After arriving to Marco Island, a new place we would soon discover was our family's paradise, the typical tourist wondering began. We have always been a family known for the love we have towards sports, so our first stop was at the Marco Island Racquet Center. This was a very local place with very few tourists; they had the regular summer camp program for my brother, myself, and other children. When it came to my dad’s choice there wasn’t much; they told him to come the next day, and they would have a partner for him to play with.
While we drove there the next morning we started speculating about who the partner might look like, and when we got there the famous partner was waiting on a chair. Without knowing he was the guy that my father would play with he caught all of our attention. He was particularly different from everyone we had seen in that place; he had dark skin tone, was very thin, old, and spoke with a unique accent that I wasn’t able to recognize.
“Jouakin”, he said.
He recognized my dad immediately; after all, we were the only ones who weren't gringos or looked like we were. Everyone in the place knew my dad as Jack because Joaquin was to hard to pronounce but he didn’t hesitate to try.
“My name is Ali he said, I will be playing with you today”.
My brother and I left to start the camp and my father went to play with Ali. When the camp finished we went back to our house and while we had lunch my dad couldn’t stop talking about Ali. He said his life story was really inspirational, so my mom interrupted him and told him she wanted to meet Ali and invite him to have dinner with us.
Two days later at 7pm sharp our doorbell rang, It was Ali with a bag of mangos, ready for the dinner. We sat on the table and the first thing my mom said was:
“Ali, we want to know about your life, how did you end up here?”
And the most amazing and inspirational story I have ever heard on my entire life began.
“Calcutta” he said seriously and paused,“I was 18 years old when a civil war began, and I lived in a very poor family in a house that didn't even have a bathroom. I didn't want that for me; I was craving education; and so I ran away. After 5 days of walking, I arrived to another city and started looking for a guy that would help me find what I was looking for. He told me there were giving out two scholarships one to the U.K and one to U.S, so I applied.”
In between millions of Indians who applied Ali, won both. This guy kept surprising me more and more every time he talked.
We started eating some appetizers for our dinner while Ali continued his story, he gave away some important details of what he did till the day he got married. From that day on his life would change forever, without him knowing. After 20 years of marriage to a U.S citizen, his wife started to encounter some health issues who gave a 360 degree turn to their relationship and their everyday.
“Dinners ready” my mom said.
As another plate was set on the table another story began.
“My wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. I was a professor at a university but I knew after finding out about her illness I would soon find myself quitting.
I’m not a quitter, I wasn’t going to stop working; on the contrary, I was about to take on the most challenging job a man could ever have. It began with research because if you ever want to be successful, you must study and explore. I spend days and nights reading thousands of articles, testimonies and more about the horrible disease that was eating away my wife's brain.”
Ali took a sip of water, we could see how refreshing it was, he hadn't stopped talking. It was like a metaphor because on the next part of the story he felt as if he was about to dry but a bucket full of ideas refreshed his mind as well.
“Finally I had a plan.” Ali continued
“My wife started forgetting things and behaving strange. The doctors said she would soon become aggressive. It's common on people with these disease to feel desperate, and angry with their situation. My only goal was to cause the opposite of what was expected; I would never make her feel crazy, sad, or angry.
She didn’t just forget things, she did things, she wouldn't do if she wasn’t sick. The first “strange behavior” she had was the one I remember the most. We ate, washed our teeth, put our pajamas and went to bed. I was sleeping when at 3 in the morning she woke up:
“I must wash my teeth, I need to get ready for work” she said
“I got out of bed, went to the bathroom, got both of our toothbrushes and we started brushing our teeth.
Afterwards I took out the clothes she wanted to wear and helped her get a shower.” Ali said.
We were so into the conversation that we didn’t notice we had already finished eating and it was dessert time. After all we had already filled our bodies with salty food, and now we needed to end the dinner with the last plate, the last part of the story. We knew it needed to be sweet. While we ate, Ali finished what he began:
“She didn’t have to work; it was just alzheimers bothering and playing with her. I wasn’t gonna let that happened so I made her feel as if she had the power and control of her own life like she had always done. After all I discovered that was the key to making her live the last years of her life as she deserved.
As everything starts, everything finishes. After some time my beautiful wife died, and the most challenging job I took came to an end. Even though letting her go was hard, I was left with the satisfaction of achieving what I always wanted. I came to understand all of those years of work summed up to a psychology career; It strengthen my patience, developed character, and made me appreciate what I loved the most.”
We finished dinner and Ali said goodbye. That night I went to bed and couldn’t stop thinking about him. It was incredible how this guy took advantage of every single opportunity that appeared in his life and got incredible outcomes out of it. I understood that I had never seen a man so interesting as him, and it was his life story that would inspire many to dream and achieve.