Before my travel companion (hereon referred to as MTC) and I relocated from the suburbs to our new casa in Guayabitos, we made a couple of trips up the coast to explore some of the smaller beach towns: San Pancho, Lo De Marcos, Los Ayala, Chacala. I’d been to them all before on trips when I came down to visit with my dad and his wife, Marilyn. I wanted MTC to see how amazing the coast could be—palapas on the beaches, $1 beers and $3 margaritas in the sand, boogie boarding in the warm waves.
And, I wanted to check out my dad’s house. I hadn’t spoken to him since early in the pandemic when he and Marilyn came to stay with me in Bellingham for a few days. We’d had a falling out in the meantime and I didn’t know if he was even still down here. My last trip to Mexico had been during Christmas/New Year’s 2015/16, and I’d come down with friends on a vacation, not to see my father. At that time, he and Marilyn had rented their home out and were in a smaller, cheaper place on the same street, so we visited once or twice, but I hadn’t been to stay with them since.
Sixteen years ago, about five years after they married, Dad and Marilyn sold their belongings and moved to Mexico where they built a house near the beach in Guayabitos, and I’d been to visit a handful of times. At first, I didn’t want to enjoy myself. I was mad that my parents had divorced, mad he’d remarried, mad that when they moved he had returned all the framed photos of my family I’d given him over the years, mad he’d moved so far away. But, it turned out that I really enjoyed Mexico, loved their home, and had a wonderful time whenever I came to visit. So, it became more difficult to continue my adult child temper tantrum.
I navigated our little rent-a-dent rental car down the cobblestones on Flamingos Avenue.
“This is it!” I exclaimed as we bumped to a stop. “This one with all of the For Sale signs on it.”
I parked the car and jumped out for a better look. I jumped to try and see over the adobe wall. I couldn’t jump high enough, so I wedged the toe of my flip flop between the door and a protruding brick and levered myself up to peer through the high window in the iron gate.
“Looks pretty unoccupied,” I declared. “No car in here. They either don’t live here or they’re out.”
I climbed back into the driver’s seat. “I wonder where they are. If they’re even down here.”
It was an odd feeling, not knowing where my dad was. I’d been angry and annoyed with him the past two years, and now I just really wanted to know that he was okay. Up until now, I hadn’t given much, if any, thought to his whereabouts. Suddenly it felt imperative to find him. And, I wasn’t certain he’d be happy to see me, even if I could find him.
Last time we communicated, I hadn’t been very nice. For a variety of reasons, some of which I continued to feel justified about, others that I could let go of. I did not want to continue our estrangement. I didn’t want him to die thinking I didn’t love him, that I hadn’t appreciated him, believing I’d rather he wasn’t in my life. After all, that’s how things ended between him and his father. I’m a big believer in ending the cycles of family dysfunction (though, I’m sure I’ve initiated a few of my own). When my grandmother died, my dad severed ties with his four sisters. We didn’t need more family cut-offs.
To add to my confusion about whether or not he’d want to see me, I hadn’t received a reply to my Merry Christmas email or my Happy Birthday text. Nor had he responded to any of the emails I’d sent alerting him to the fact I would be in his town for a few months.
I knew that if he was still in the area, and still selling real estate (the for sale sign has his name and phone number on it), he would likely be at the Thursday market in La Penita, the little town about a mile north of Guayabitos. MTC and I made plans to attend the market—it just happened to be the next morning. I knew she’d want to visit the market—it was a cultural experience, a full-on explosion of color and smells, a combination artisan, tchotchke, flea market, textile, Mexican food market. Dad used to have a real estate booth there.
Maybe he still did.