My son, Chip, died from Esophageal Cancer that had metastasized to his Bones just days after his 65th birthday in May, 2021. This is one of many Chip stories..
He was a “car hound.” He collected and assembled miniature cars. He was an auto technician by trade. He was also a ‘Deadhead.’ and a music lover. There was nothing about that band , and its leader, Jerry Garcia, that Chip did not know and he experienced their music in all of their venues in the United States.
He reserved his friendship for very few, but if you were his friend there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. He had little tolerance for fools, unless they were dedicated Deadheads on weed or booze. He was smart – very smart, and witty. And he was a big tipper. He cared about working class people. He was one of them.
When business in his shop was quiet, he would spend time chatting with the workers in the tire place adjacent to where he worked. They were mostly Colombians who could barely speak English and Chip was eager to improve his high school Spanish. And that’s where he met Pablo in 2012, an 18 year old new immigrant who desperately wanted to learn to speak English.
“Ma, that kid’s a sponge.” He would report to me. “He keeps asking me questions – about all things American, and all things about the English language.” They had “curiosity” in common as well as an obvious intelligence and eagerness to learn about each other’s culture.
The back story was the “American Dream.” The family, (mother, father, a younger sister) had filed immigration papers in Medellin ten years prior. They were finally granted exit permission and were currently living in his uncle’s house in Broward County, each of them working.
Within months Pablo was speaking excellent English, tutored with enthusiasm by Chip, and learning on his own with equal enthusiasm. Soon he “graduated” from the tire place and found a job nearby where he was taught how to paint cars – a lucrative improvement for him as well as a delicate art.
And after a few years, with their combined incomes, the family was able to purchase a house with a pool.
Chip and Pablo remained friends as Chip again mentored him in Pablo’s successful quest to attain citizenship. He would fly to Colombia to visit his girlfriend, Lina, as frequently as possible and during one of her Christmas visits to the U.S., they were wed, and Chip, who by that time had become part of that family, was invited to the event. In accordance with her immigration status, they lived apart until he received his citizenship papers at which time Lina left Colombia and came to live with Pablo and his family.
It was a large extended family, many living close by in the neighborhood: siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins — and every occasion merited a party, to which Chip was invited. In Medellin, they were part of an equally large family.
And for each of the two years prior to his diagnosis, Chip traveled to Colombia as part of their “crowd ” and Pablo and Lina rented a short term place for the three of them for the period of Chip’s relatively short stay and they proudly introduced him to the many sights of their native land.
When Chip organized a Rosen family event, a concert in the New York City area for his brother Jerry and family, from North Carolina, – (including his niece and nephew approximately Pablo’s age) he invited Pablo and proudly introduced him to the wonders of “Chip’s” city.
And then the “hammer” came. Chip fought valiantly for months after his diagnosis, to stay alive, dragging himself in his fierce determination to remain independent, from treatments to work, full of hope and optimism.
Pablo and his family were always “there” with calls and visits, medications that they believed would be the cure, endless containers of “Mama’s” excellent soup, and constant offers to “do anything.”
But when none of the prescription pain medications offered by Chip’s many doctors, was able to give him relief, reality hit and, hesitantly at first, Chip asked to be transferred to Hospice.
Pain free at last at the direction of Hospice doctors, he spent his last days surrounded by family and people he loved – in person and on line – holding court in memory-land and articulating hIs last wishes.
Nobody loved Chip’s cat, Alvin, as much as Pablo did. We were able to bring Alvin to his hospital bed in Hospice, where he lovingly said goodbye and asked Pablo to take care of him.
Nobody loved Chip’s pristine 1988 classic Chevy Iroc as much as Pablo did. Chip signed the registration papers to Pablo and asked him to take care of his car.
Was theirs a strange relationship? “Strange,” perhaps, but real. Chip, a committed bachelor, and a Peter Pan wannabe. “Ma, I love that kid like a son,”
Chip loved his job. He loved his boss. He loved his cat. He loved his car. He loved where he lived. He loved his life.
Months later, when Chip’s heir, brother Jerry, had finally completed the clean-out of Chip’s precious condo in preparation for sale, Pablo and Lina, eager to live on their own, offered to buy it. And they did.
Can you see Chip dancing on a cloud ??!!