When my sister asked me to look after her little son I couldn't refuse. Little did I know what the future had in store for me.
My sister Caterina called me and told me she was leaving the country to look for work. She asked me to look after her young son, but I explained that we had trouble making ends meet as it was.
My sister promised me that she would send money for his keep, and enough left over to help us out. If I refused, she said, she would leave young Pablo in a shelter.
That evening I spoke to my husband Miguel, and he wasn't enthusiastic about taking care of Caterina's son, but when I said she would send money, he reluctantly agreed.
MY SISTER ABANDONED HER LITTLE SON
Caterina brought Pablo over to our house and left. My daughter Luisa was far from happy at having to share her room with Pablo, and I had to promise her a new doll to convince her to accept him.
For the first two months Caterina sent us money, but then she stopped calling and we never heard from her again.
Miguel was furious and blamed me for having one more mouth to feed. We ended up having a huge argument, but I put my foot down and he agreed to let Pablo stay with us.
Ten months later I received a letter from Caterina in which she revealed that she was married and wouldn't be coming back.
All this time Pablo kept asking after his mother: "Auntie, will my mother come back soon? I miss her so much!"
I looked into his eyes, and couldn't tell him the truth. I felt a pang in my heart. "Miguel won't let Pablo stay now," I thought.
MY HUSBAND FORCED ME TO PLACE HIM IN AN ORPHANAGE
I was right. My husband was set against keeping Pablo, and my daughter Luisa was angry and resentful about having to share her room and my affection.
I sat down and explained it all to Pablo, and the poor little child wept bitterly. I packed Pablo's bag and dressed him in his best clothes: "Pablo, I'm going to take you to a nice place where you will have lots of children to play with. And I promise that I will come and visit you every weekend and bring you treats."
He quietly nodded his acceptance, then he asked me: "Ok, Auntie, and will my mommy come too?"
My heart broke for him. "I hope so, Pablo!" I smiled.
And so I placed Pablo in an orphanage, where I knew he would be well cared for - better than in my own home where both my husband and my daughter rejected him.
As I had promised, I visited him every weekend, and when I could, I took Pablo home for the holidays.
DOCTORS DIAGNOSED ME WITH CANCER
Several years later, my daughter Luisa got married and moved to another city, and I started to feel unwell. I went to the doctor and told him I could hardly get up in the morning.
He had me do some tests and broke the terrible news. I had cancer.
My chances of recovery were good if I submitted myself to the treatments, but I would need a lot of help and support during my convalescence.
I told my husband about my diagnosis, but he seemed indifferent. Shocked, I called my daughter and told her my news, but she quickly told me she was too busy to help.
I underwent surgery for my cancer, and then a course of chemotherapy. I was in the hospital for 2 months, and in that time neither my husband nor my daughter visited me.
When the doctors told me I could go home, I phoned my husband, but he never answered the phone. I took a taxi home and found a note on my kitchen table: "Maria, I've found someone else. Get on with your life, I won't be back. Miguel."
A few days later the doorbell rang and I immediately thought Luisa had come to visit, but when I opened the door I had a huge surprise.
MY DAUGHTER AND MY HUSBAND ABANDONED ME
It was Pablo, and he threw his arms around me crying "Aunt Maria! You're ok! Thank God! I was so worried!"
"Pablo," I said, "I'm so sorry! I was in the hospital and I forgot to warn you. How are you? How's school?"
"I'm fine, I'm close to graduating, I'll be a qualified programmer soon! But why were you in hospital," he asked.
I started to cry at the concern and tenderness in his voice. "I'm all right now, but it was cancer...I'm all alone, Pablo, I need you."
"Alone? But where is Uncle Miguel?" he asked, aghast.
"He's gone, Pablo, He left me, so did Luisa. They threw me away." I couldn't stop crying.
"Please don't cry, Aunt Maria, I will never leave you. I'll take care of you, please don't cry."
MY COMFORT IS MY NEW FAMILY
In a few days, my life changed completely. My Pablo moved in with me and took care of me until I recovered my full strength. The gentle boy who grew up in an orphanage had a generous heart, and a strong sense of family - unlike my spoiled daughter, Luisa.
That was quite a few years ago. Pablo finished his studies and he has a great job. He has been my comfort and his strength. My sweet nephew cares for me like a loving son, and even pays for my assisted living facility.
I have my sister Caterina to thank for my happiness. Sometimes when Pablo brings his wife and his children to visit, I try to imagine what my life would be like without him - empty and lonely.
The son that Caterina threw away has become the child of my heart and the comfort of my old age.
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