A Final Entry

In advanced to whoever will read this I apologies for the length and the small writing, I do not have much space in this last journal:

I have finally come to the last couple pages of my journal. I have taken all my journals from these last 40 years, ever since my grandmother gave the first one to me on my 18th birthday, and put them on the floor of my bedroom. When I was 21 she began to give me her own journals, each year one, and I was able to see the progress of our country day by day through the eyes of a hopeful, warm, and loving, woman. I remember how I use to stay up all night reading her entries and then writing my own. I tried to read any books that she had read or cook the things that she would write about. It became this strange relationship where I was exploring and trying to understand my grandmother when she was my age, but in that  (and with writing) I was able to understand and see myself through a new angle. I loved getting to know my grandmother when she was 18 as well- the silly things she would say, the boys she would like, the things she learned. I t gave me an interesting way to see how different, yet also in ways similar our lives were. Writing saved my life.  I am not being dramatic when I say this, but when I look at all the journals lined up in order on my floor, with the grandmother’s journals beside each corresponding year, I am in awe of how much I wrote. Especially during the 17 years of dictatorship the books are packed with extra paper, notes, poems, letters, news articles, and pictures of family and friends (both those alive and those who were disappeared). I have to keep them closed with string so that all the extra pieces do not go tumbling out. If I had not been able to write my thought, my worries, the horrors that we witnessed, my family history, and my country’s history I do not think I would have been able to be where i am now,  living in Arica with my beloved husband. Though it sometimes bring tears to my eyes that I was not able to give my own daughter or son a small brown leather notebook on their 18th birthday, I know that there are other ways for me to pass along my memories and thoughts. My brother’s children have become such a large part of my life and I still spend most of my afternoons with them playing and helping them with their work. I love my brother and I love being around his family so much. Having survived all those years of silence and fear keep us close. I always find that I can speak to him easily about the bad dreams about the past or my worries for the future. He, in the way he talks and walks, reminds me much of my father and for that I am grateful. I miss my father, but as I read my memories of him through my life I know that he is proud of his children and that he is always with me. His picture, and that of my grandmother, stand next to my bed and each morning as I wake up and each evening as I fall asleep I greet them and thank them for their life, love, and presence. My husband at times with smile and shake his head at my rituals but he never tells me not to do it. Another thing i am grateful for is my husband.  We have a quiet and simple life together, where we both work during the day and that at night cook a delicious meal together. On weekends we will often read books together or go out to a film and then sit in a bar and talk about it for hours, this way we constantly interact with the world and keep ourselves thinking critically. But to still pass on my memories and my grandmother traditio I will give my brothers youngest children Marcela a book of her own when she is 18 as well. Though I cannot have my own daughter I will continue the tradition. I cannot change anything about my situation and thus must do with it what I can. I cannot have my own children- I use to be very depressed and sad ( and still think about it a lot), but as I said I have a brother and sister in law you let me spend a lot of time with their wonderful 3 children, my husband and I keep busy and do fun things together, and I have a job that lets me teach and be with children all day. Anytime I feel as if I want to cry I remind myself of this and how lucky I am to be here writing these thoughts.

I am thankful that Chile has survived. Though there is still a lot of work to be done, I think that time has helped us heal. At least it has helped heal many of my wounds from the past. Vincente is one. I will never be able to force him to come home and be part of our family, he has to make that choice on his own. I do not think it will ever change, but I hope he is happy and that he feels fulfilled and loved by the  people he surrounds himself with. He still sends me a card each year on my birthday, I have them all saved in a basket, and I send him one each year too and that is it for our correspondence. I think he is married and has a family in Santiago and is working at a church, but he may have changed jobs, I do not know for sure. I do not ask as I know he will not respond. I have to let go of the hope that he will come back and live here again- that is something that is too hard for him. The regime wanted to break apart family and hurt people so that they felt as if they could not connect to the outside world and others, I think that is what happened to my brother. I wish him well and I wish him healing, maybe one day when we are both 90 years old we will be able to talk and remember the past without t being too painful.

As I grow older I have become more at easy with ritual and simplicity. Reading back over the years I see how those years of repression were tremulously formative in the way in which I saw the world.  During the worst of it (I am looking at a journal entry from 1975) I recall being so angry and impatient. Angry at the world and myself. So angry that the world had let this happen to Chile and that Chile had let this happen to itself. I saw no way out and saw that my life would always be like this- I would never be able to move past the fear and horror. Even after the No had won and Pinochet stepped down I still felt that way- the transition was harder than the regime was at times for me. There was so much hypocrisy and  let down, but now it was under the veil of a modern democracy. I felt as if there was no way to hold the new government responsible for its lack of commitment to justice and truth  and that the military was getting away with murder!! Martin was always a voice of reason during those times. He helped me remember what we had gained with democracy and that there was no right way to do this- it just was hard, sad, and emotional. People were or suck in the past and unable to come from that dark time or they ignored it, as our government tried, neither way was healthy is the way I have come to see it. At least for me, it was not until Pinochet was arrested in London and the huge attempt at trail was I able to start to move forward in a healthy way- in which I did not forget the past but did not let it seep into my everyday life. Writing again helped me. I was physically able to remember what had happened by reading what I had written on that day or in that moment. Re-readed was a way to ground myself and feel as if i had not imagined all of it it some crazy dream.

Strangely, death helped me as well. That of Pinochet, my grandmother, and father have been huge markers in my life. Pinochet’s death, as I have written, was a moment of celebration, but also anger that he never served time for his crimes. Yet I am glad that he no longer takes up any space in my beautiful country! My grandmother’s death was the most difficult. I didn’t know how to feel and after her death was when Vincent left us. It was a most depressing time for my parents and brother and I. Yet my father’s passing was calm. It was his time. He had been able to see his homeland before he passed and was surrounded my loved ones. These deaths have shaped my life and helped my grow. To my father and grandmother I thank them and feel them with me.

But now, 40 years after I began writing, I think I need to take a break. Not to say that I am done and that will never write again- I think I am going to give myself some time where I do other things rather than spend each evening writing about myself and my thoughts. I think, and  have spoken to Martin and Tomas about this many time in the recent weeks, that I want to actually write  a book… or maybe a memoir of my grandmother and how she lived through so much historic change in Chile. Born and raised in the same place she only left her hometown  to see Santiago a few times, but even by not moving she was able to experience and understand so much of Chile and what happened here. I want to commemorate her and through that understand the history that my country has. By writing it all down and weaving the stories together I hope to share it with whomever would like to hear it! Maybe it is a crazy idea but I think it is new project perfect for a new phase in my life. Maybe it will never actually be published, but regardless it will be very important for my mother and especially Vicente. Whatever I decide to write I promise I will share it with them, and the rest of my close relatives who knew and loved her as well. I will always continue to write in order to reflect on the past and make my memories and thoughts real, as I can share them easily with people and see them for myself as well.


1 thought on “A Final Entry

  1. ssvolk says:

    Thank you, Valentina, for sharing your life’s journey with me through these pages. I think it very fitting (and moving) that you will pass it along to Marcela, as your grandmother did with her journals. There are many important lessons that she will learn from you when she’s of the right age.

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