The 100-Year-Old Uncle & His “Little” Sister

Mustard Seed meeting a 2nd cousin

Our stay in Medellin continued the next day with visits to two elderly relatives, which is what initially inspired our trip. Husband Man’s aunt, who holds a special place in his heart, is now 96, and his uncle, her brother, is now 99 and 9 months.  We are talking aunt and uncle, not great aunt and great uncle!  It looks as if I’m never going to get rid of Husband Man, with the longevity genes on that side of the family, as there are several other aunts and uncles who’ve made into their 80s and 90s in very good health and very lucid!

After a loveable, loud-mouthed cousin picked us up, we headed over to a neighborhood called Campo Valdez, where Tío Jorge lives.  Our route took us along the river, past the botanical gardens (which will have to wait for the next trip), and up the hills a little.  Now, Campo Valdez is probably not the worst neighborhood in Medellin, but it’s not the best either, so it we couldn’t have done this trip without him to take us by car.

It turns out his interviewing skills, though unorthodox, are not half bad either. His tactic was to goad Tío Jorge into talking about his life, which worked pretty well.  He talked about when his brother was governor of one of the states but also said that my father-in-law had also been governor-in-charge while another governor was out-of-state.  We thought he was a little confused because we didn’t know about that, until we got home and my mother-in-law corroborated every bit. His memory was clear as a bell!

A bible at Tío Jorge’s house, open to Psalm 100

I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone that old. This is the oldest of the brothers and sisters, and he has led a “colorful” life, disregarding all doctors’ advice, leaving home young, and getting into all kinds of trouble. The family joke that’s circulating is that at the last family gathering, a priest made a speech, wherein he extolled Jorge’s supposed virtues and said the family should thank God for the “example” their elder brother/father/uncle had given them.  No one could contain their laughter, and since then, everyone’s been going around wryly joking, “Hey, come here, Example.”

Cousins

From the sinner, we went to visit the saint. Tía Herminia is a relative I first heard of when Mustard Seed was a little baby. I was told that she spends 4 hours per night praying for the whole family by name, including kids, grandkids, and on down the line. I know that there are probably other people who pray for me by name on a daily basis, but something about knowing for a certainty that every day for the last 7 or 8 years, someone I don’t even know has sat down and prayed for me and my family really touched me. I was glad to get to meet this person and say thank you. Herminia never had any children of her own but has been a mother to everyone, including not just her nieces and nephews, but also the kids she taught elementary school to for 20 years, friends of kids in the family, and others from the neighborhood.

Family meal

Like most people here, she’s Catholic and has quite a few pictures and statues of saints, Mary, and the Sacred Heart picture of Jesus. I asked her about one in particular because I had seen a similar one at Tío Jorge’s house. His turned out to be the archangel Michael, but the one in her room was the archangel Raphael. She said that that picture had belonged to her mother (Mustard Seed’s great grandmother) and that all the children of the household (of which there were many) gathered around their mother to pray every night, including my father-in-law, who, I began to realize, had probably been deliberately named for the archangel. His name was Rafael. It made me reflect on the legacy that a faithful, praying parent can leave.  When a mom or dad kneels down or folds their hands with their children every night with true love in their heart for Christ, it can leave ripples that carry down literally “to the third and fourth generation.”  Or is it, as that verse goes on to say, “to thousands of [generations] that love Him?”

Salty, smashed plantains (top), longaniza sausage (left), and fried queso costeño, with a very salty flavor, one of the hallmarks of the food from the Caribbean coast

The great thing about meeting this part of the family is how “part of the family” they made us feel.  One of the first things Tío Jorge said was, “Hey, I’ve got a gringa niece!” Over at Herminia’s, another older relative saw Mustard Seed was whining a little bit and immediately set to work in the kitchen to make her an entire dinner, which turned out to be enough for all 10 of us. Fried plantains, a fried sausage called longaniza, fried cheese (yes, you read right), a tripe soup called mondongo, and homemade pineapple juice.  The cuisine of Husband Man’s father’s people from Chocó. And yes, Herminia and Jorge have both lived to their ripe old ages eating food like that daily.

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