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The Reactionary Utopian
November 13, 2008

by Joe Sobran

[My saintly sweetheart]

“Start talking!” she’d bark into the phone -- her teasing way of answering my own teasing accusation that she talked too much and domineered our conversations.

If anyone was ever young at heart, Patricia Alvarez was. Today, as I write, would have been her 56th birthday. She was born in Havana, which has just been assaulted by a tropical storm called Paloma (Spanish for dove), my own nickname for her. She laughed when I addressed her in deliberately fractured Spanish.

Her family, which also included her parents and her younger sisters Cecilia and Luisa, left Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, moved to Puerto Rico and then Florida. Patricia learned to speak near-flawless English with a barely detectible accent I noticed only because I knew her origins and was listening closely for it.

If you’ve seen her pictures, I needn’t bother raving about her looks. Her smile was sunshine, giving off both light and warmth. Even in those photos its sincerity is palpable.

Sometime in her twenties Patricia had a religious conversion, in that her Catholic faith became all-important to her. By the time I met her, in what turned out to be the last four years of her life, she was a daily communicant, spent hours praying each day, and had become active in Opus Dei.

Blessed are the meek. “Meek” properly means unassuming, not weak or timid. And Patricia’s unassuming piety never stopped her from giving you a piece of her mind, when she thought it warranted. I finally realized that what I had taken for politeness and sweetness was actually sanctity. But some people who resembled her more closely than I did saw it long before I did.

Twice engaged, she had never married. A pity, because she loved children, especially Cecilia’s, and she would have been a wonderful mother. She was delighted to hear that my own great-granddaughter Christina, barely three, could say “rosary” and identify pictures of Jesus, Mary, and Padre Pio.

She made her modest living as a secretary for the American Legion in Washington, and though she worked conscientiously, we used to joke about the Legion’s passionate cause: a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning. We agreed that the danger of a hippie coup d’etat in this country had receded and was pretty well defunct.

Last year I moved from the Washington area to Virginia Beach to be near my grandchildren (and great- granddaughter). It hurt, but i assumed Patricia and I would somehow live near each other again before long. But I saw her only once more in the last year of her life. I am hopelessly bad at choosing gifts, but she was deeply pleased, to my joy, when I gave her a scale-model onyx reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pieta. That matchless work of religious art might have been carved just for her.

We kept in touch with almost daily phone calls until she became too ill to converse. I had lost several friends to cancer, one earlier this year, but somehow I thought my Paloma would defeat it. She seemed so healthy: with no tobacco, very little wine, frequent workouts at the gym, Patricia kept her beautifully trim little figure and her slightly rocking gait. It was a pleasure just to watch her stride happily down the street. How could death claim her so early?

On the contrary, she was always fretting about my health. Was I taking my medications? Getting enough meat? Eating too much hummus? (Which is like asking if you’re pigging out on parsley!)

When, after her first operation, one small tumor turned out to be benign, I was lured by my relief into a false optimism. When, weeks later, she was rushed to the hospital in agony and another operation failed, the beast came back ravenously, and in what seemed an impossibly short time she was gone. She died at seven in the morning on election day, with Fran Griffin holding her hand.

It seems like only last week that we were laughing about the approaching elections and wondering whether Sarah Palin might help defeat Barack Obama. And in truth it was just a few weeks ago.

My dearest prayer now is that Christina will turn out like my beautiful little Cuban saint. And last night Christina said something to me that would have tickled Patricia. I trust she heard it in heaven.

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click on photos for larger view
Patricia & Joe

Patricia and Joe pose during the December 3, 2005 annual SOBRAN'S benefactors party. [Photo by Paul Haring]

Patricia, Bob Hale and Fran Griffin
Patricia (left) has a relaxing dinner with friends Bob Hale and Fran Griffin in Spring 2008.

Patricia, Joe
Patricia with Joe Sobran and Tom and Donna Bethell at the December 4, 2004 SOBRAN'S Charter Subscribers party on The Dandy. [Photo by Mark Young]

Mario Calabrese and Patricia
Mario Calabrese and Patricia enjoy a moment at a dinner sponsored by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation on August 20, 2006. [Photo by Kristin Kazyak]

Fran, Patricia and Joe
Patricia with Fran Griffin and Joe Sobran at the 2006 SOBRAN'S Charter Subscribers dinner. [Photo by Paul Haring]

Happy moment
Joe and Patricia, December 9, 2006 [Photo by Paul Haring]

a Happy time with Joe
Patricia shares a happy moment with Joe, 12/9/06. [Photo by Paul Haring]

Patricia adjusts Joe's tie
Patricia adjusts Joe's tie. [Photo by Paul Haring]

Waves good-by
Patricia waves good-bye. [Photo by Paul Haring]
@ 2023 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
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