November is the month of Remembrance for our loved ones who have left behind their physical selves and have crossed over in their pure Spirit, no longer bound to the encumbrance of a body and it's physical needs. We are so temporary in this physical world; here for but a moment, really, and then free once again to return to our true Divine nature.
My mom grew up in a family of 10 kids: two girls, eight boys. On October 22, her brother - my uncle Alfred - crossed over, joining Mom and many of their siblings in Heaven. Some of my cousins called him Tio Freddy, but to my brothers and I he was Uncle Alfred.
To write of my memories of him, is to write about my memories of growing up in a family with loads of tios, tias (aunts and uncles) and cousins, cousins and more cousins. The Oropeza family and extended family is a loving, laughing, teasing, lively bunch and, although scattered widely, we gathered often when I was young. Weekends would find us headed up to LA or Oxnard, or out to Norco or wherever family was gathering. There were always new babies being born, baptisms to attend; as we grew older, there were weddings, then more babies and baptisms. I've tried to think of a way to convey how fun and funny and passionate our family is; I've tried to think of a TV show or movie to use as a comparison. But there is none. Laughing and teasing and joking with one another is as natural as breathing to this family, fully grounded in a strong family love, and in a liveliness and passion that fills most Latin families.
When they were young men, my tios were Zoot Suiters, and they carried that sense of style and poise with them after their Zoot Suit days were over. At more formal family gatherings, they'd all be elegantly dressed in very nice, well-cut suits, dark sunglasses, some with fedoras, their thick, glossy hair shining, their jewelry sparkling. Classy, my tios, very classy. It looked like a gathering of the Mafia, we'd laugh. I always thought they were like the Rat Pack (Dino, Sammy, et al) of the 50s, suave hipsters who could make a party happen by stepping into a room.
As a young girl, my mom used to go swing dancing with her brothers, winning dance contests in El Paso. She was a great dancer and her brothers were still her favorite partners as they all grew up and had families of their own. I loved to watch her dance with Uncle Alfred at our weddings and family anniversaries and other parties! They'd smile widely at each other, knowing how to move so smoothly together, dancing ever-changing patterns that kept all eyes on them. When Uncle Alfred retired from the Teamsters, there was a big party for him at a local hall. Someone videotaped him dancing with my mom at the party; I sure wish I had that tape, the two of them so natural together, with the same lightness they enjoyed in their youth.
When my Mom crossed over, he held me as I cried and told me "If you need anything .... anything ... I will be there for you." And I knew I could just ask, and he would be there for me. He and my mom were so close; in fact, she was supposed to go visit him and my tia that day that she crossed. She'd called him in the morning to let him know she and dad were coming later. That afternoon, I called him to tell him she wasn't. "No!" he said. "She called me just this morning. No ..." unbelieving, and making me cry even more as I had to convince him.
When my cousin called and gave me the news that Uncle Alfred had crossed over, I immediately got a sense that Mom was happy to finally greet him in Heaven, joining my tia and other tios and Oropeza family who are there. We'll miss him here and remember his deep, raspy laugh, his joking and the loving manner he had about him. I think he and Mom are already dancing ... smiling happily at one another once again.
Fire update: On Saturday, the 3000 evacuees from the Santiago Canyon fire were allowed to return to their homes. Many had been camping in an Albertson's grocery store parking lot during the two-week evacuation. The fire is not yet fully contained, still burning in places and the infrared shows a number of hot spots in the rugged terrain. But at this time it is not considered a threat to the homes. Full containment is expected by Tuesday. Thank you for your prayers through this.