The in-laws I never knew

papa
Carlos, the pistol-packing physician. Perhaps heading to a house call. 

I’VE HAD THREE sets of in-laws due to having two former wives and now a third wife who won’t ever be an ex. I sure hope not. I’m too old to start over.

mama
Mama, Margarita.

I never met my third set of in-laws because they died long before I came on the Mexican scene 19 years ago. Both died too young. My father-in-law, who was a family physician and surgeon, died of a heart attack at 61.

My mother-in-law, who bears a strong resemblance to my child bride, died in childbirth when she was only 31.

She was having her fifth child. The baby survived, but she did not. That same baby went on to die of a heart attack last year in his early 50s.

Mama’s death had a massive negative effect on the family, an effect that has tumbled down through the decades.

Daddy was something of a tough hombre, a trait the photo illustrates well. In spite of that, he was much beloved in the Tierra Caliente town of Los Reyes where he long practiced medicine.

If patients couldn’t pay, he would accept poultry or vegetables as payment, whatever they offered. People in Los Reyes remember him fondly to this day, decades after his death.

My child bride, as a teenager, often worked as his receptionist and even gave shots to patients on occasion. She got paid extra for that.

Family lore says the doctor wasn’t fond of Gringos, a feeling he passed down to some of his offspring. I have changed most of their minds, however.

I wonder if I would have changed his.

My mother-in-law was beautiful.

Savior of penises

ALMOST SIXTEEN years ago, I improved a young boy’s life by saving him from circumcision as a baby. He did not learn of this huge favor till yesterday. He was very appreciative and rightly so.

And, yesterday too, I repeated the favor for another youngster, also a relative as is the first fellow.  The first boy is a nephew. This second one is a relatively newborn grandson of a sister-in-law. The child’s mother casually mentioned that her baby would soon be circumcised.

Oh, no! I erupted. Don’t torture the child for absolutely no good reason, or any other reason, for that matter. Child abuse!

new imageSince I am in good standing in the family, the Old (Wise) Gringo, I prevailed, and the child will be spared the razor.

That this ancient Jewish religious rite not only continues into modern times but has been picked up by much of Western Civilization, people who aren’t even Jewish, is incredible. The good news is that in recent decades opposition has been growing. There is a Movement!

It’s for hygiene, many doctors still parrot. Poppycock! If you can wash behind your ears and between your toes, you can wash there too. And if you’re still in diapers, your mother can do it for you.

I wish someone had saved me from the blade those many decades back, but no one did. No one cared enough.

But I can save others. I owe it to my brothers.

Die-hard habits

MOVING TO another country doesn’t mean you leave your habits behind. Some of those habits are good, others less so.

One example is the American habit of medical insurance. The necessity of having coverage is ingrained into the Gringos, and I was no exception when I moved south in 2000. Almost immediately, I bought coverage from a Mexican government provider that goes by its initials IMSS.

The annual premium for major medical was the peso equivalent of about $350. There is an IMSS clinic/hospital here on the mountaintop. After a year, I had begun to lose the Gringo medical insurance habit because I’d seen how relatively inexpensive private healthcare was, plus I’d noticed the crowded conditions at the IMSS clinic.

I knew I would never use it.

stock-footage-mexico-detail-of-waving-flagDuring that year, I’d had some routine health issues, but I had not gone to the IMSS clinic, which would have been free. I went to private doctors and paid out-of-pocket. When it was time to renew the IMSS coverage, I let it lapse, and I’ve been uninsured since.*

But today’s topic is not the superlative Mexican medical system. It’s die-hard habits. My health-coverage obsession 15 years ago is an example. Another is the U.S. passport. Mine will expire soon.

Coincidentally, both my Mexican passport and U.S. passport expire next year, the former in February, the latter in May. Both were issued for 10 years. There will be no waffling on renewing the Mexican passport. That’s a no-brainer, and it’s not that difficult to do.

A decade ago I got my first Mexican passport in an office in the old Colonial center of the state capital. The system was good, but the offices were cramped and jam-packed with people, most no doubt dreaming of visiting America. That was not my dream. It was my past.

Those offices have moved out of downtown and into a large space in a strip mall, eliminating the previous, cramped conditions. My wife renewed her passport in those new offices a few years ago, and I was impressed with its well-oiled efficiency. You make an appointment online, and you leave after a few hours with fresh passport in hand.

The last time I renewed my U.S. passport, I went to the bunkered Embassy in Mexico City. Once I penetrated the building the process went smoothly. The passport was express-mailed to me weeks later.

us flagThis time, however, I would do it at the U.S. Consulate in San Miguel de Allende about 140 miles away. I don’t know if that option was available 10 years ago. I’ve only been to that office once, to get something notarized, and I had to wait in a long, slow line.

From what I’ve been told, processing takes five weeks (Compare to Mexico’s passport process of one day.) and I’d have to return to San Miguel, or they would express-mail it to me at a higher cost.

But I face a dilemma: Why do I need a U.S. passport? I have not been in the United States since early 2009. I doubt I will ever set foot there again. I have a Mexican passport that will get me anywhere a U.S. passport will — with the sole exception of the United States.

And here we encounter a die-hard habit. I likely will renew it even though I know it’s a total waste of time and money. But I promise one thing. It will be the last renewal, one way or the other.

* * * *

* Not quite true. About three years ago, at my wife’s insistence, we enrolled in another government healthcare system named Seguro Popular (Popular Insurance). It is totally free, zero co-pay, but I cannot imagine ever using it either for the same reasons I balked at IMSS.

We’d have to be dead broke.