Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Isidro Files: Volume 2

Abuelito and Abuelita had an interesting relationship to begin with and it became more so when he proposed. Our family tree, as many do, rather goes in circles. It has only been in the last century or so and in only in some areas of the globe that relatives marrying has gained a bad reputation but if you look at the greatest prophets in the Bible, first cousins have married for as long as the earth has stood.

To explain their relationship we have to go a couple of generations back to a couple named Rafaela and Sipriano LaMadrid. Rafaela had two daughters, the older named Guadalupe and the younger Juliana. Guadalupe’s oldest daughter was Maria, Abuelito’s mother. Juliana’s youngest daughter was Abuelita. They are not direct first cousins, but there is a definite blood connection between them. And if that worries you, look at people like Alex Hunt and my brother Joe who are known for their intelligence and devotion to learning. I don’t think it hurt us too much. Incidentally, Rafaela and Sipriano were also related.

The marriage between our grandparents may never have been an issue since Abuelito’s family did not think the lady of his choice was half good enough for him. He was hardworking and down to earth and they saw Abuelita as something of an uptown girl and they ensured that both Manuel and Catalina knew that this union would not receive approbation. But our Duarte blood runs hot my friends, and Manuel continued to beg and pester Catalina to elope with him, since in that area and time, if a boy and girl disappeared together for a day or two they would be married. Period. If they ran away together, he figured, his family would have no choice but to accept her as his wife. Finally Catalina agreed to meet him one night when the moon was at a certain point in the sky. He waited outside her house with his mare, waiting to ride off with her in the dark. How romantic!

Our grandparents told this story to people together and laughed.

We left our hero waiting behind a tree in front of his lady fair’s house. Catalina was awake and knew it was time but decided instead to stand him up. When she didn’t come out, the mare got restless and started making noise. Catalina’s 6’4” brother Papa Prieto came to the door with a rifle and 140lb Manuel heard Catalina’s sister Tomasa yell that there was a thief in the barn stealing the corn. Manuel kept his eyes glued to the rifle and held the horse still.

The next morning Catalina came to Manuel’s house with a friend and found him slumped in a chair with his hat pulled over his eyes sipping coffee to try to stay awake. She sat in front of him and remarked that he looked tired. He said something to the effect of “shut up and get out of here.”

Later after his frustration had died down a bit he came to her and asked why she had stood him up. She responded that he needed to love her more than he cared what his family thought about her, and that she wasn’t going to marry him unless he did things the right way. She is a wise lady and has since then remarked that if she had done anything differently it would have been a very negative marriage.

I personally love to hear about Abuelito and all the kinds of work he did. I do not know that I know anyone who worked harder than him. In addition to the construction work he was doing up until he found out he had cancer, he spent quite some time living in the mountains when Abuelita and their kids lived in Agua Prieta chopping down yucca plants and binding them up for a company that paid him by the weight of the sheaves he gathered. During this time of his life he lived in caves, and some great stories and reflections come from those lonely nights in the mountains.

One night when he was again up in the mountains, chopping wood to sell in Agua Prieta he had loaded about 1.5 tons of wood in his one ton truck, which was old and had wheels held on by only two very old bolts each. In the dark of night and with only one headlight he started driving the mountain road, which was unpaved and tilted downward into a drop off with no guardrail toward the distant lights of Agua Prieta. As he headed up a steep hill he felt a jerk and realized that one of his wheels had lost a bolt and was wobbling back and forth held on now by only one.

He had never been a religious man in the sense that he never went to church and didn’t really know which church he would have believed anyway at the time but that night he started praying to the God he had come to know in the lonely nights in the cave and the lonely days without parents or siblings. He said essentially that he knew that there had to be a God up there somewhere, that his wife lit candles to the Virgin and Jesus, and if God was listening and would get him back home safely he would buy a candle to light in honor and gratitude for this God.

Hours later he finally pulled up to his yard and went inside his house. Abuelita handed him a cup of coffee and then heard a heart stopping thud from outside. She asked what that was and as he calmly sipped his coffee he responded that it was the truck and told her to buy a new candle the next morning and light it in honor of the miracle God had performed for him.