This post is going to be long and bittersweet.
My oldest friend passed away from Covid, this week.
The news hit me very hard. Let me explain why.
Back in 1963, I was on an annual vacation in Mexico City with my grandmother.
Her husband was a contractor that built several apartment buildings and we had a small, top-floor apartment in Colonia Federal, near the airport. There was a simple community market facing our apartment complex, but most of our shopping we did in El Mercado La Merced which was several miles away.
La Merced was actually a series of huge, sprawling warehouse buildings, each one devoted to different goods. There was a candy market, a fresh flower market, and other markets for fruits, vegetables, and hardware. We always toured the fresh fruits and vegetables first, then went to one corner of the one-block-square meat market. There were two butcher stalls owned by the same man and each one was always busy.
The owner was a wonderful old-school gentleman that always greeted us with a huge smile and a handshake. One day, after making our purchases, he invited us to visit his home for some sort of party. I’m afraid I don’t recall the occasion, only that we were the only gringos there and had a lot of fun.
We enjoyed a great meal sitting around a huge table in their luxurious home.
He had three teenage sons and a daughter, and while the old folks were talking, Marco and his two brothers took me aside to discuss more important things… like girls, music, cars, girls, more cars, girls, school, girls… You get the idea.
We became best of friends, and over the next couple of years, we got together whenever I was back in town.
In the fall of 1965, I had a serious falling out with the idiot principal of a high school in northern Indiana. My grandmother cashed in some stock I had inherited and we moved down to Mexico City, where I enrolled in the American School, in Colonia Tacubaya. Colonia Tacubaya is on the other side of the city from Colonia Federal. I had a daily commute on three different buses that lasted over an hour each way. Since my travels passed through La Merced, once or twice a week, I’d detour and spend time with Marco and his brothers.
Quite often, Mrs. Melendez would feed me dinner and then one of the brothers would give me a ride home.
Mr and Mrs Melendez treated me like one of their own sons and I will be forever grateful for their love and generosity. I was invited to every party and I, in turn, invited the siblings and their dates to the weekend dances held at my high school.
The day of my graduation, Mr. Melendez loaded my mother, grandmother, sister, and myself into a couple of cars with his family as well, and we headed into the mountains that surround Mexico City. The first stop was El Desierto de los Leones, a national park with some historic buildings where we had a light lunch and fruits from street venders. We walked around, enjoyed the beautiful day, and took some photos.
When the sun headed towards the horizon, he loaded us up and headed down to a fancy resort restaurant in another valley. He had arranged for a feast for all of us and there was music for dancing. It was another memorable party.
Six months or so later, I was enrolled in an electronics technical school, in Valparaiso Indiana, working towards an electronic engineering degree. I came home one afternoon and found Marco was there!
It seems there had been a bit of a family feud between him and his dad, so he thought it would be a good idea to run away from home. Never one to do something in a small way, he packed his bags, grabbed his passport, and hopped a flight to Chicago. Once there, he called my folks and they picked him up and brought him to our farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere.
My grandmother immediately called Mr. Melendez to let him know and asked if we should put him on a flight back.
His dad said it was up to us. If he was any sort of bother, to pack him off. We said, “Certainly no bother. He’s welcome here as long as he wishes.” So Marco spent that winter hot-rodding around northern Indiana and chasing girls with me.
Eventually, he and his dad made up and he flew back to the city to finish his schooling and join the family business.
Since those days, although we would be out-of-touch for months and even years at a time, Marco and I have always been the best of friends.
This past Thursday night, I got a private message from Marco’s daughter, Daphne, that her father had passed away due to Covid. I immediately burst into tears.
A friendship of more than 58 years is over. Covid sux!
But I still have the memories.
Que en paz descanse hermano! Te estraño mucho!
This post is going to be long and bittersweet.