An Unfiltered Mind
As long as I can remember I have always been a person with more questions than answers. This is the main reason why I have never in my life been able to stay with one belief for too long, I can remember very distinctly as a child always asking “Why?” Why do the clouds move? Why is my skin brown? Why are people mean? Why do we become happy? Where did we all come from?
I was always very curious and at times I would think myself odd for thinking too deeply in everything. Growing up in Southwest Texas was a great experience for me. Even though I didn’t know it then, my family lived very modestly, but like I said, we never noticed because in the town we lived in, nearly everybody dealt with the same. I had always assumed my parents loved each other even though they would fight often. My father had always been a loner. He never really had a childhood, being the oldest boy in a family of five children, he was forced to become the man of the house at a young age when his father decided to run off. I can only imagine the burden that this puts on a young mind. Eventually, years later his father would return and with his return would come the years of overcompensating “ fatherly discipline” . He worked the majority of his life already though only being in his late teens. A short time after he returned from Vietnam he met and married my mother and had my siblings and I. I don’t think he ever got the hang of being a family man, being married and being looked up to by his children. My father took a lot of comfort in drinking because of this. Again, this was something I would only realise years later.
My childhood was good for as much as I can remember. My family rented a decent sized house from the man next door. It was a three bedroom ranch home with a big yard- mostly dirt of course, we were in southwest Texas, remember? The house was modest but I loved it there, I even drive by it from time to time when I go back to visit my family. I’ll park across the street and sit there and stare at it for a couple minutes. I think what I remember most about growing up in Texas is the things we had there that we do not have here in Northwest Indiana. The fruit trees; to me, this is Texas. Everywhere were fruit trees. The house across the street had “ Nopales ( Cactus) That my mother would use as ointment sometimes. My school had banana trees growing in the courtyard and within my yard alone, we had a Lime tree in the front yard, an Orange tree in the back yard and a pomegranate tree along the fence to the south. I remember climbing the trees and picking the fruit from their branches. I miss doing this.
I do miss the desert.
The weather was beautiful the majority of the year so we spent a lot of time outdoors and even though this was around the time of the birth of MTV and Nintendo, both were a little out of our price range so I along with my siblings spent most of our time outside. Taking a drive anywhere out of our "then" small town would result in miles and miles of open range. One could see forever looking into the desert. Cactus, dirt and sky would be all you could see. If I close my eyes I can see the scene well. I can feel the heat of the desert sun. I can smell the dry dark dirt, the color of my skin. I can feel the constant warm and steady winds that blow from the south brushing my face and I can see well the bluest skies one will ever see housing the waves of the whitest and fluffiest clouds , easily visible rolling in for miles and miles along the range. With my eyes closed tight I can breathe in the fragrance of the rain that doesn't fall often but when it does it creates a serenity that I will never be able to replicate again.
I loved the outdoors and since we didn't have too much that kept us indoors; except our mid-day naps which my mother meticulously made us take, conveniently around the time of afternoon cartoons, we were usually outside doing things. My father, hoping to make more of an impact on us than his father did , made sure we were always involved with sports so my two older brothers and I were always involved in baseball. From the time I was 6 years old, I have always been enrolled in one sport or another but in my elementary ages I never really enjoyed it much. I played when it was required of me but was never quick to partake in sandlot games when the season was over...that is unless my brothers forced me to- which was always. I was usually more entertained by my imagination. I would usually wander off on some adventure or play with the few hand me down toys we had. Sometimes I would just sit and observe the ants or build things out of twigs and branches or whatever was laying around. Once I made a drum set in the front yard out of a dismantled clothe dryer- I don’t think the neighbors liked me much for that week, especially because of my habit for waking up with the sun.
My brothers and I would meet up with our friends and play home run derby when we had nothing better to do. They were both always so much better than me at baseball and I think I would usually withdraw from those group outings because I felt I could never match their skills and feared they would look down on me because of it.
As I said, I had a habit of waking up with the sun. If I didn’t wake up on my own the rooster we had would jump onto a broken window seal in the living room and begin to crow. That would usually get me up. I would go outside and watch the sunrise while everybody was still asleep. On Sundays I would wake up to the music of the oldies. My father would always be awake and would be recording that great music onto cassette tapes. Only on sundays would the stations in my hometown play the oldies, every other day was a mix of pop and country on the english stations and mostly spanish music on all the others. It was those Sundays and that music that would stay with me until adulthood. The Rock and Roll and Motown of the 50s and 60s are probably my favorite music to listen to.
After spending the days playing baseball or going to the lake for some fishing or chasing and catching chameleons, the night would come and my siblings along with the neighborhood kids would meet on our block and we would play under the bright stars. My siblings and I had a great bunch of friends and I can still remember their names and face as if I still talked to them now. Ted, Marcos, Abel, Junior, Gabby, Rosalva, BJ. I remember them all. Anyway, My father would invite his softball buddies over and have a cookout where they would grill and drink for hours while the kids caught fireflies and played hide and seek in the dark. I would sneak my first few drinks of my dad's beers when he was not looking.
