An Afternoon with Jose

It seems like a lifetime ago. When I used to work…when my days were filled with the smell of antiseptic, not my baby’s diapers. When my thoughts were of what life threatening emergency needed thwarting, not who was teasing whom. ANYWAY, Many of my friends know of my “Purple Passion”. They joke and say it is what has kept my mind sane-not that I would say I was sane before having kids…hmmmm.  

An old nurse friend, who works at a local “nursing home” told me of a man that I may be interested in meeting. She told me of a man named Jose who talks in broken English and curses at the other residents if he sees them throwing breadcrumbs to the birds in the courtyard. I laughed, knowing instantly that I liked him already. Any enemy of English House Sparrows is a friend of mine!

The old smells and sounds of a nursing home never change.  My friend brought me to the courtyard where she introduced me to Jose. He sat in a wheelchair next to a concrete bench under a large tree. We talked of nature and Purple Martins. Lost family and new friends. He would occasionally “shoo” other residents away. He would say, “That one always feeding those $&!# birds!” He is a fairly slender man who looks younger than his age. His hair is still mostly dark with one large gray patch on the side.

He says he was born in 1920 but he admits that his medical records say he was born in 1924. Either way that makes him between 88 and 84 years old. I was surprised at the sharpness of his mind though he speaks mostly Spanish (which I do understand) and Portuguese (which I do NOT understand) His English is broken-which he speaks to others, but with an almost embarrassed, self conscience manner. Born in Argentina, his parents moved to Brazil at some point when he was a young boy. His parents being Argentinian explains his excellent Spanish. His Portuguese was picked up while he lived in Brazil. He told me of how he first found his love of Purple Martins…or the, “Golondrina”. Of the first time he heard their song and saw them flying. He was walking somewhere with his mother. He was somewhere around 6 or 7 years old. He saw “a cloud of swirling life” in the sky as he walked and was amazed. He had never seen so many ‘bats’. His mother told him what they really were. “Golondrinas” or Swallows. He thought they looked like angels playing and he would watch them until he became dizzy-staring up in the sky.

 His family immigrated to New York some time in the 1940’s. He had married in his early 20’s and never had children; I could tell this was a sensitive issue. His story jumps to Belle Glade where he put up martin housing for over 30 years until the big storm season in 2004 which destroyed his housing and precipitated his admission to several nursing homes. Which brings us back to the bench in the courtyard with a man named Jose. “OYE, Stop feeding those $&!# birds!!!”

I will post more of my meetings with Jose ASAP! And thank you all for your interest.

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