Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Tios' 60th Wedding Anniversary

Photo: Tia Goya, Tio Lolo, Mom (Mary Oropeza)

Note: I promise to post later this week about our Mexico vacation!

This past Saturday night we celebrated my tios’ (aunt and uncle) 60th wedding anniversary. My Tio Lolo (Richard) is my mom’s youngest brother; in a family of 9 (I believe it was 9?), he and my mom were the youngest and were always very close. He and my Tia Goya (Georgia) have 9 children so family visits to their house when we were kids were always a kid-filled, kid-fun blast.

Being Oropezas, visits bubbled over with lively laughter and loving teasing, filled with extended family and friends. Great food would be cooking on the grill and in the kitchen, and the get-on-your-feet music would spawn a bit of singing and dancing. Saying goodbye when we’d visit them would take at least an hour with the conversation continuing on and on as the family walked us out to the car and everyone kept on talking and laughing and wishing us a safe drive.

Saturday night was another wonderful Oropeza party and for an especially momentous occasion as we celebrated my tios’ 60th anniversary. I saw Oropeza cousins that I hadn’t seen in a long time, except perhaps at the funerals that we’ve had too many of this past year or so. Much better to gather for a happier occasion this time. A great celebration of love and commitment.

My Dad has always said that Tio Lolo is his hero. He’s always admired how hard my tio worked for his family, carrying two jobs despite a very serious war injury (he lost a leg to a land mine in Korea), playing sports with his kids, barbequing on Sundays. Dad’s always felt that Tio is a singular example of a good man.

My Tia provided child care (yes, even with 9 of her own) and all those kids and their families became extended family to them. I think everyone in Oxnard knows and loves the Oropezas!

Photo: Oropeza cousins

I feel so at home when I’m with my mother’s people. It was a wonderful party. Happy 60th, Tia and Tio!


PS. As I prepared to leave, I said my goodbyes to my tios and headed toward the door. Half an hour later, I was still there, talking to cousins, as my tio passed by and smiled as he said “Still here? I thought you were leaving an hour ago!” Some things don’t change.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dad and Daughter

There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. ~John Gregory Brown

Pic above: Dad's high school graduation portrait. He and the other boys in his graduating class each borrowed the photographer's jacket and tie for their portraits.

I spent a wonderful Friday afternoon at my Dad's house, just talking and being together (along with his wife), catching up on things, sharing memories, being present to one another. I count myself enormously blessed to still have him with us. He was born in 1929 and will be 80 this year. Mom crossed over in 1990, and we all miss her so much; I can't even think of Dad's crossing over without tearing up. I pray he lives many more years; he's had a couple of strokes, which have affected his memory, and as he says, he "can't hear worth a darn." He's been recently diagnosed with depression, probably because of his wife's own health challenges. He mourned so deeply when Mom crossed over and I'm sure he doesn't want to go through it again.

Pic above: Dad about 20 yrs. old

He's always been my hero, my champion, the most hard-working man I've ever known. He always worked two jobs throughout my childhood, rising very early, coming home very late, stopping home for a quick dinner between jobs. I had ballet lessons and piano lessons, one brother had trumpet lessons and a beautiful Besson trumpet, another brother played sports, paid for by Dad's long hours to ensure his family had what we needed to excel in life.

Pic above: Dad's ship, the USS Ernest G. Small. My youngest brother is named for the ship.

Dad's a quiet man with a wicked sense of humor and a multitude of catchphrases that always make me smile. My cousin Patsy's told me that when thinks of him, she always remembers his sayings, like "she looks like 40 miles of bad road."

His mom was half Apache and people can see the Native American in him. I asked him yesterday what his father was; "Good for nothing", he said, and left it at that. His father was an abusive man who did some pretty horrible things to all in the family. I think Dad's quiet strength comes as a result of a very hard childhood.

Pic above: Dad's Navy portrait

He loved being in the Navy, he's told me, and loved to be out at sea, away from everyone. I'm so much like him in that way, very comfortable in my own company, not one for big crowds and commotion, very calm and peaceful. I once painted an oil painting for him of a flowing river, because that's what he reminds me of: a smoothly flowing river, constant and calming.

Pic above: Some of Dad's medals and a letter from the Korean government commemorating his service in the Korean War.

As the only daughter, Dad may have spoiled me just a bit. For every ballet performance, he always brought me pink roses. When Mom would get frustrated with trying to teach me to cook or crochet or sew, she'd send me outside with a terse "Go outside and help your father!" My love of gardening developed because of him; I could spend hours digging in the dirt with him. Sweetpeas are my favorite flower because of the abundance of vines he grew against the chainlink fence in the backyard.

My Dad's my hero, my champion; a man of strong integrity, polite manners, a good, noble heart, kindness and gentleness, strong faith. I'm proud of him, and I adore and love him with all my heart.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Back from Mexico!

We returned from Mexico very late Saturday (6/13). What a wonderful time! The people, the culture, the language, the sights - I'm in love with Mexico! Of course, being on vacation in a beautiful resort helps, too. I'm ready to go back!

I've tried to carve out time this week to post about the trip, but it's just been busy-busy since we came home. Reconciling the expenses, receipts, Visa charges and all the foreign transaction fees, converting from dollars to pesos and pesos to dollars - whew! Pics are uploaded from the camera; now I just have to edit, name and file them and then write a post or two about the trip. I'll be back!

Pic above: Just a shot of the Caribbean from a cozy little hammock in a deserted area of Xel-Ha. All by myself, just me and the sea. aaaaaahhhhh ...

Friday, June 5, 2009


I'm just posting a quick note because I'm leaving tomorrow on vacation! I'm taking my daughter's family (daughter, son-in-law, two granddaughters) to Cancun. I'd taken my daughter there for her high school graduation and we absolutely loved it. Last year, I saved and saved and saved and saved my money and then around Christmas, I told my daughter and family that I wanted to take them to Cancun on vacation!

We found good airfare and we got a great deal on our hotel. My daughter and son-in-law had timeshare points that they had to redeem so we used them toward our hotel and as a result we're staying at a beautiful resort, in a 2bd suite with a kitchenette, living room, dining area, and a balcony with a cooling pool right on the deck. Sweet! It really saved us a lot of money and the pics of the resort look awesome.

We're planning on taking a couple of excursions: Tulum (Mayan ruins) and Xcaret (an eco park), places my daughter and I visited last time. Xcaret has these amazing underground rivers that you float through and can use snorkeling equipment to view the fish below.

Anyone who knows me and my love of dance won't be surprised to learn that one of my favorite parts of our trip last time was watching the dancing. Oh my! It seems like there was dancing everywhere we went. Beautiful, colorful costumes, passionate dancers, brilliant performances. One of my favorite traditional dances is what I called the Old Man Dance, with the dancers hobbling around with canes and imitating old men who were still trying to dance on their unsteady feet.

I think my favorite part of this trip, though, is just knowing the excitement and enjoyment I'll be seeing and sharing with my family. It just adds so much to the excitement I already feel. I can imagine my granddaughters snorkeling underground, watching the flashing feet of the dancers, seeing the ancient ruins ...

I'd best get back to packing! This is the first time I've used a passport; I obviously don't get to travel much. It just costs so much, but I really pinched my pennies the past year or so just so we could do this. I'm so very excited!

See you in a week!