February 9, 2007

Montalvo Mingo


(Sorry for the rare departure.  This managed to come between me and the photo analysis this morning.)

Our landlord and neighbor who we shared a floor with, Señor Francisco Montalvo Mingo, died yesterday.  Or perhaps it was Tuesday, the day before, when we last heard his television. They had to come through our apartment to access his patio and back door.

Watching him grow more confused and paranoid over these past few months, apparently without contact with friends or his children, was very disturbing.  He wasn’t particularly old, and when he was lucid, he was warm, gracious, wry, a gentleman — in a culture where dignity and carriage is an art.  At the same time, however, in a Catalan society fundamentally built around friendship and family, it was the strangest thing — on our landing, on the stairs, or on the Diagonal outside — to so intimately observe this man’s isolation.

Señor Mingo had a number of health problems, diabetes being the main one we knew about.  Add an increasing mental confusion to the mix, and you had a bad situation.  His best and last link to the world was our “portera,” the women who “minds the building.”  She lived downstairs at the back of the lobby and was on-duty most of the day (except during siesta) in her tiny office tucked behind the elevator.  A continuous overseer for eighteen years, she was not just a steadfast and singular presence, but toward the end, also Montalvo’s life line.

Despite the discretion, one could sense the sadness among the residents when the portera let it be known, two weeks ago, she was terminally ill and would be leaving shortly.  I’m sure Monday, her last day, was as much as Señor Mingo could take.

(photo: The BAG)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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