In 1966, when I was fourteen, my dad (Oscar C. García) retired from the Merchant Marines. We were expecting him to come home to San Francisco and were perplexed when we didn’t hear from him. Eventually, we got a letter from him saying that he was in Puerto Rico. He had bought a 32-ft long fishing boat and was going to stay in Puerto Rico and live on the boat for a while. That “while” turned into five years.
When my brother Ruben graduated from high school, he spent six months with Dad in Puerto Rico, living on that fishing boat. What an experience! He learned a lot about fishing, trapping lobster, and surviving on a boat with Dad. After all, that was the longest stretch of time that he had ever spent with our father.
I was looking through my old photos to find one of Dad in his fishing boat, and I found two. The first one was taken by Ruben when he was living with Dad on the boat, so I am assuming it was taken around 1967 or 1968. The second one is either from 1969 or 1970, when a group of cousins on my mom’s side of the family (the Oliveras) were getting ready to go out on a ride with Dad. That’s my father on the very right with me sitting next to him.
In the summer of1969, I went to Puerto Rico on vacation. Dad took me to La Parguera, a little fishing village near Lajas, where he moored his boat at a dock in a marina owned by a man named Don Gundo. This man and his wife, Doña Beba, treated my father like family. They had two sons that were older than me and a daughter that was my age, Maricely. They also had a younger daughter who was a bedridden invalid. They were very nice people, and Maricely and I got along well together.
One day, Dad invited me to go out with him in his boat and see how he worked with his lobster traps. I was excited to do this and wanted Maricely to go along, too. She was hesitant, saying she had never gone out on a boat before. I found that surprising since her family owned that marina, and I convinced her to go. As soon as Dad took off from the dock, Maricely was down on the floor of the boat, where she remained the entire time like a dead person. I did well until Dad anchored the boat to pull up his traps. Then the motion of the boat going up and down and side to side made me super queasy and I lost my breakfast. But I enjoyed the outing nevertheless. When Dad returned the boat to its dock, Maricely got up all fine and perky and declared that it had been fun. Ha ha!
Last month, while in Puerto Rico, Randy and I stayed at an Airbnb in La Parguera for three nights with cousin Joi and some cousins on my mom’s side of the family. While on a chartered boat tour of the area I asked the captain about Don Gundo and Doña Beba. I learned that they had passed away but that Maricely still lived in the same house. After checking out of the Airbnb on Monday morning, Randy, Joi and I drove to the marina and had a short but sweet visit with Maricely. It had been over fifty years since we had seen each other, but she remembered Dad and even remembered me! We reminisced about our excursion together on the boat and the time I spent the night there at her house. I told her that I remembered that she had lost one of her older brothers in Vietnam. Don Gundo passed away in 1979 and her mother in 2012. Since then, Maricely has been taking care of her invalid sister, now 62 years old. She never married. What dedication to take care of her sister! God bless her. Joi took the photo below of Maricely and me catching up. Our trip to La Parguera and neighboring towns was fun, but this was the cherry on top!