Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Search of Don Pepe

Don Pepe y Linda.

Don Pepe is one of the first people I met when I came to scout out Mérida a year ago April. I met him at the Casa de Todos, a night spot where we like to hang out to smoke, chat, listen to music and play dominos. He is 78 years old. As bouncer he managed to keep the young guys under control. The regulars are under-thirty local guys who usually paid Don Pepe the respect he deserved, but some of them are rascals and gave him a hard time. I doubt they know who Don Jose (Pepe) Medina Medina really is. He is a famous Meridan journalist, a great ballroom dancer, for starters, and he journals his life all day every day. Don Pepe was not in the best of health when I met him, his diabetes giving him problems with his legs, his arthritis, etc. But a year ago he danced a waltz with me. It was a very special dance.

It came to my attention that while we were tripping through Central America, his conditioned worsened and he had to have a leg amputated. He had been living in a room in a pension, but would soon be confined to a wheel chair and would no longer be able to live in his own place. So they put him in an old folks' home.

Having a soft spot in my heart for Don Pepe and a genuine concern for the elderly stuck in nursing homes, I expressed a desire to visit him. Pablo wanted to go with me. We asked the few people close to him where he had been taken after surgery. We went on a wild goose chase to one place that is for old alcoholics. It didn't make sense he would be there, not being an alcoholic. There was another retirement home nearby but they didn't have him there either. We searched the hospital and one more home. No luck. We decided to ask the owner of Casa de Todos for more specific information: his real name and where he was actually staying. Ok, hindsight we all know is 20/20!

A week later we found him. We went to visit him and the gate was locked at La Divina Providencia. A nun let us in for five minutes but warned us we could only visit him during official hours, on Thursdays from 9 - 11 am and Saturday and Sunday from 4 - 5 pm. Doesn't the frikkin' Bible say to visit the sick and the elderly? How could they limit visitations to these lonely old folks? I was shocked and dismayed.

We have since had two visits with Don Pepe. He looks great, his spirits are incredibly high, and of course he awaits our visitations sitting next to the clock. He called us and asked for pens and paper and a shoe! He called another friend to bring him a towel and toilet paper. What do they supply in these places, I wonder.

Visiting hours.

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