I recently had one of those incredibly packed and fun-filled weekends, where each day brought more fun and more people than the day before. It had one of those nights where you wake up, throat sore and parched, still smiling; where your feet and legs ache, and each step you take the next morning comes with flashbacks from the night before. Did I really do that? It was the kind of fun you can only have when your child is sleeping over with her aunties for the night, rendering you child free and ready to party. It was the kind of weekend where it takes a week to recover. It was a perfect combination of family and friends, and having all of your expectations surpassed unexpectedly.
It started Friday night at my brothers’ basketball championship game, in which they challenged each other at The Jungle, the old Father Dueñas (FD) gym. Lola and I joined my parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and friends in the packed gym for a nail-biting, down-to-the-final-seconds game. Most of us arrived hours before so we could find parking and seats near the louvers to guarantee some kind of breeze. Well, for that and the free flowing beer and fiesta style dinner. I’ve been going to this alumni tournament since I as a little girl. I have watched my dad, my uncles, my friends, my cousins, my brothers, and my nephews play countless games, for years. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience to see generations of fathers and sons, battle one another, relive glory days and establish new reputations. Every year, the emotions and competition are consistently high. In a word, it’s fun! This is an event that girlfriends and wives plan their year around, knowing they won’t see their men for 3 weeks in July. The camaraderie between these men is so powerful, it even brought my dad to his feet to walk around and socialize with old friends-something I (and others) haven’t seen for some time. It’s also one of the easiest places for me to be me. While Lola came to all of the games with me, there were so many people eager to take her outside in search of geckos and snails, as well as other kids for her to run around and play with. While I was there watching basketball and drinking with my crew, Lola was somewhere nearby with her pals. It seems to be a rite of passage for parents and children, to let your kids go and just be with other kids. At least it felt like a rite of passage for me because I don’t have the same kind of opportunity in San Francisco to just release Lola into the world, trusting that every adult who crosses her path will see her as a little person with deep connections to someone at that gym. This seems to be one of those “only on Guam” experiences and makes me say, “I’m home”.
The next night was the FD gala hosted by my dad’s class of 1977 for their 40th high school reunion. It was the first time he had ever agreed to go, so I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to see my dad dress up and be with his friends. From the moment I saw the class’ senior pictures enlarged and on display, I knew it would be a special night. While I had seen these photos of my dad, it was different this time around. That night I could see my dad as a young man, carefree, and unaware that his future would bring four children, a granddaughter, love and loss, diabetes and dialysis, and more; it was a gift to see that side of him. The night brought other gifts, too. My 1st cousins ended up sitting at the table adjacent to my brothers’ and I, their visiting sister from Arizona joined them, mini bottles of alcohol were snuck in, and lots of laughs with my dear friend and date, Elicia. My dad, filled with energy from catching up with dear old friends, even got me on the dance floor to cha-cha with him, something we hadn’t danced in almost 10 years. It was magic, and I am forever grateful for that memory. As the night went on, my dad stayed behind with friends to listen to the band, while the “young ones” went out dancing. Shots were taken, pictures were captured, dancing took place anywhere there was space, and memories were made.
To wrap up the weekend, all of us went to Urunao on Sunday afternoon to celebrate my Auntie Sarah’s retirement from Guam Community College as a Special Educator for the Deaf. It’s an hour drive because of the countless potholes and unpaved roads to the western most part of the island, where the limited acres of beach property are owned by a few families, getting passed down to the next generation. It’s an amazing feeling to have the whole beach to yourself, with no access to running water or cellphones, surrounded by people you love and have loved for most of your life.
My cup overflows with love, gratitude, and peace.