|Alberto on his birthday in Buenos AIres|
I have been checking Alberto's email, unsubscribing form the dozens of political sites he followed, and letting friends know about Alberto. He had a circle of friends who mainly sent him jokes. One was a childhood friend from Buenos Aires. Another was Miss Anne's son. I hate to ruin a punch line, but I answered these emails recounting the sad state of affairs.
|Alberto with his childhood friend Tavi and his wife Clara in the airport in Buneos Aires|
So the invitation was offered a few weeks ago. Miss Anne's son told me he understood the depths of my pain, and how he appreciated Alberto and me loving his mother and being there for him when she passed away. It's been a few years, and I could still feel his sorrow, and I know he could feel mine. He is another kindred spirit, as I have found in so many of you telling me your experiences in your generous letters, cards, and comments.
|When I first met Alberto 18 years ago|
I remarked that the night of the event happened to be Alberto's birthday and perhaps this might be a good way for me to pass the time. I told him that we once taught a children's class to fifth and eight grade students, and how much we loved seeing the future realized in the formation of these children as dancers. Alberto and I always wanted to pass our knowledge onto the next generation, someone to keep the Argentine tango alive after we had left this earth.
|Alberto Paz in Buenos Aires in front of Club Fulgor|
As the birthday loomed, I had mixed feelings, as I do about everything now. I have been keeping busy. I am working. Being alone wears me out. Couples share chores, and now that Alberto is gone I find I my time is constantly filled with doing my job and his too. I am still not sleeping well, but I do exhaust myself so that the segments of sleep are deeper. So today I have a lot to do.
I thought about begging off the invitation. But Alberto and I always wanted a friendship with Miss Anne's son. She had asked me to become his friend, to look out for him. We did reach out, and he did get together with us a few times, but a friendship was not fully realized. I understand now, that this is how grief works.
In the spirit of love, I decided to keep the date tonight. I got a tender email the other day, saying he would pick me up at 5:15 and that he would be wearing a suit, but no tie. I imagine he is coming from work. We haven't seen each other for a couple of years. I wanted to tell him I will be wearing radiant orchid hair and a face ravaged by grief, but with a smile for him.
Wherever you are today, tonight, raise a glass to my Alberto, and wish him a happy birthday.
I have been hosting our weekly tango dances again. They are called milongas. I myself have not danced yet. Of course the men in our community have asked me to dance, but I have not been ready. I have been going to another milonga hosted by someone else. Still just sitting with friends by my side. Last Friday the tango ("my" tango) "La Mariposa" was played, and I just broke down and cried. Not ladylike tears, but deep sobbing with a deep longing for the embrace of Alberto. Many arms embraced me. Many words of comfort soothed me. I was the life of the party. Life is the key word here.
So tomorrow night at our weekly milonga, I am having a birthday party for Alberto. We have birthday customs at our milongas. There is cake, sometimes champagne, and the custom of the birthday boy or girl taking to the dance floor. For the man, every women cuts in and dances with him, and vice-versa for the woman. When I announce the birthday dance at our milongas, I always say, "Ladies (or Gentlemen), wear him (her) out."
I will alter the custom a bit. I will take to the dance floor "sola," alone, even though it is not my birthday. I will invite the gentlemen to dance with me, to wear me out, for Alberto's birthday dance. Every week people at the milongas look to see if I am wearing my dance shoes. They (like me) are wondering who will be the first to break the ice. I am going to be the first. It's my birthday gift to Alberto.
Watch this little video clip of Alberto dancing his birthday dance last year. We had a "I Heart the 70s" party at our milonga, and dressed the part. Today he would have been 71.
|Alberto's birthday last year|
Another commemoration of Alberto's birthday is happening today in Buenos Aires. His beloved sister and his niece are doing something I asked them to do. We have not been to Buenos Aires since 2009.
Alberto's health curtailed our traveling by airplane. I can feel the sorrow his sister and his niece and nephew feel for not being able to see their beloved "Lito" again, to embrace him, to let him know how loved is was. Closure is even more cruel when a letter, or email, or phone call tells you a loved one is gone forever. The cost and distance was too great for family from Buenos Aires to come to New Orleans for the funeral. I would l love to be there with them, but again cost and distance makes it impossible.
|The last time we saw family in Buenos Aires|
|Hermosa familia en Buenos Aires|
I sent some of his ashes to his sister and her daughter, his niece. Today, on his birthday, they are going to Chacarita, a rather famous cemetery in Buenos Aires, to scatter his ashes in the section dedicated to the greats of tango. I wish I could be there with his children and our friends Jessica and Jon.
|Valorie and Alberto visiting Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires|
Alberto and I always visited Chacarita when we went to Buenos Aires. There is a custom of placing a lighted cigarette in the hand of the giant statue of Carols Gardel, who always held a lit cigarette when he performed. Alberto loved to do this. Then we would go over to the section with all the tango greats, and look at the monuments of the people we admire, whose music we listen and dance to.
Here's a little video when we were there for Alberto's birthday in 2008: A Visit to La Chacarita Cemetery
Today my beloved is going home, again. Nos vemos mi amor.
And if you have time, please go to our blog The Tango Life, and read this remembranza by Jon Racherbaumer.
And one of our students Mario Girard wrote a beautiful poem that you can see on my Facebook Page.