Every day, a line of older men sit on the benches in front of the mercado. With their suspenders and white shirts, caps and fedoras, they perch on their canes and growl stories to each other. They play dominos in the cafeteria, and smoke dark cigarettes in bars.
They are everywhere. Friends meet for paseo, one pushing a stroller, another pushing her mother in a wheelchair. Teenage girls grasp hands with their abuelas as they buy bread, or lottery tickets, or daisies.
They do not speak of it often, but these parents and grandparents lived during a dictatorship. A co-worker of my husband starting working, washing dishes in a bar, when he was seven years old. “I needed food,” he explained.
My Spanish friends nod their head as he explains this, most likely remembering their own stories, unspoken, or images from the television.
Braces, college, new pencils and erasers–these things were not a given, and certainly not a right. Things have changed here in Spain, and even with the crisis, most seven year olds are in a classroom, not washing highball glasses.
But these stories, however unspoken, are ever present. In the summer, always, you will find families on the beach. They pick up their elders, and carry them, wheelchair and all, onto the golden sands.
They have earned their rest, and their moment in the light, more than I will probably ever know.