Imagine someone who has adopted you and placed you into the center of their life. Imagine someone who has no kinship to you or your love ones but you can depend upon that person to take better care of you and your loved one like no else and stick closer to you than a brother. You can not pay for his service or love. You can not pay for his devotion and his willingness to do all the things that you can not do and yet you know “all is well” because of this angel of God. Meet Federico.
I met Federico during my first trip to the Republic of Panama. I was blessed to accompany a friend and brother of mines to his “mother land” who served as my tour guide, protector and interpreter for the experience. Enrique explained how his Uncle Theophilus had been hospitalized and one of his presenting illness affected his memory where he did not recognize anyone but Federico . The uncle would not take his medicine nor eat unless it came through the hands of Federico. So Federico would go to the hospital everyday to met the needs of Uncle Theophilus until the day Uncle Theophilus died. Federico worked for a land developer and met Uncle Theophilus when he was looking for land to build his home on. Now an American citizen, Uncle Theophilus was making plans to return back to Panama one day and was looking for the right place to build. Federico was involved with those plans while the plot of land was being secured and before, during and after construction of this modest three bedroom home with two bathrooms and a patio-garage. An unattached smaller house was built in the back that serves as Federico’s private residence.
No, Uncle Theophilus is not my real or blood uncle, nor is his wife, Mrs. Florence, who is 85 years young. Federico now cares for her like he did with Uncle Theophilus. Federico is from a province of the interior of Panama and is a “handy man” around the house. Anything needs fixing or repairing he can handle, and if he can not he will find someone in the community to take care of the job and make everything alright. Uncle Theophilus and Aunt Florence immigrated to Brooklyn, New York where they both became US citizens. Uncle Theophilus, a skilled electrician before arriving in America, completed his education and training becoming a journeyman electrical engineer, a job he later retired from. Aunt Florence retired from working at King’s County Community Hospital. Uncle Theophilus always saved his income and made plans to return home back to Panama. Like so many hardworking men with future dreams and plans he also worked on the side doing electrical jobs in the communities of Brooklyn and Queens, New York when not on his regular job. So when he purchased the land and built a home it was Federico who provided assistance from the beginning to the end. But Uncle Theophilus and Aunt Florence are stories for “another day.” Aunt Florence basically adopted me and treated me like one of her nephews hence my adoption in my “mind and heart”. When I first met Federico, Aunt Florence was state side, visiting with her children in Washington D.C and New York, but back to Federico.
Up at five every morning, Federico hits the shower and then puts on the coffee, strong coffee I might add. Aunt Florence is up after the coffee has finished brewing and Federico places the eye drops in her eyes. During her office visit with her doctor, Aunt Florence had to make her next six month appointment. She told the doctor she had to check her calendar as she had plans to get “married” and did not want to have a “scheduling conflict”. Aunt Florence’s up beat disposition with the doctor and the staff have made her a celebrity during her office visits as she never complain while she struggle with her own illnesses .”Did you ever?” is one of her favorite sayings, a question that she half asks and allows you to fill in the banks.
Federico goes through his daily routine of getting the trash together and setting it out for the pick up. It is mid March and reportedly the rainy season in Panama. I slept well last night as the trade winds at night allow you to avoid the use of the air condition. After noon is a different story as the temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher. It is very dry and the grass is brown, as Federico gets out the water hose, washes down the patio- garage and water the beautiful cactus plants and flowers outsides of the decorative rout irons enclosure in front of the house. Federico leaves the home before 7:00 am having no car, or bike, but heads out to work. With no 9-5 job, he is such a dependable worker he encounters no problem finding work like roofing, dry walling, laying down tile you name it. He will not return until after five pm.
“Buenos Dias” I speak out softly to Federico. “Como esta” as I struggle with my limited Espanol in my attempt to say good morning and how are You? Federico, who starts off his morning with meditation respond, as always, “Gracious a Dios” meaning Thanks to God. Federico has promised to learn English and I promised to do better in my effort to learn Spanish.
I met Federico again back in January 2014. This time he has been blessed with obtaining a car. I returned to Panama after a wonderful lady named Eneida,85 years young also, promised she would not have any peace until I returned with my wife. Enada is also a story for another day. It was during this visit that I observed how well Federico met the needs of Aunt Florence. From daily trips to the grocery store, the cleaners and his regular chores Aunt Florence adult children back in Washington D.C. and New York do not have to worry about their mom and the level of care she receives. The smile, the sweet spirit and the love that Federico still gives after years and years of unselfish service and humility is more than enough to know and trust that all is well with Aunt Florence. Truly No Greater Love…