Wikipedia defines Mariel as “a municipality and city in the La Habana Province of Cuba. It is located approximately 40 kilometers (25 mi) west of the city of Havana. . It’s the Cuban port nearest to the United States. It is also where “in 1980, some 125,000 Cubans left Mariel and went to the United States in what is known as the Mariel boatlift, when while many reached the USA, several died traveling through the ocean.” Famed American actress Mariel Hemingway was also named after this town by her also famous dad.
To many, “Mariel” would be quite simply another form of the name Mary. Of Dutch origin, it was said to mean “the perfect one” (how very apt). I’m afraid I never got around to asking her mom why she chose this name for my wife. In fact, I also did not know her as Mariel when I first got to talk to her. I actually knew her as “omni” and then “Gina” much later. (Yes, they are all her ‘names” too but I guess you have to read further in the blog to learn how this came to be)
To some, especially her siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces she was “Mar”, short for Mariel. (I guess they wanted something more endearing.) I even remember her nephews usually going to Tita Mar when they had something they wanted to ask from their own parents but were hesitant or too afraid to tell. She was their bridge, their confidant, their angel. She was “Mar” too to her most favorite cousin Annie who had spent hours with her on the phone talking about anything and everything. Mariel was always there for those who just needed to talk or plainly wanted a shoulder to cry on.
In my case, “Mariel”, among other things, meant guide and teacher. For she had made me realize that God, loved ones and family must come before self. Looking back, I feel so ashamed at my thoughtlessness then. Mariel had shown me that unconditional love was indeed possible. Not just with words, because I’ve been witness to how she had literally given up buying “things” for herself (even as she loved shopping) and instead devoted her life to unceasingly looking after the needs of our daughter and me. She was always caring. She was forever selfless and unassuming.
Then “Mariel” was “best friend” too. For we had shared everything. The ups and downs of life and raising a family. She was my greatest cheerleader. She encouraged me to explore the most “hare- brained” schemes because she believed in me, even if I myself had doubts. She was my critic too, when she saw sometimes that I may be heading towards the edge of the cliff. She’d advice me to “cut your losses” when it was very clear that I had reached a cul-de-sac. And she was always right. She was my “foil”, my teammate, the Ginger to my Fred. She made me whole and complete, that’s why I miss her so much.
Of course, Mariel or “Mommy” (as she wanted me to call her when Sam was just a baby to help her learn the word) will ALWAYS mean my one true love. My kind- hearted wife and soul mate. For while she had come unexpectedly into my life and left as suddenly, she had changed it positively forever and gave me HER greatest gift– our daughter Samantha. She was all the best things that I can only aspire to be.
I love you Mariel. You are the name that forever will be etched in my heart. Till me meet again, good night my sweet princess.