwim River, providing legal aid and social services. It’s a wonderful read and we feel so lucky to have this tangible piece of him to hold forever.

If you’ve got someone on your Christmas list who has an interest in rural Alaska, I encourage you to buy a copy (I’ll link again below). It’s got all that good Alaskana stuff like dog-sledding adventures over frozen tundra and perilous flights aboard achy, shaky bush planes. It’s also a tender and funny recollection of the people and places that left indelible marks on Dan’s life. My favorite thematic takeaway is that patience, empathy, and understanding are the most valuable equipment one can carry as a stranger in a strange land.

It’s sorta’ funny – I was looking for a photo to use on this post, preferably one where he and I are posing arm over arm, beaming smiles, eyes reflecting the snow or water or dew-soaked trees. But most of the photos I have of Dan are like the one above, slightly ahead and leading the way, teaching by example how to navigate an icy trail or a flooded walk. Or scanning the horizon for a sight of eagles or geese, camera in hand, soaking in all the splendors that this amazing thing called life provides.

Dan graciously welcomed me into his family and has always made me feel like I belong on the trail with him. I think the photo is fitting. Kindly, silently, thoughtfully leading the way.

Anyway, I know it’s important for both Dan and for Anna that people read his book, so here’s the link if it’s something you’d like.

Great cover, huh?

Adiós, Tita Ali

Ali, Robert, y Robbie

Noticias tristes: Mi tía Alicia murió anoche. Ella era una mujer cubana con mucho pasión. La vamos a extrañar mucho.

As most of you know, I’m a first-generation Cuban-American on my dad’s side, yet for myriad reasons my parents didn’t raise me bilingual. It’s the biggest regret of my life; mi Español es mierda.

But when I was around Tita Ali, just as when I’m around my grandparents, it’s straight up Flowers for Algernon with me and my Spanish. She instilled confidence in me, a confidence that I don’t always feel around other people. Outside of the elders in my family, I don’t really have much cultural connection to my heritage. I’m afraid of what it’ll mean when they’re all gone. Part of being a model minority is assimilation, but I can’t help but feel something vibrant is slowly being extinguished each and every day I move further from where I came from.

Tita Ali died in her sleep last night. She was a fiery, powerful woman who didn’t take no shit from no one. She was the family wit, armed to the teeth with a quick and biting sense of humor. She loved Coca-Cola and Cuban coffee. She was the pickiest eater you’d ever meet. Meghan, my dad, and I got to go on vacation with her earlier this year and she was always so full of life. It’s shocking to think that she’s just… gone.

Since she had no inhibitions about cracking jokes, I feel comfortable making mention that it’s a funny coincidence the U.S. and Cuba re-opened full diplomatic relations in the hours prior to her passing. I suppose if you told her that we were going to bury the hatchet with Fidel, she would have said something like, “¡Coño! Over my dead body.”

We’re gonna miss you, Tita Ali. Thanks for everything.

Aunt Alice and Meg