Had I a bit better facility at languages, I should learn some rudimentary Spanish. The population here in Hidalgo County, where we are currently ensconced, is more than 88% Hispanic.
A little while ago, we were in a Wal-Mart and while Beloved Beautiful made a last pass through some of the aisles, I sat on a bench near the entryway. Presently an old gentleman, meaning a man near my own age, came and sat on the other end of the bench. I remarked that old guys had to sit sometimes. His broad smile told me he was friendly, but it also said he didn’t understand a word I said. Presently he asked me habla Espanol? I said, No, not really. Whereupon we engaged in a conversation with much hand-waving and gesticulation. It was not fruitless, either, because before we parted company, we knew that our spouses were still shopping, that he had children, five sons and a daughter, that I had two of each. He learned that I lived in some foreign place called “Indiana,” and I learned that he was originally from Mexico, but had lived in Edinburg for forty years. When I left the store, I gave him a hearty, buenos dias! and he returned the benediction.
It was a doubly pleasurable experience, for I spent some pleasant moments with a stranger, and left the encouter feeling that most people are good people. And too, it brought back to mind an experience I had some twenty-three years ago when the father of a daughter-in-law visited us at our place on the lake. He was from Germany, and he had about the same amount of English as I had German, which was very little. We stood on the lakeshore enjoying the sights and the sounds of a summer morning, the sunshine warming our shoulders. The gentle waves lapping at the hull of the boat tied at the pier; the occasional "plop" of a fish reentering the water following its leap for an insect, or of a frog returning to the water from his lilypad puncuated our verbal gymnastics, lending a sense of well-being to the interchange.
Opa, we all called him Opa, even though he and I were at most a short generation apart in age, visited for quite a long time, employing the same techniques that I used today with the old gentleman in the Wal-Mart. Much pointing, hand-waving; smiling and exclaiming "Ah, so!" But again, a bond was formed which I treasure to this day, though Karl has long since departed this earthly realm.