The Red Butterfly, Part Eighteen – Te Pareces A Tú Padre
Those words; He is your father. Was it betrayal? Even now, all of these years later, I cannot say that I felt betrayed. I did not thrash about, scream; throw a fit. Maybe I was too old for that. Children have tantrums, or sulk. I was not going to do that, I was past that point, maybe I had always suspected. But still, I had to ask.
“What happened? Why isn’t he here?”
My mother looked at me for a long time. She sat down, stared at the old photograph of the young man, leaned her head forward and wept. I had never seen my mother cry before. On TV, and in books, women cried all the time. The world seemed rigged for women to weep. But not her, she was always stoic, or angry, this was new. I was startled; she sat on her chair and sobbed, tears oozed from her eyes, her shoulders trembled. I put a limp hand on her arm. I did not know what to do; I hadn’t been taught how to deal with this. On the television downstairs, there was a commercial about the new Ford Falcon Convertible. That’s my dad’s favorite car, I thought.
“Your father died,” said my mother, not meaning Chip. She was composing herself, she sat on the chair facing me, “during the war, he died.”
“How?” I asked
“He saved my life, he died saving my life—our life.”
“How?” I asked again.
“I don’t know.”
“How can you not know? Weren’t you there?” This was an accusation. Even as I spit it out, I knew that my intention was to cause pain, unfair as that may have been.
“He stayed behind. Things did not go well. I was responsible for the horses and things did not go well and he came limping up the hill and there was blood. So much blood! He told us to go. And so we did. And I remember there was gunfire and I tried to stay with him but he yelled at me and told me to run. He was wounded and couldn’t run well.”
“And you left him?”
“Yes, I left him,” she said.
“How could you do that?”
“When we got back to camp, up in the mountains, we waited there. But he never came. Things went badly from the beginning. Some people in our group had not been trustworthy and had made things difficult for him.”
“Who, who made things difficult for him.”
“Our leader, he was an old man and had become comfortable in the mountains where nobody could find us. He had become happy just to survive and steal horses, which he loved very much. And even as the war continued in Madrid and elsewhere in the country, we stayed up in the mountains and hid. Until your father came.” she said.
“Maybe he is still alive,” I said, “maybe he survived and is looking for us.”
“No, mi hijo, he is dead,” she put her hand on my face, and wiped tears from my eyes. “Sabés hijo? te pareces a tú padre, you look like your father. Everyday, I see you, I see him.” She took my hand in hers and placed the photograph in it and closed it.