“Use it or lose it.”
That was the quandary we had at the beginning of December 2022. Back in 2020, we were invited to attend the wedding of Amit, the son of my cousin Anand. The wedding was in June so we made a reservation on United Airlines for a flight from Washington Dallas airport to Los Angeles. Then the pandemic struck. In the beginning, things were not clear as to what was happening and what were we supposed to do. We were debating whether to make the trip. We finally decided not to go to be on the safe side. Well and good, but what was to happen to our booked flight? A month or so later we received a letter from United Airline that because of circumstances the airline will hold the amount we had paid for the trip as a credit to our account. Initially, the credit was good for two years, but later the airline extended it to the end of 2022.
It was a matter of more than $1,000. We had just returned from a cruise at the end of October. Was it too early to take another trip? One Sunday afternoon as we sat in our living room watching TV, I said to Bharati that we would definitely not going to feel good about losing a thousand bucks. I suggested that we take a short trip to a warm location and make it a budget trip. I scanned the offers on the United Vacations website and came up with the idea to go to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It would cost us about $3,000 after the travel discount, but we will get the satisfaction of not losing the money we had in our account.
That’s how we ended up at the Be Live Collection all-inclusive resort. It was not one of those fancy five-star resorts, but it was good enough. The best part was that everything was at close walking distance. That is what we wanted. We were not interested in going on any excursions. We just wanted to relax. And this place was perfect for that. Every day the temperatures reached into mid eighty degrees Fahrenheit. We practically did nothing, I mean nothing, for three whole days. Every day after breakfast we walked around enjoying the facilities. The resort had two sections, an adult-only section, and a family section. All the action was at the family section. It was so relaxing to just sit on a chair, feeling the breeze, drinking beer, and talking. We were happy that there were visitors, most of them from Canada, so friendly. A couple of times we walked along the beach, soaking our feet in the water.
One day, as we were having lunch at the bar restaurant by the adult pool, Bharati said something that was on my mind.
“You should call Rene and tell him we are in his country,” she said.
“I was thinking the same,” I replied. “But, would he remember us? I mean we have not been in touch for a long time and further, we have moved away from Fairfax.”
Rene is a handyman we had used many times when we lived in our Fairfax, Virginia home. He is from the Dominican Republic. He said whenever he was not busy, he takes a flight to his home country and stays in his house for a few days. Once he even said we could visit the Dominican Republic and stay in his house. He talked about his teenage daughter who was growing up in America and did not want to speak Spanish. Rene was divorced and was not interested in marrying again.
He was glad that I was practicing Spanish and he would speak to me in Spanish. He did everything for us, from installing a hardwood floor in the upstairs gallery to painting the house both exterior and interior, and repairing our wooden deck. He must have liked us because sometimes he would just stop by unannounced to know if we needed anything to be done. The only problem with him was that we had to buy the materials and pay him for labor. Sometimes he would order more than needed and there was a waste. But he was a nice guy and we liked him.
We celebrated New Year’s Eve at Punta Cana watching the fireworks on the beach. The next day we returned home. We forgot about Rene.
A week later when we had just finished our lunch our phone rang. The caller id announced a name.
“Call from Rene R.”
“Call from Rene R.”
I am omitting his last name to keep his privacy.
“What?” I said. “Is it our Rene?”
I picked up the phone immediately.
“Hola amigo,” Rene said in his gruff voice. It was him. Our Rene that we had remembered just a week ago. How in the world did he know that we were thinking of him?
“Felize AñoNuevo.” (Happy New Year)
I wished him the same. I told him that we were in Punta Cana in his country and wanted to call him.
“Did you go to the beach to watch the girls?” He asked jokingly.
“What to see them in thong bikinis?”
He started laughing. I informed him that we have moved from Fairfax and are more than an hour away.
“I know, I know,” he said. “When I am driving to New York I think of you guys when I am crossing Baltimore. It’s okay. I just wanted to wish you Happy New Year. Let me know if you need anything in the future.”
I said we will. We kept wondering how did this happen? How did he know we wanted to talk to him a week ago?