AS I’VE BRAGGED at least a million times, I initially moved south with just two suitcases, nothing more. It was liberating and, of course, in total contrast with how most Gringos move to Mexico pulling their sagging trailers behind their mega-pickups.
I delight in making fun of those people.
I came down sans auto.
I did, however, leave a number of things in the storeroom of my mother’s Atlanta condo, and when the two of us drove from here to there around 2004 in the little Chevy Pop I had purchased, I returned with more gear. One of them is pictured above.
This stained-glass lamp was bought on South Shepherd Drive in Houston in the late 1990s. I don’t recall the precise price, but it was scandalously expensive. No matter. It was love at first sight.
It sits in our living room, serving as a night light. It’s the first thing I see each morning as I stumble from the bedroom into the living room in the dark to slip my feet into the Crocs that sit on the carpet below this light.
I then go pour coffee, head upstairs, fire up the Hewlitt-Packard and read the news. It’s a good way to start the day.
FOR THE FIRST decade after moving to Mexico I visited the United States once a year for a week or so. The primary motive was to see my mother.
The first three or four years I did it alone, flying. It was not until 2004 that my child bride had obtained a U.S. visitor visa. We then continued the trips, sometimes flying, other times driving. It’s a long way from our Mexican mountaintop to Atlanta, which is where my mother lived.
My mother died in January 2009 at age 90. After that, we’ve only been above the border once, a few months later, and that was to do paperwork related to my mother’s death. We went to San Antonio for that.
I have not visited my natal nation in nearly a decade. Instead I’ve remained down here in tumultuous Mexico and, oddly, life here has begun to seem normal. This is so even though I continue to equate Mexican life to Alice’s Wonderland.
This is because so many things here don’t make a lick of sense.
I almost never speak English, and I find myself forgetting English words on occasion. And though my Spanish is quite passable, I hardly would qualify as a Spanish professor. This occasionally leaves me dangling in a verbal limbo.
I find myself picking up Mexican habits. More and more, I respond “yes” to most queries. It’s easier that way. And doing something mañana instead of today leaves more relax time for today.
My driving habits cannot now be described as admirable.
One local habit I’ve not acquired and never will is epic, rampant, shameless lying.
I won’t be crossing the border again, ever. Everything I need can be found nearby. I watch America on the internet, and it looks disgraceful and sad. Walking the sidewalk here, on the other hand, I see people smiling.
With two exceptions, I have no relatives above the border. They all died except my sister and daughter. The first I do not like, and the second does not like me. I own no property in the United States.
I have no U.S. identification papers aside from my passport which I will not renew when it expires. Don’t know why I did it last time.
At this moment just past dawn, the church bell is slowly gonging down on the plaza, so someone died. It’s a mournful sound, but I feel pretty good about things in spite of having uprooted myself from the dirt from which I sprouted.
THERE ARE NO two abutting nations on earth that are more different than the United States and Mexico. Moving from one to another can be a jarring experience.
It is so jarring that it causes Gringos in Mexico — and Mexicans in the United States — to huddle with their own people for comfort and familiarity.
While the Gringos often crow about assimilating, blending in, the Mexicans know better. While Gringos often say they “love the culture” of Mexico, Mexicans never say that about the United States. Blame envy.
If you go further than simply moving from one nation to the other, and marry into a family from the other side, things can get more jarring or less, depending on you. It definitely provides a different perspective.
Speaking of perspectives, here are some photos my child bride recently pulled from the closet. Above is my father-in-law. He owned a horse and a pistol, and he would pull the pistol out if necessary. He was a family physician and a surgeon to boot. I never knew him because he died over 30 years ago at the age of 61, a heart attack.
He was not, I am told, fond of Gringos.
Here are two more photos, both of my child bride in the early 1960s. I graduated from high school in 1962, so it’s clear why I call her my child bride.
DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.
The trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.
With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.
Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.
Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country: a minuscule 0.3 percent.
This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.
Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!