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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)

  • mugatea

    My great uncle departed 3 days after his beloved wife of 65 years passed away. He had been really ill for the previous decade but had this incredible attachment to his wife that kept him going through intense pain and suffering. The day she died he said to his nurse, “I guess it’s over now.” And it was. It was a decision to let go.
    We have a neighbor that needs assistance but is so proud he denies every attempt of kindness. If I help him shovel his driveway he gets kind of mad at me. We all keep an eye on him like he was family even though he’s just the man who bought the house next door.

  • PTate in FR

    How very, very sad. Sad for Senor Mingo’s family and sad for the portera and her family. Sad also for you and others in the building who have witnessed these lives in such pain. A suicide is always such a disturbing death. It forces everyone to reflect on what ought to have been and can never be. It’s just a shame.
    You all take care.

  • The BAG

    Mugatea, that was really moving, thank you. I am also fascinated by your reaction side-by-side with PT’s. PT, when I read your comment, I was shocked by the suggestion this was a suicide. The new portera told us Francisco was confused about how to get to the pharmacy Tuesday morning. That was the last time she saw him. Without even knowing that, we assumed he had gone into an insulin coma. Still, your comment is interesting. Given the power of will and the power of choice, was this still, in some way, a suicide? Even though Montalvo was losing his mind, I felt, whenever I saw him, there was always the option to ask for more help. To me, that is clearly the most upsetting thing in this.

  • lowly grunt

    Suicide? or an act of will? Sorta the same thing, I think; one is far more abrupt and could be a violent thing, the other is simply making up your mind that you will no longer live. I’ve seen the later a bunch in both parishoners I’ve been privy to and my own grandfather and mother-in-law. Grandpa’s decision was more subtle; he essentially died when my grandmother did. It just took his body a year to catch up. My mother-in-law knew she would not want to waste away from lung cancer or ‘be a burden’ and so just died.
    I am sorry for your loss and I pray that you and yours will find comfort in all this. Thank you for sharing this item with us; I like the personal and familiar that happens so frequently on this site. Like a few others that I haunt, I get the sense that the people who come here are real people and not just here to score political points or make themselves look better on a computer screen. So, thanks.

  • Mad_nVT

    Sorry for Senor Mingo, Senora “Portera” and for their neighbors in the building.
    Don’t know about Espana, but here it seems that as communities and families slowly dissolve (or decompose) that there is an increase in confusion and paranoia. In individuals, in society.
    Community is key. Families within communities.
    “It takes a village. . . . . . . . .”

  • Rafael

    Que en paz descanse.

  • Darryl Pearce

    …from thousands of miles away, please accept my condolences, sympathies and respect.
    Be brave. Be strong.

  • PTate in FR

    My apologies, BAG. I went beyond the text. I inferred–from your description of his age, from its suddenness and unexpectedness, from his health and mental condition (increasing isolation, paranoia) and from your statement that “her last day, was as much as Señor Mingo could take”–that Senor Mingo took his own life.
    It is so very, very sad. One way or another, he was cut off from his life lines, and people whose lives were touched by him will be distressed. They will be thinking, I could have, I should have….
    My condolences.

  • Napalm Dog

    I would take a moment and offer my condolences to the family, also. In the wake of the news frenzy of Anna Nicole’s death, the media seems to forget others lose family members every day to disease, drugs and just being forgotten.

  • mugatea

    Speaking of moving, I’m concerned about how the former portera will feel if and when she learns of his departure.
    Be well.

  • Cactus

    Michael, the softness of your words in describing the passing of your neighbor almost made me feel as though I knew him.
    My mother died several years ago and within a week, my brother died from complications of the flu. It fell to me to phone his friend in Alaska to let him know. The friend said that the Eskimos believe that when someone dies and does not want to go alone, they take another with them. He said it was not uncommon to find one death follow another among them. It may be a quaint idea, but who am I to scoff. I have since heard stories like that from others.
    Condolences to you and your family.

  • The BAG

    Yes, mugatea’s latest point rings strongly to me too. I can’t imagine the portera is out there and might not know yet.

  • ummabdulla

    Living in a society where old people are surrounded by large extended families, with sons and their families still living in the same house, and other children visiting almost daily, I find it so sad that he was alone.

  • itwasntme

    Belated good thought to the BAG. How easily we can become involved in one another’s lives, and how sad when someone goes.
    I am always puzzled, however, to find that it is just as easy for someone to hate thier neighbor, and be glad when he’s gone: in fact, to kill him yourself.
    People are so clearly a kind of animal; the flesh is so llimiting. Wonderful as it can be, this Earth is not heaven.

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