I talked to my grandmother this morning and she said something that's been sticking with me today. "En un matrimonio hay que aguantar cosas..." In a marriage you've got to put up with stuff.
Precisely the reason I'm not married. I simply do not know how to do that. So I stop my grandmother mid-story to clarify for me.
What kind of things, abuela? What kind of things is it okay to put up with? She tells me, you know, him going out with his friends, saying something mean to you, staying out too late, etc. But I keep thinking that in her case she aguanto an alcoholic womanizer who brought her to a country where she didn't speak the language, couldn't drive and worked the overnight shift in a bakery for 30 years.
I loved my grandfather, God rest his soul. But a good husband? Maybe no. He was a charmer who loved the ladies, loved to dance, loved to drink. He owned a barber shop for a while that was a center for Cubans in the area. Apparently he held court there. "Y Dios sabe cuantas mujeres..." my grandmother said once.
I wish I could have known him as an adult because I can see now how complicated he was. When I would come to visit he'd tell me stories in slurred, broken English about the war he fought against Castro in Cuba. He was something back then, back there but here it was different. And he wanted me, his grandchild, to know and carry those stories with me. I remember him sitting in a rocking chair in the dining room drinking whiskey saying "Hija, ven aca." There was something sad about him. My aunt says my grandmother never loved him, that she was still in love with someone else from before.
So maybe for him too there were cosas que tuvo que aguantar. They stayed together. They raised three children. He called her ni?a until the day he died. She cried when he passed.
Yes I loved my grandfather. And I love the son he had who later became my father. And I love men who are just like them over and over again. Men who are complicated and charming. Men who drink or smoke so that they do not cry. Men who drive me crazy because they just won't act right but still make me want them. But can I aguantar those men?
And what about the baggage I'm carrying around? Who will decide to put up with that? The absolute unwillingness to take any crap from anybody. I want absolute love, perfect love. I want love that brings them home every night at a reasonable hour and that makes them not even look at another woman. I want love that makes them pick me up on time and makes them listen to me when I'm upset. I want a love that makes them turn off the game if I'm crying. I want a love from them that I can understand and feel and know. And trust.
Who wants to suffer? Why should we suffer? I'm not sure. But something in me tells me we've lost something precious - the ability to aguantar. To silently put up with things. To forgive. To not take offense. To accept the bad with the good. To expect the bad along with the good. And the inability to aguantar cosas might be hurting us worse than the cosas themselves.
En un matrimonio hay que aguantar cosas... Where is the line, abuela? When is it okay to let it go and when is it abuse?
And how, abuela? How?
Melissa Flores lives in Arlington, Texas with her one-year old son Brandon.