I had always looked up to my father. To me, he was my hero and could do no wrong. I’m sure this is natural being an 8 year old boy. Even though as I grew up he and I would grow apart and I would lose all concepts of heros because of it, I hold one memory dearly. I was about eight years old and had a night baseball game at the Optimus field, uptown. My brothers had games at the opposite end of the town the same night so my mother would drop me and my father off at my game and she and my baby sister went with my brothers to theirs and return to pick us up after. Unfortunately, my brothers game would run late and my game had come and gone and the field lights were turned off. In the desert, night time can become pitch black and being in a dark field so close to the Rio Grande was not a good idea. I took my father by the hand and he walked us down a long dark road to the main road. I remember being hungry and my father digging into his pockets and found some change which he used to buy some cheap pastry. Being that this was still a time before mobile phones, we had no choice but to begin walking towards home and hope my mother would find us on her way to the park after my brothers game, which she eventually did. I’m not sure why this memory stuck with me so long but if I was to take a guess, it’s because even though I remember walking through pitch darkness and through unfamiliar streets and even though I remember being far from home, I do not remember being afraid. My father was with me and he was Superman. The realization that my father was not only not superman but was also not the man I had hope he would be and the growing apart that we did during my teenage years when he was at his worst, was one of the most painful experiences of my life and the pain it causes me when I would think of my once hero still, to this day makes me keep my distance from him and brings me anxiety when I think of the possibility of my two sons one day experiencing this pain…… I only hope to one day reconcile these feeling before it is too late.
Growing up in Texas was such a unique experience for me. Our house was small but for us kids It didn’t feel small. My parents had their room, my sister had her room and my two brothers and I would share a room. On real hot days , All my siblings would drag our mattresses to the living room and we would all sleep there in front of the fan. We had a very old school air conditioner, the kind that was the size of a small room and sat outside the window. I’m sure it used to work decades earlier but that did us no good at that time, in fact it wasn’t really good for anything other than taking up space in yard, being a birthing place for stray cats and so our rooster could climb up on it and onto the broken window to crow at sun up. Yes, the same rooster that used to wake me - we had a couple of hens as well. We would eat eggs right out the chickens ass, so to speak. On those same hot days, My brothers and i would go fishing at Lake Casa Blanca. One way or another, we would manage to find a ride there. These were the days before it became a state park so there- one can fish without throves of people around. We had our favorite spots and would sometimes fish from one of its four piers. I remember My brothers and friends jumping off the pier without a fear in the world. I was usually a bit more hesitant but if my brothers could do it, so could I and I always found the courage to do it- that is until I realised there were snakes and snapping turtles in there. That was probably the last time.
Every so often my family would go visit my uncle and my grandmother, who also lived near us. I loved my grandmother but were always separated by language. Even though my mother was a native Mexican and my parents did speak spanish to each other, we were raised speaking mostly english. We spent our usual time in school learning spanish and we did know how to communicate well enough but it was never really well enough to really get to know her, she not speaking a word of english. My grandfather passed away when I was about two years old from a car accident. I had always heard great thing about him. I had a very distant memory of him when I was younger but I lost it in my adulthood. I very much wish I could have been closer to him. I really do think he is where my mother found her courage from. She is such a strong woman and one of the kindest I have ever known. Her family was very traditional and my grandfather worked very hard to make a good life for them. My mother in her youth was very religious and very restrained and very beautiful. She had never really known what it was like to live “ on the wrong side of the tracks” , which is what I think the allure was to my father. He was a trouble maker of sorts but was a very smart, strong and handsome man. My mother had nothing but love for her children and always managed to make a home for us, even at times when we didn’t have much. She would always make sure we were fed, loved and ignorant to our financial struggle as well as my parents domestic struggles. In our eyes, my parents loved each other very much and those times I would not realise were serious arguments until many years laters would remain a clouded mystery, at least for a while longer. I love my mother very much and her genuine love for me and my siblings would cause guilt in me for many years, even now, I think it is because of this guilt I sometimes keep my distance from her. It’s a horrible reason, I know but I have always felt that it was her love for us that kept her in a marriage that should have ended years before it actually did. I feel guilt that she had to endure the emotional pain she did because of us, because of me and every time I speak to her and see her, this guilt is relived. I love my mother and I miss her every day and even though I want to say “I’m sorry” to her so badly, I don’t. I don’t think she would understand my need to say it; so as usual, I tell her I love her dearly and I’ll be down soon to see her. I will. Soon.
In the fall of 1990 My family would leave Texas in search of a better life, My parents say the move was to improve our education and to expand our life experiences. My oldest brother says it was my parents last efforts to keep their marriage together. To me, it was the end of my childhood and the beginning of an life altering and emotional rollercoaster. I would grow up and continue my journey of curiosity and knowledge. My parents would eventually divorce after we were all graduated and my mother would move back to Texas with my little sister. My oldest brother would join them years later. I see my father from time to time and though I still have anger inside me towards him, I restrain it in hopes to one day relinquish my fires. I met and married my wife and had two sons. They are my world and though I have deep anxiety when I think of being a father and husband, I do my best to be their hero and pray to the creator that they will always see me that way. I still live in the Midwest now and I visit home from time to time and every time I am there it’s bittersweet. My visits back have become more and more scarce. I realize now it’s because I can never go back to that home. That home only exists now in reverie and no matter how many times i go there, it will never be My Texas again.