This article is from the February 2004 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Tia Rosa

by Bruce McGovern 

Tia Rosa, in her early seventies, lives in the dusty, little mountain village where my wife was born.   She’s the product of an era when one of the daughters was designated to remain home, illiterate and unwed, to care for her parents in their old age. 

Hey, it worked!  She was almost fifty, unwed and illiterate, when her father died. And, she was nearly sixty, still unwed and illiterate, when her mother died at age 99. 

Your first impression of Tia would probably be the same as mine was. A bit disheveled; a face brown and wrinkled as an old shoe; and a twisted body. In the sixties, an earthquake caused the roof to fall on her. She was abandoned for dead, until everyone believed to be alive was rescued. When her body was extricated for burial, she was still alive, and had repeated surgery in DF. She was able to limp around, and cooked over a wood fire for a family of six men for at least another 35 years. 

I  no longer see a brown, wrinkled, old woman. I see a sweet, old aunt who wouldn’t hurt a flea.  A sweet, old aunt who loves to see a family enjoying a good meal she cooked.  An aunt who grinned when I gave her a lollipop, and told her it was because she’d been a good girl. And, the next morning, she fried two eggs for me, and, smirking, told me it was because I’d been a good boy. 

On November 3 we were eating breakfast, around the “stove” of stones where the cooking fire is. Suddenly, she vomited, and started to fall over. Someone grabbed her. My wife shouted they believed she was having a heart attack. I told her, QUICK, to give her two aspirin to suck. 

We couldn’t find the aspirin, so I tried to run 1/8 mile up the mountain to get mine. By the time I returned, thinking maybe I needed two aspirin myself, my wife had located her aspirin, but Tia simply swallowed them. 

My wife said Tia’s left eye was twisted, and her left hand was numb and useless. I told her that means there is an obstruction in the circulation of blood to her brain. 

My wife said, “Well, I'm not a doctor, so I don't have an opinion.” She said it in that tone that implies “You’re not a doctor, either.” 

I said, “I know I'm not a doctor, but when I see someone who has a crowbar in his chest, I know he’s seriously injured.” 

The young uncle hurried off to get a doctor. My friend, the doctor, was away on vacation. Seventy minutes after the attack, Dr. Ulisses arrived. By that time, her left hand and eye were working again, but she still couldn't speak. 

The doctor gave her a thorough examination, then explained how the blood circulated in the brain, and explained that something was blocking the circulation of the blood to part of her brain. 

He had us put a thick blanket under her, and, holding the blanket by the edges, we carried her to a pickup truck and went bouncing on the rocky road to the hospital. She was in the closest IMSS (government) hospital two hours after the initial attack. The doctor there announced she needed to take aspirin right away. My wife told him we already gave her two, and he was pleased, so we were sure we hadn’t done any harm giving them to her. 

Two days later, she started speaking again. 

The fifth day in the hospital, they took her in the hospital’s ambulance to Puebla for x-rays, similar to a CAT scan, I think. The family had to pay about $130 for this. 

The next day, she was released. She has a restricted diet, with no fat and no spicy foods, such as chiles.  My wife said it is possible in Mexico to find such foods.  

She also is supposed to take 150 mg. of aspirin every 6 to 12 hours. 

When she left, she was much as ever, except she is staying with a young nephew at the edge of the ranch, and his wife is doing the cooking. I do expect to see Tia Rosa cooking again.  It’s hard to keep a good woman down.