Chilean Chronicles, Part 81: Bursting With Birthday Gratitude

Pisco to the left, wife to the right, here I am on my birthday.

Pisco to the left, wife to the right, here I am on my birthday.

Wow.

That’s about all I can say after a birthday in which I felt more appreciated, more loved, and more alive than ever before.

It started from the moment I woke up and continued throughout the morning, afternoon and evening.

It was a day of marriage.

As she always does, Dunreith took extra care to make the day special from beginning to end, orienting what we did around what I wanted to do and making sure in many different ways that I understand and feel her end of how much we mean to each other.

It was a day of travel and family.

We purchased tickets to head to the north with Aidan on the first of what will ultimately be three trips in the country and toward the fable Incan ruins of Machu Picchu.

It was a day of data and teaching.

I met with a pair of panicked students and talked them through the map they need to submit as part of their mid-term project, and later taught four of my colleagues the steps involved in preparing for, and then carrying out, a map.

Shortly before midnight, a dozen students passed in their mid-term projects. I’ve not yet read them all, and I can feel their increasing mastery of, and confidence in, their newly acquired data skills.

It was a day of projects.

I spoke on the phone with Maura Brescia, a long-time Chilean journalist and author of a provocative new books that asserts that Socialist President Salvador Allende did not commit suicide with a gun Fidel Castro gave him, as has been commonly asserted, but was killed by forces loyal to Gen. Augusto Pinochet during the coup on September 11, 1973.

We met her last night in one of about two dozen tan tents, each of which was inhabited by a publishing house at a spring book festival in nearby Parque Balmaceda. An elderly torture survivor wearing a dark beret was telling his tale of abuse during the Pinochet era to an older crowd.

Dunreith directed my attention to the book, which friend and scholar Hugo Rojas had told us about at his house.

We chatted for a while.

I told Ms. Brescia, who has different colored eyes and fiery red hair, about my project on the Transparency Law and our conversation with Hugo, and she expressed a desire to meet with us.

Today, we made that plan.

It was a day of food and drink.

Dunreith purchased a pair of fresh rolls, I had my weekly mocha frappuccino, and we went together to Peru Gustoso for a trio of ceviche.

When Dunreith informed the waiter it was my birthday, he brought another stiff Pisco Sour Peruanismo to go with the one we had already ordered.

I felt it.

It was a day of family.

Members of both sides of our family called and sang and left video messages and wrote and expressed their love.

It was a day of friendship.

I heard from folks stretching back to the very beginning of my life, and moving forward through just about every major experience since then, stretching all the way to the friends we have made here in Chile.

Friends from all parts of my life and many places and countries.

England.

Albania.

South Africa.

Germany.

Chicago.

Brookline.

It was a day of memory.

At different points during the day images danced through my head of being allowed up to Paul Tamburello’s classroom to get my football in 1974, of having a ping-pong tournament in seventh grade, and of being carded in California the day I turned 21 years old.

As I read the birthday wishes, other memories surfaced of experiences shared with the people who wrote, of playing basketball or going to Sunday School or teaching on Thompson Island or playing tennis in England or watching our boys play lacrosse or singing in Orvieto, Italy.

It was a day of language.

I taught and spoke and joked and asked and answered and mispronounced in Spanish.

It was a day of writing, one of the things I love to do most in life.

It was day of exercise, of walking hand-in-hand with Dunreith before and after our meal. (The post-dinner pace was a bit slower, due to our being a tad woozy.)

It was a day of dreams and possibilities, of being reminded yet again that it is possible to build a life that is based on the past, lived in the present and with an eye toward the future.

“it’s funny …” my brother Jon wrote this afternoon on Skype. “most of our limits are mostly self-imposed

by what we can think of”

More and more, I’m understanding that these are not just words and that Jon is right.

With each step back and forward, with each strand of mutually remembered and valued past woven into the fabric of our lives, I feel more and more able to live out of dreams and values.

I feel more and more that it is possible to work toward the visions we have, to make them real, and to do so in concert with other people so that together we leave something behind for those who come after us.

I don’t know where this will all lead or go.

But I do know that at this moment, because of all that I received and those who gave to me, I am bursting with gratitude, joy and love.

Thank you.

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