These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Friday, October 19, 2007


times are tough these days. news from texas isn't good about my dad.

i knew this time was near but didn't know how to approach it. and i guess it was taken out of my hands and done for me. it's probably for the best, anyway.

earlier this week i received a phone call from my sister. she said that the doctor told mom and dad it was a good idea that the family be there for the holidays, meaning christmas, if possible. two of us live at the ranch and not a problem. i am the one who's far away. the doctor was adament that we all be together. i hadn't planned on going for christmas, and would gladly not go if it meant things were better.

so after talking to my supervisor, it was agreed. i got the ok, for which i was grateful.

then linda called wednesday morning. she called early. it's unusual for her. i knew it probably wasn't good. sure enough.

hospice told mom that it was best if we all gathered for thanksgiving instead of christmas. we all took it to mean christmas might be too late or things may advance to a point where...

so i went back to work again and explained and it looks like it's worked out to go.

there is no pleasure out of this. i am glad to be spending time with my family, see my precious nieces and nephew again (i miss them), but the way it looks, it's the last time i'll see my father alive.

i thought about that this past week. i thought about it hard. i visualized myself hugging my dad, giving him a kiss on the forehead or holding his hand, staring into his eyes, breathing the same air he has breathed ... and knowing it will be the last time for any of those things.

who do you deal with something like that? sometimes you don't know when you'll see someone for the last time. sometimes you may lose someone, or never see a friend again through a falling out or whatever. but when you know for a fact, or just about, that it is the final time you will lay your eyes on that person, i just don't know.

there is no easy way to do it, i guess. i will not even imagine what it will be like. why go through it now.

so many things run through my mind as i write this. for the past few weeks i've had a heavy heart, mind distracted and so forth. things make me on edge. and thoughts go back to my dad.

i haven't talked to him in about two weeks. i know as time passes, he and i talk less and less. to me that's the surest sign he's getting worse. even a year or so again, we talked about two to three times a week. now, that's become onece every two weeks. still, i don't push to talk to him. i know when he wants to talk, mom will put him on the phone. if she says nothing, then i leave it alone.

and so i've been thinking of my dad and things we did, we said, saw or experienced.

he's a lifetime rancher. he never went to college, but if there was a degree in ranching, he'd deserve it. he knows so much and it was only through experience that he did things.

because of my dad:
1) i helped build many barb-wire fences, in the hot summer or the nasty winter.
2) fixed many a windmills. MANY a windmill
3) helped deliver baby calves a few times when the mother cow couldn't deliver on her own
4) went out on the fields to pick up hay bales until my shirt was perspired through and i had chaf and hay dust itching on my skin
5) helped round up cattle in corrals, avoided getting gored or stepped on
6) branded calfs and cows and even helped castrate a young bull
7) pick corn that he planted in the acre behind the house
8) helped pull off beans from the vines the yar he decided to plant beans (and we ran into small bird nests on the ground)
9) cleared away many a mesquite tree or a cactus
10) helped build a hay shed (that still stands today) after the old one got flattened by a twister
11)helped clip the horns of cows and bulls when they needed it
12) fed baby calves with a bottle when their mothers didn't let them suck from them

those are things we did together or things he helped me do or we did together. some of them i didn't really like doing, but i did them. there was one time we laid down about a mile of pvc pipe from a well to a motor pump. it was summer and it was hot and humid. there was a stretch where the trees blocked any wind and the heat hit you like a brick wall. it was excruciating and one of the most uncomfortable things i ever did. but i look back on it with fondness.

my dad taught me to like norteno music, especially lost tigres del norte. his love of corridos allowed me to delve into that music and listen to it. now i wish i could have done that at a much younger age so we could have enjoyed it together. a silly wish i had these past few years involved a serenade of a few songs from los tigres there at the ranch. only a few songs. it would have made him smile to see the hernandez brothers play.

and about my dad? i've said it before. he is probably the kindest person i know, very soft-spoken and reserved and never complained. he always managed to have that little extra for us when we needed it. we never went without. we were poor, but we never went without.

i owe him a lot, too. in some ways, he helped me get through college. he drove me without complaint to college when i hadn o ride. he'd wait patiently at night when i had night classes, even though he'd get off work at 5.

he was a hard worker. his face, lined from years out in the sun and his hands, toughened by decades of working at the ranch are signs of this.

i know i've done my dad proud. i get an education, i'm writing (if for a newspaper) and i live away doing my own thing. but in some many ways, despite what i have accomplished and hope to continue to accomplish, i could only be a tenth of who my dad is. i am more proud of him than he could ever imagine or understand.

i love you pops. know that. i love you, my dear father. i miss you know and how hard it will be when i miss you then.


Anonymous Bobby said...

Roel- It's Bobby your cousin. I saw your dad today (10-20), he was sitting right at the front door, watching Noel and his father in law build a ramp for him. It was so hard too see Tio Robert sitting there, helpless and not being able to get up and participate in the daily project. I pray for you all, it was so hard when we lost my dad two years ago on the 16th of Oct. But we all have to realize things are changing and we are losing our family little by little, but others are being born to carry on for us all. Hope to see you you and stay in touch.

9:55 PM

Anonymous Brooke said...

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Take care, Roel.

9:27 PM

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