Carlos and Margarita: Minutes Longer than Years

Written by: Luke Lorenzini, World Relief Seattle Caseworker

Esperando: a Spanish verb that can mean ‘waiting’, ‘hoping’, or ‘expecting’—depending on context.

Waiting…

I’m waiting.  A flight is coming from Florida, full of vacationers, married couples, screaming toddlers, and a family from Cuba.  I’m waiting for the family to step off the plane.  I’ve never met them before—I don’t even know what they look like.  But they’re refugees.  They’ll be tired, I’m sure.  And they probably won’t be sure of where they’re going; they’ll be looking around for someone to pick them up that they’ve never met before.  They’ll be carrying a bag from the International Organization for Migration.  It’s an unmistakable blue and white plastic bag that helps us recognize refugees coming off of airplanes.

Hoping…

The plane lands and people stream from the gate.  There goes a married couple.  And there’s a toddler or two.  A few sunburned tourists.  I hope Carlos, Margarita, and their daughter Margarita all made it successfully onto this flight.  Waiting for a new family to arrive, I sometimes fear they might miss their connecting flight.  Another toddler.

And finally out steps a tanned man, a bit nervous, a bit unsure, and quite tired from a long flight.  He’s carrying that blue and white bag, and followed by two women.  I light up.  “Eres Carlos?”  “Are you Carlos?”  He passes me a relieved, yet still reserved “Sí” that confirms my suspicion.

I whisk them off to baggage claim to meet their caseworker.  She greets them warmly and explains a few things about World Relief.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long for this family to arrive.  Their son, on the other hand, has been waiting far too long.  He came to the United States 16 years ago while the rest of the family continued living in Cuba.  He’s planning to meet us at baggage claim.

Expecting…

In the meantime, I strike up casual conversation.  Welcome to America. How was your flight? What’s your favorite food? They answer politely.  But they’re tired.  And they’ve been waiting sixteen years to see their son and brother again.  Now it’s just a few more minutes that seem to stretch longer than those 16 years.

We’ve sat down at a table, letting time go by.  Carlos begins to paint life in Cuba for us, describing some of the difficulties the family had there.  Mother Margarita keeps looking up, expecting to see her son.  Is that him?  Maybe that is.  Not yet. Not yet.

Carlos engages us in conversation, but Margarita’s mind is elsewhere. The family’s caseworker and I continue to learn to see Cuba through Carlos’ eyes.  Margarita’s eyes keep drifting off, then resting back on us, only to drift up and afar again.

Then her eyes light up.  A short gasp exits her throat.  It’s him! Walking towards us!

Some shuffling and running is followed by tears and long, sustained hugs of relief.  Sixteen years of waiting finally comes to a sweet end.  Today we’ve seen hope fulfilled, yearning met, and a family finally re-united after too many long years.

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