Cafe Hitch-hike


Bernardo of the river valley

Someone from my river valley hometown got back in touch with me. It's interesting because a few guys have reentered my life lately and it hasn't been a bad thing. This one, Bernardo, is a distant relative of Aunt Tish who married into my father's family. After I finished University of Rust Belt State, Tish told me Bernardo had just transferred there. I eventually ran into him at the university pool on a leisurely summer day, and we hung out. He was engaged to Marci, a former classmate of mine who I knew was a real moody case. I laughed a little inside but I never disparaged her or his decision.

Bernardo and I were out orbit afterward. About 12 years later, I met his parents at Tish's wedding to her second husband. His father, Bernardo Sr., was Aunt Tish's cousin and also my birth father's best friend. I didn't know Bernardo and I had more social connections than I initially thought! t amazed me how far back and complex the connections between me and others in my hometown and family had been.

I got an updated on B. Jr. As it turned out, he married Marci. She went to law school and he got his doctorate, and they both were activists! B. Jr. worked in higher ed., just like me! I was really happy to hear they seemed to be doing well. I eventually connected with B. Sr. online, and that led me to connect with Bernardo.

B. started writing me 3 weeks ago because he was amused at some of my postings. I figured he was not longer with Marci because he never posted pictures of her or mentioned a wife. He then started to flirt with me a bit. Ok, it was cute and all, but I had to tell him up front that it kind of felt like incest because our family connections (we are not related by blood, however). We then actually started to get a little real, and...

Wow. Really, just wow.

Bernardo had very similar beginnings as mine. He asked what motivated me to want to go further with my life. I said I wanted to experience and see more, and have a career and education. I also wanted to fall out of the trap of single motherhood that was pretty much a rite of passage in our town. He said he could relate. His big motivator was similar, but he also survived stage 4 leukemia when he was 16 and just wanted more for himself than the same-ol', same-ol' life in our midwest town.

Bernardo told me more parts of his story. We approached URBS differently. I pretty much suppressed my Latin heritage for the sake of my career and getting ahead while he was involved in all of the Latino activities. I hit the books really hard, and he said he barely finished. He moved forward fully owning what he was and where he came from, while I chucked mine into the closet. Bernardo then showed me his professional pages and his blog, and I was so amazed.

Bernardo had a very tough divorce and feels like he wants to start again. He said he reached out to me because he saw I also worked in higher ed. and thought I'd have some insight about where he is in his life. He also was curious about his romantic chances, hahaha! We talked about a lot of things, but...

...I felt like I spoke a language I hadn't spoken in a very long time. There was a different quality to our conversation that I don't see very often, and I think I knew what it was. I was able to connect with someone who just about had the same story as me. His family had similar stories, he knew what it was like to be brown in a very white town. He had a motivation that came out of some difficult circumstances as I had, and... we both did something with all of that.

I had a similar feeling when I went to Aunt Tish's wedding back in 2011 and when I met Bernardo's parents. My God, to be around people who shared my story, and including the parts where we wanted to go beyond drugs, alcohol, single parenthood, bad relationships, and just plain low expectations. Going to Tish's wedding also had that same quality. It all felt so right and I felt so at home. I believe when I talk about wanting to come home, this is exactly what I mean.

I then talked to Bernardo about the librarian conference and the offer I got from my former adviser who is now at Grain Elevator University.. and I'll be damned, but Bernardo told me he could help if I wanted to do pursue a doctorate at his university (he works in its administration). Bernardo then gave me insight. He said I should start thinking about what I really wanted, and suggested that writing my life story might get me started.

My talk with Bernardo was amazingly affirming to many of the messages I've been picking up and the thoughts I've been having lately. I've seen enough synchronicity in my life to know that I better not let these get away.

Then, Bernardo said something I never would had guessed. He said I was one of the first to go all the way with my education, and apparently, people knew I did it on my own. I honestly never thought anyone really noticed or cared, but he said he did and so did others. He called me a trailblazer. At one point in the conversation he said, "you are smart as they say."

It then just came to me... I felt that the Latino community saw me for me, and not only as the scrappy daughter of my father. I wasn't being seen in his shadow.

For so long, I felt invisible in the river valley and often felt like I didn't matter, so I went about my business as I pleased. I didn't know that people took notice of what I did. When my cousins were here this past January, they asked me about some things they said they heard which I found interesting, but didn't pay any mind. What they asked were along the lines of what Bernardo and I talked about, and I'm starting to realize the people around me did not see me the same way as I had seen myself, or how I thought they perceived me. It was an absolute surprise to see that. So yes, people noticed what I did, and it also mattered.

downwind | upstream