Feliz Cinco de Mayo a todos. We have some good news from Mexican older bud José. He's in an art show celebrating the art and works of older adults. His reception will be on Friday, May 6th, 1:30-2:30 P.M. at Parkway Central Library, West Gallery First Floor, 1901 Vine Street. There will be another reception on Thursday, May 26, 4:00-5:00PM at Center on the Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue behind the Presbyterian Church in Chestnut Hill. To view the entire show, go to www.pcaCares.org/Celebrate for their virtual showcase.
In honor of José's show, we have a story featuring one of his other great talents: philosophizing and questioning organized religion.
Literacy is not enough: it’s necessary to have the proper belief association and belief repertoire. It was a must to function in a decent society as I was going to discover. After my overwhelming entrance experience to Elementary School with all the authority struggles that it involved, now I had to accept another requirement to function in the grown up world. My Elementary Education will furnish me with literacy but I guess that my real outcome was to follow authority instructions with the minimal expression of rejection and the maximum of performance. Now my mother decided that I had to be Catholic – Christian, one of those submitted to the Vatican, meaning that included the liturgical and recitation of creeds and fixed prayers that it implied. By my tender neurons circulated questions as phantoms: Why there was a temple? Why we had to hear mass? How those enormous figurines of saints that hanged from the walls can help us to obtain what we want? Why a priest can represent God? Why we have to kneel and act as if we have done something wrong? Why money is asked to parrochians in each mass as if God was in poverty? Why people have to recite memorized prayers to be good and go to heaven? Of course the formulation of those questions evolved until they become part of my non-answered questions and later my non important questions embed in my life. But at the age of 7, my mother’s criteria was undisputed if she said that I needed to go to heaven it was so, if she said I needed to recite our fathers and Hail Maries, then I suppose I had to, and repeat them until new order.
So I had to attend to particular Christian education with Mrs. Claudia. She was a gentle old lady that smiled frequently but was very solemn when assumed its role. She was in charge of our Catholic indoctrination, my brother Victor and myself were the only “souls to be saved” that attended at her home that by the way was located at only 20 meters or less from my school. She wore long dark dresses, spoke in a convincing Spanish, and created a gentle-grave atmosphere around her, so I thought she was an under covered angel disguised as an old lady to prevent the Devil to turn us into his slaves. We started each session with the ritual of making the sign of the Holy Cross, for that purpose with the right hand simulated a cross and with it we did three little crosses: one in our front, the second in the mouth and the third over our heart and at the end a big cross from the head to the belly, from the left shoulder to the right shoulder. To dismiss the cross formed with our fingers we ended kissing our own hand as a farewell. Our conversation was unilateral and she pointed clearly what was truth beyond any doubt. How I had two mothers, my physical mother and Mary my spiritual mother, two fathers, my physical father and God. I had inside of me, something strange as a phantom, or a swirl of wind, or a divine light that had to be saved because the ever present Devil was always wandering around sneaking in my life trying to take me to his side by an unknown reason; well, not immediately. The Devil will work with me during my life and later when I pass away, if I don’t repent, he will torture me in a humongous oven where I’ll be cooked with the disadvantage that the cooking will never be done and my mom nor nobody will help me…..wow! Mrs. Claudia said those horrible things in such calmed way that created an infantile dissonance in my poor head… but I decided well she is a friend of God and in the worst scenario surely she will help me.
One day she told us that we were going to receive our first communion. She explained we will live in that moment the happiest day of our lives because in those moments God was going to be there and we will have the chance to eat it. Her voice was so convincing and trustful that I thought, “Well if she say so it will happen…” but believe me I could not imagine how God was to be collapsed into a piece of bread, then I will eat it and later I will fall in such a joy that nothing in the world can be compared to. But could it be more joyful than playing with my ball? Can it be better than eating a strawberry ice cream? If she says so I will do it but, I was wondering that she was creating a reality that my innocence could not grasp. The first communion preparation involved teaching me that I was dirty. “But each day I take a bath,” I commented timidly…
“Not that kind of dirt Pepe it’s the soul’s dirt you know?”
“What? A soul can be covered of mud, or dust, or trash?” I asked surprised. She controlled herself and with infinite patience explained that our first ancestors Adan and Eve disobeyed God’s Will and from that moment each of us fall in disgrace. But we were lucky, Jesus saved all humanity with his death. I never understood the meaning and veracity of that but for a frightened and sensitive introverted, Mrs. Claudia dictum was enough. But something was missing: I had to be prepared to confess my sins. Since I could not imagine myself offending God I had to focus in what way I offended my fellow world inhabitants, even my dog, our home canaries and a talking parrot that never learned other word than “Papá, Papa.” So I thought, well sometimes I don’t eat all my food and it was payed by my father’s hard work so it’s a strike. The previous culinary omission implied that someone in some place could be living, longing for the food I disdained; second strike. In another vein, I indulged so much the strawberry ice cream consequently I was so absent that I could not think in eating spinach or vegetables and was ruining my health and falling into gluttony…..three strikes. My Sunday allowance that I used to buy one Superman comic each Sunday was an offense against so many poor people, so I accumulated so many strikes that didn’t know what to do with them…. But wait a minute, there where a twilight zone integrated by those impressive behaviors, not totally definite and I created the proper category for them I called them wrong thoughts. Those included all my mundane weakness, potential offenses, and all the deviant ideas I could not define. I ended with a large sin list, perhaps I did a little of to multiply its amount, perhaps I did a little of dramatization of its ugliness. So finally I was prepared; I knew the main litanies, I had a list of incontestable truths, and most importantly had a long and decent list of wrongdoings that will make me appear close to a serial criminal, more dangerous than Al Capone. I was sure that when I confessed my crimes this priest, God representative, will be impressed by my high level of criminality, so well documented and will give me a huge penitence.
I don’t remember what happened in the moment of confession. I guess what happened was under the level of my imaginative expectations. What I remember is that when I finished ended saying to myself: “Well here I am leaving the sinner world and entering in the path to heaven. Hope not to fall in temptation, hope I have the strength to continue my righteous way with not falling even when I found a creamy strawberry ice-creams in my path or a Superman comic.”
If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at email@example.com. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And if you or the older buds have Cinco de Mayo stories and art to display, then you or they can submit stories through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri