When I was chilling in the Upper Keys after arriving back in the US from Cuba, I met some engaging people at the small hotel I was staying in Islamorada. I hardly left the place because it was so quaint and comfortable. There was a man-made cement dock with rocks surrounding it looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. Good snorkeling abounded in very shallow water from this dock. The water was exceptionally clear. Sunsets were amazing. I saw crabs, lobsters, and a variety of fish in the nearby waters.
An older couple arrived the second day I was there. They were talking with each other and playing a card game. After lying in the sun awhile I went to shower and get ready for sunset. Watching sunset seemed to break the ice and people started chatting with each other. Of course this couple had a cool story.
They met when the woman was 16 and the man was 20 years old, both from Pinar del Rio, south of Havana in Cuba. They married soon after they met, both from large families. At the time the revolution was happening in Cuba and the young newlyweds decided to flee Cuba and come to the US. Skipping what I am sure must have been a myriad of details, they fled to Florida, but shortly made their way to Baltimore, Maryland. They had family in Florida, but the man got a job with AT&T (as he had been employed with them in Cuba).
Living in Baltimore was very difficult for the two of them. Since they had no family there and a barely existent Cuban community, they were forced to adapt more quickly than the norm. They had two sons a few years apart after arriving in America. Having to speak English only, they learned the language and customs quickly. The man worked for his company for many years. The woman decided to open an alteration business as she was a very skilled seamstress. She was taught by her mothers and sisters.
After working for many years, occasionally visiting family in Cuba and in Orlando, the couple’s two sons graduated from college. One went to work and the other went to law school. The eldest became a lawyer and continues to work in corporate America. Just chatting, they asked where I was from and this eldest son lives not far from me. He is the CEO now of a European-based high-tech company. The youngest lives near them in Orlando, as they moved to Florida to be closer to more family after they both retired. The eldest is, of course, very successful and cognizant of his great life due to his parents’ choice to leave most of their extended family behind in Cuba. He treats his entire family to nice vacations and they often come to Texas to visit. The older couple still sends money and goods to their surviving relatives in Cuba. The 80-year-old man still has an uncle in Havana who must be about 96 years old. The woman has some surviving sisters, some of whom live in Miami and some who live in Orlando.
The worst part of their story, according to the woman, was not getting to see her mother for a very long stretch at one point. I cannot now recall whether it was 15 years or 30 years. Anyway, she said that was the saddest part of her life. They are very close to their entire family. They did admit that they came to Islamorada for a few days to take a break from her sisters, however, that live in Miami. I so enjoyed meeting this down-to-earth, interesting, and engaging couple.