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Abuelitos



Every Wednesday, PROVEE provides a snack, a Bible lesson and prayers to one of two senior centers in the area.


This week we went to the one in Choacorral, which is a community not far from San Lucas. The number of people, or abuelos as we call them at PROVEE, who attend is smaller than the one we serve in San Lucas, but, perhaps, that is what makes it a little more special.


If I were to bring the one in San Lucas to mind, I would think of the lady who lived in New York and speaks English or the lady who sang with us once, or the gentleman lawyer who plays solitaire by his own rules.


When I think of Choacorrall, I think of the lady I call my favorite aunt and Ernesto, or Ernesto J. Caceres according to his byline.



We were introduced because he writes for a San Lucas monthly newspaper, El Sanluqueno, and Sergio knew I was a newpaper reporter once. Although our conversation wasn't much because my Spanish is mostly idle chit-chat and he knows no English. I did like his smile under a white, well-trimmed mustache and kind eyes, which have probably seen many things in this third-world country that I would not want to describe.


The second time I met him, he handed me a copy of his paper, which I read. I was impressed by the number of ads in it, a good sign for a paper, and with his simple style. I told him the next time I saw him that I liked his paper and how much it was helping me with my Spanish. Each issue I read helped build up my vocabulary, but I always have to look up a couple of words.


I missed a week because I was sick, and Sergio told me Ernesto had some bound copies of old issues of the paper for me. I love looking back on past issues of papers. I spent many afternoons at the Webb City Sentinel reading past issues in the front window. I expected some extra time at the senior center with Ernesto letting me look at his collection.


This week, I was nervous. Ernesto wasn't in his normal chair. I knew from our past meetings that he has health issues because that's what we prayed for. When one man asks another to help him pray for something, it's a big deal. Men aren't known for asking for help in prayer.


I did notice what I thought was his satchel so I asked his friend who sits next to him where he was. He pointed across the hall to the medical treatment room and said he was in there. This was a relief and concern. I was relieved that he was able to make it to the center. I was concerned that he needed treatment.


Sure enough, he hobbled out of the room on crutches followed by two nurse's aids. I jumped up and got him his snack of a sandwich, sweet roll and apple-flavored soda. After the Bible lesson, I asked for this month's issue of the paper, and Ernesto gingerly made his way to his seat and pulled an issue out of his satchel. It was the 11th anniversary issue with a picture of the staff on the front. Ernesto was prominently posed in the center of the group.


Then he stood up and tried to reach something from on top of a cabinet. He couldn't reach it so he made his way to the door and said something to the guard at the gate. He came in and took a bag off the top of the cabinet, revealing two stacks of papers, one from 2014 the other 2015, bound by rubber bands.


I was expecting something in a notebook, in which many of my veteran newspaper friends keep their writings. I forgot I was in a third-world country and that notebooks cost money.


He told me these were for me. A gift. I was delighted because now I can read through them at my own pace. And learn more about the city and the language.


The lady I call my favorite aunt announces they have gifts for us.



As I was thanking him for the gift, my favorite aunt stood up and wanted to make an announcement. She said that they were so happy we come every other week that they wanted to give us something.


At that, the abuelos stood up and tied friendship bracelets around our wrists. They do crafts often at the center and display them along one wall. This was their most recent project.


Wednesday was a day of gifts for me, but the gift of their friendship has been and will be what I cherish most.



Ernesto shows us how they made the bracelets.

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