So here I am, on vacation with my husband—sans kids—in Mexico. I’m grateful for some time away to relax. However, the sun I paid to see decided to take a hike during the exact same week! Just plain disappeared the day after we arrived and left us a thick blanket of cloud with some rain as an added touch.
And then there’s the wind. Red flag is waving on the beach where the surf is barfing up seaweed gobs.
And then there’s my hair. Good God! My hair! Why, oh why was I born with what one of my soul sister friends says is “the curliest hair I ever seen on a white girl”?
Down here, where there’s high humidity, my hair has grown exponentially—sideways and up. I feel like one of those little rubber dinosaurs you put in a glass of water and watch grow to 200% its original size. No one would believe that my hair, completely wet in the shower, is actually four inches beneath my shoulder blades. Not that I’ve had my husband measure in the shower or anything.
And the bugs. These teeny, weeny bugs. I have a phobia about living things with more than four legs moving into my mop. What if these squatters refuse to leave? Or what if they CAN’T leave? And what if they’re the stinging sort that kill? The bees down here are of a different stripe. I saw them yesterday. What if I die from a lethal scalp injection? Or a swollen hand like the one I got years ago trying to get a traumatized bee out of my “bonnet”. Poor thing shot me FIVE TIMES in my thumb, unable to manage her emotions! I’m fairly certain she’s still receiving federal funding for PTSD, even if she’s dead.
But despite the clouds, wind, rain, seaweed, and bugs, we’re having a grand time. Because really, what makes life grand is people—like the friends we’re visiting here—and the folks we’ve met. Like John . . .
We stroll through the nearby seaside town of Puerto Morelos admiring the intricate work of local artists.
In search of a cooking school our friend knew about, we wander down an alley.
A tall and thin elderly man dressed in shorts and a blue, pinstriped oxford shirt stands outside a villa. We say, “Hola!” He says, “Hello.” Clearly, he is not native to Mexico. Our initial exchanges turn into a delightful conversation with a dear, lonely man looking for some human connection. So we stay. And we learn about his life.
We discover how John and his wife have been married 50 years, which is actually 54 years, but his wife has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t been herself for 4 years. So John considers only 50 years of marriage as counting, even though he’s still devoted to her. I see the sad in his eyes as he speaks of her now. She has to stay back in Canada in a nursing home while he comes here to soak up sun each winter.
John is now 93. We see how he built this villa with a Japanese flair, because the love of his life is Japanese.
We hear how John is a WWII vet who served Douglas MacArthur as a cryptologist in Singapore translating code. He tells us with laughter about the time he and some of his buddies stood under MacArthur’s window shouting “Mac! Mac! Mac!” until the general looked out, waved, thanked the men for their service, and told them he hoped they’d be home by Christmas.
We marvel at John’s stories—this sweet man, alone in Mexico. And then we need to go. He invites us in and starts walking. We follow. He has to show us his home, his garden, his fountain with fish.
All this. In an alley of Mexico. Looking for a cooking school. Finding a gem of a man. Connecting, even briefly, hearing each other’s stories. This is what makes us rich. Because real human connection is priceless. And real human love gives far more than sun and sand or any physical possession.
Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18