It doesn’t seem possible, but it has been twenty years since my brother Wichy died.  Memories of two scary moments when he was in his teens came to my mind a few days ago.  I was not even thinking about the upcoming anniversary of his death.

When he was 14 years old while riding a friend’s bike, he was hit by a speeding car.  The driver of the car was the chauffeur of a prominent government official.  He was in a rush to get some medication for his boss’ daughter. Wichy was thrown up in the air, bouncing off the hood of the car onto the pavement.  The friction with the pavement completely burned off the back of his shirt and undershirt.

When my parents got the phone call telling them about the accident they did not know what his condition was.  My father, my mother (with rollers in her hair) rushed to the hospital accompanied by Alodia, a very dear friend, neighbor and stylist at my mother’s beauty shop.  Alodia told us later that my father’s face was white as a ghost as he drove hanging tightly to the steering wheel and my mother frantically pulled the rollers off her hair.

Luckily he had only minor injuries.  The days spent at the hospital became a social event.  He was very popular and had numerous visitors.  One of the nurses told us that the waiting room was packed right before visiting hours.  When she announced that visiting hours had begun she expected people to go visit different patients and was amazed when she saw the whole group march into my brother’s room.

There was a dent in the hood of the car and his friends teased him saying the dent was made by his nose.  Wichy had a lovely, generous nose.

I don’t really remember which incident happened first, but around the same time while he was away at boarding school, we had another scare. The phone rang and my mother answered.  It was a call from a funeral home in Havana – she heard someone in the background asking “How many bodies do we have?” and just then the call disconnected.  That day Wichy was scheduled to go into the city on a field trip.  My mother could only think that something had happened to him.  Immediately rosaries came out and my mother, praying and crying, kept pacing through the whole house on her knees.  I am not sure how long it took before the call came through again, but it seemed like an eternity.  When we finally got the call it was to inform us of the death of my father’s cousin’s mother in law.  The poor lady was in her eighties and senile.  I felt guilty that the news gave us such a relief.

My mother outlived Wichy who died before his 48th birthday.