Last week I had a goodbye barbecue on Monday. On Tuesday my co-workers at Fundación Contigo threw a little surprise party at the end of the day. Wednesday the Holy Cross priests and brothers invited us to a lunch at their house. Thursday I rested, but Friday I went to a farewell Mass for Roy at Saint George. Saturday we said goodbye ourselves with a final celebration in our house. That left us with this week for more individual goodbyes, of which there have been plenty. In a way it’s a kind of final reminder of Chilean culture. People become fond of others very quickly here, and goodbyes can be extensive.
Since the Associate program is coming to the end of the current chapter, our goodbyes also involved a somewhat different twist. Instead of just leaving our house, we had to close it. The house at 1309 Ictinos has been home to associates for over a decade, and its a meaningful place for many members of the community as well. One woman commented that she had a retreat there, another said that the party for her grandaughter’s baptism was held there, and countless others passed by to hang out over the years.
Last Monday after we finished the final packing, I sent this message to all the past associates who lived there:
Just a couple hours ago Roy PequeÃ±o and I finished the last bit of cleaning and closed “Casa Toohey,” probably better known at the Ictinos house. It was sad saying goodbye to a place that has been home to so many people. Here are a few details for all of you.
I know most all associate affairs begin with questions about the best-known associates, so to begin, Jack is safe and well. Caitlin, Roy, and I took him to the Toledo family’s house yesterday. They graciously offered to care for him. Though it was tough to leave him—Roy has been known to say that Jack is his best friend in Chile—we’re sure the Toledos will take good care of him. It’s safe to say that he’s gone to a better place. Meat makes for better doggie snacks than beans and lentils.
Back to the house: we had a despedida last Saturday. It started at “18:00 hrs.,” the first Chilean arrived at 19:30, and the last one left at 5:00am. Around 60 people stopped by during the evening to say their goodbyes, not just to us but to the house.
We spent the last week or so cleaning and preparing to vacate the house. We also had a little scare where Caitlin overheard a group of men talking about when they were going to rob the house. Never a dull moment in the pobla, I suppose. The library is current in the Casa de Formación on Egaña where the religious are sorting through the books. They are planning on keeping the ones that interest them and donating the rest to Saint George and Andacollo.
Many times over the last two years I’ve been appreciative of the many and varied thing you left in the houses at the end of your time. The past week was not one of them. We scrambled around trying to figure out what to do with, for example, 12 boxes of anti-diarrhea pills, 30 body splash mini-sprays, 150 cassette tapes, sheets, towels, and more. I think we gave away as much as possible threw out as little as we could. Lucia, an elder woman who I believe a number of associates knew, received a number of sheets. We left other linens, clothing, and medicines at the parish church San Roque for anyone who might need the stuff.
There were a number of photos in the house and printed material that are parts of the associate history. I’m planning on scanning most of the photos (the ones from the wall, about 20) this week before leaving Chile. I’ll send them out to anyone interested at some point in the next couple of months. Don’t worry—we didn’t just send the stuff to the dump.
As for the house itself, we haven’t heard what the plans for it are. I have heard a couple ideas thrown about: house for low-income people, a distribution site for the parish’s clothing and supermarket goods operation, or a retreat house. None of those is more than a passing suggestion. As far as I know the Congregation isn’t sure what it wants to do with the house yet.
There are probably some interesting bits that I’ve left out or perhaps some questions that I’ve left unanswered. I’ll be somewhat occupied with last minute goodbyes, but if you have any questions, send them along and I’ll answer when I can.
And that was the end. Yesterday we went to the Santiago airport where I flew out of Chile for the first time since August 2005. Now Roy and I are in Peru where we’re doing a little sight-seeing before heading back home. With the heavy work of farewells behind us, expect more frequent updates.