Lunch, A Cemetery, And To Grandmother’s House I Go

Nothing special in this post, just the story of our day away from home.

Cynthia and I needed a few things down in Coronado so today was the day. In Coronado, we made our purchases, and being lunch time, I decided to surprise Cynthia with a visit to a new restaurant in San Carlos.

Coming from Panama City, just where the speed limit drops before San Carlos, right on the highway where all the stones are stacked in piles for sale, is an authentic Italian restaurant named Mamma Mia — Toscana in Bocca (Tuscany in your mouth if I remember my smattering of Italian).

The first thing we noticed was the setting. There is a large wall that separates the restaurant from most of the road noise. Inside the wall is a large bohio (open sided, thatched roof hut. It’s always cool under a bohio.).

The setting is very relaxed and peaceful. Our English/Spanish bilingual waiter brought us menus written in Italian. We did some quick math and saw that we could very easily spend more than $20, maybe more than $30 for lunch, so we did our “water and the least expensive dishes” routine. No wine, no dessert. Cynthia ordered a spaghetti dish and I ordered a cheese/tomato pizza.

I was very hungry. I went to the owner who was working at the outside kitchen and said that we would like some garlic bread while we waited. “No!” he said, our lunches would be flour, flour, flour, too much flour! He refused to make bread for us! He said, don’t worry, your food is only a few minutes away and it will be plenty!

Sure enough, our food arrived promptly. And he was right, it was plenty. Not too much, not too little.

I was in Tuscany, Italy, back in the ’70s and I have to say, all my memories of the food came back to me today. Simple food. Well blended flavors. Spaghetti al dente, just as Cynthia likes it.

We finished our meal and told the waiter that we would like the small crumb left on my plate wrapped to go. He laughed; whether at my joke or at my Spanish I cannot tell you. I left a twenty that included a tip.

On the way back up the mountain, I remembered that the formerly nearly impassable road to a cemetery had just been freshly graded, oiled and graveled. So again as a surprise, I turned at the road and drove to the Virgen Del Carmen cemetery. This is the same name as the Catholic church in Los Llanitos near our house.

Here are some photos. Notice that the colors in the plastic flowers are not very faded; they must be changed regularly. And check out the views!

This rock formation is called, "La Puerta" (The Door).

From enjoying the views of the cemetery, we drove home.

But while we were at the cemetery, I showed Cynthia  another “road” that went to Cedelinda’s aunt’s house (Cedelinda is the young woman I am tutoring in English). I was there just last week. Not much more than a steep-hilled, two-track dirt path with lots of rocks, the Honda barely made it. Let me explain why I was there.

Cedelinda’s grandmother is 97-years-old and lives with Cede’s aunt. Grandma, deaf and nearly blind, fell and badly hurt her spine, her hip, and her legs. The family had to care for her there in the house for several weeks until she was well enough to get from the house to the road so she could go to the doctor! With only a rough path, the house is a long way from the road, and the road is so bad that it would have made Grandma much worse.

Cedelinda related the story to Cynthia and me. Pretty much the only way over the road is in one of the local pickup trucks or a farm truck. All had the suspension of a spring-less buckboard and I cringed at the thought of Grandma being jostled so much. So I volunteered to drive Grandma to her appointment with the doctor.

I actually did it again the next week, too, so she could be seen by another doctor. Cedelinda suggested that the second time I take a different road that was in better condition. On the specified day, I drove to the spot that we were to meet. We went to the doctor’s and returned.

Now here is the part that touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes and affected me for days after. As I said, they don’t live near the road. Grandma can’t walk. A wheelchair would be useless on the hilly, rocky, narrow terrain of the path. How to move Grandma? Simple. A young, robust grandson piggy-backed his nearly-100-year-old grandmother to the road. I couldn’t believe my eyes as they came into view, Grandma’s arms wrapped tightly around her grandson’s neck.

I was deeply touched by the profound intimacy that I routinely see in these peoples’ lives. In the States, families tend to be smaller and separated by miles and by generations, and we generally rely on professional services to take care of situations like this. But here, three and four generations live under one roof and they often do what needs to be done themselves. After he carried her, grandson straightened her dress and made her presentable. It took several of us to get her settled into the front seat of the car.

I do not pity these people. Their lives are not complex, hurried and harried as are the lives of so many up north in the States. There is a profound simplicity for them. But there is also the constant need for them to be self-reliant, inventive, and resourceful. I admire their “grit” in so many ways.

Here is a short video of the “road of choice.” After I turn the car around, you can see Cede, her aunt, and the grandson bringing Grandma to the road.

Cynthia and I had a good day today exploring. That’s all for now. 


7 thoughts on “Lunch, A Cemetery, And To Grandmother’s House I Go

  1. Love the photos of Cynthia. (and of you too, Fred… 😉 The videos really give a sense of what the world is like there, as do your insightful narratives.

  2. Fred, Love your stories. Thanks for the cemetery tour. I’m a sucker for cemeteries especially ones in different countries. It is amazing how self-reliant those people are. I meant to post on Cynthia’s horse back ride- I say go girl.

    • Thanks, I know that there are people who are subscribed to my blog to read about how we are building our container house, and I know that my mission around this is clear. But I always wonder if people find interesting the things that we do while not building the house. I’m not writing my stories in a secret diary that I keep under the mattress, so I hope that people find them worth reading. I guess some will, some won’t. Thanks for the feedback. It quells my angst. Fred

  3. Dear Fred and your graceful wife Cynthia,
    I’ve only been following your blog for a couple of months and I’m very curious on how your container home is going to come out. However, I also find your stories of living and being part of the community in Panama very refreshing. You see Fred, I was born in Panama and I was also raised outside of Washington DC where I currently live. I’ve had the blessing of being exposed both worlds (US-PA), I want to thank you both for embracing the people around you and not having the “ugly American” attitude that some expats sometimes import into their new country.
    I must admit that seeing Cedelina’s grandma in your video after reading the blog, it brought back a lot of fond memories of my abuelita who is no longer with us.
    May God continue to bless you and your family for all your good deeds and keep up the good work.

    Alex Casis
    Dumfries, Va.

    • Dear Alex, Thank you for your kind comments. Our lives seem so much richer because we have embraced Panamanian culture as much as we can. We are learning the language and are even beginning to think and respond first in Spanish. We have made good friends here with people on both sides of the economic divide. I would be hard pressed to choose which is better and I am glad that I don’t have to. The people, combined with the climate and the nature keep us involved and committed to our new home. Thanks for posting your comment. Fred

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