Larry Reads His Story
We are in Barranco, Peru. We’ve just come straight from the mass celebrating his life and already the room is filling up with party goers. My wife’s Tio (Uncle) Victor is being honored on his ninetieth birthday. The room, located above a local polleria (a restaurant specializing in chicken), is long and narrow.
Cheap plastic chairs and small tables take up most of the room, but at the back there is space for a band and, of course, room to dance. I wonder how everyone will fit in such a small space, but in the end they all seem to manage.
Victor, one of fourteen brothers and sisters, is my wife’s maternal uncle. He is loved by the family for his gentleness, kindness and calm demeanor. He is friendly, cheerful and always courteous. Victor lives very modestly, but this never prevents him from being in good spirits and enjoying his life.
Because of these qualities, he has a large turnout of family and friends to wish him well. The room buzzes with animated conversation, people going from table to table, greeting each other and exchanging comments.
One of the most moving moments is when Victor’s grand daughter, nine years old, reads her own composition expressing her love for her grandpa. She cries, he cries and all of us feel the emotion.
I see Victor often at family get-togethers. Whenever we meet, he never wants just a hand shake, but gives me a big bear hug. I like him, and he always seems glad to see me. Often when we meet, he reaches for a bottle of pisco (the local firewater) to fill up my glass. Then, we always have to drink a toast– “salud!”
As I sit at our table, the members of the band stream by carrying large and heavy equipment. They keep coming, and I am amazed at how such a large band can play in such a small room. Later on, when they start playing, my fears are confirmed as the whole room vibrates with the music. Fortunately they are good as well as loud.
Tio Victor has to dance the first dance alone with his sisters (eighty-nine and eighty- six years old) and then with many others. There is a long line waiting to have their turn. I begin to worry about Victor. He is sprightly at ninety and still dances well, but the music goes on and on, turning into a marathon. I wonder if I ever reach ninety, could I survive such an endurance test. Anyway, Victor enjoys himself thoroughly. After the first number, though, he manages to settle gratefully back into his chair and remains there from then on.
Now everyone begins to dance— young, old — even the gringo. Victor, ever the kind soul, tells me in a whisper that my wife and I are the best pareja (couple) on the floor. My wife is an excellent dancer so I must thank her for carrying me through again. Drinks come. Food is served.
Everyone has a good time, but the most important thing is that we have come to honor a good man— Tio Victor.