Monday, December 17, 2007

A Tribute to Joe M. Martinez

My grandfather, my mother’s father, showered me with unconditional love from the day I was born. His wife, my grandmother, had died one month prior to my birth, and I suppose I was in part, a rebirth, a resurgence in life, for him. When my biological father left, we moved in with Grandpy. That’s when I began to call him Daddy. He kept toys for us at his house even after we moved out and my mom remarried. He made me try habanera chilies, saying I wasn’t his granddaughter if I didn’t at least take a bite. That was unacceptable, so I of course I ate the chili. I did draw the line at rabbit and menuedo – he didn’t start me early enough on tripe soup. Grandpy made the best hamburgers, though. Throughout my childhood Grandpy lived in the best houses for hide and seek. He wore white short-sleeved button-down shirts, slicked his opulent black hair with Brilliantine, and smelled like Old Spice and Wrigley’s doublemint gum.

His feet glided across the floor without actually touching ground when he danced. I never knew that many of the times I danced with Grandpy he was letting me lead. He called just to say I love you. He never forgot a birthday. When I was a teenager and fighting with my mother tooth and nails, Grandpy always had my back. If she started name calling or threatening to hit me, I ran to my room, barricaded my door, scrambled under my bed, and called Grandpy crying. He’d calm me down and then after we hung up, I could hear my mother’s phone ring. And she would say, “Dad, all I said was…” Nothing is ever so sweet as the sound of your mother getting busted after she broke your heart.

But I was no angel. And still, he never withdrew his love, which is especially significant to me during my most demanding and frightening years. When I was nineteen I moved in with Grandpy and his relatively new wife Chris. I felt his unconditional love always. Even when I crashed and totaled three cars within a year and a half. Even when I stayed out all night. Even when I called him to drive down to Newport Beach because I had dropped my keys in the sand, stumbling from one bar to the next. Even when I wore his WWII Bomber Jacket to the bar, because I thought I looked hot in my “wife-beater” tank top, black tight jeans, and that leathered brown jacket. Never mind that he had worn that jacket as a bomber pilot during the 33 missions he captained. A regular Mexican Memphis Belle, my Grandpy. He growled at you rather than yelled when he was disappointed. It was the worst thing in the world to disappoint Grandpy.

When I lived with Grandpy and Chris they were my safety net. They read their Louie L’mour books next to a crackling fire, drank Early Times and water, played with their dogs, fed the chickens and collected their eggs, tended the horses, and grew random tomato plants, which they fed to the chickens. Late at night Grandpy would swallow a teaspoon of baking soda to settle his stomach and every morning he stretched for fifteen minutes. He was the constant in my life of turmoil. Grandpy’s love kept me alive and after two years, I finally straightened out.

After his passing on December 6, 2007, I dreamed of him at this age. I knew his death was coming, even though at eighty-three, he was still fourteen years younger than his father when he had died. In November 2005, an article appeared in the OC Register about my Wicca books. There were a few mentions about the word “witch.” Grandpy didn’t speak to me that Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t even look at me. I can’t describe how painful that was. It is the one incident of prejudice that I have directly encountered regarding my spirituality. That Christmas he growled at me, so we were on better terms, but never quite back on track. Several months later, he said he was mad and regretted that he hadn’t raised me in Catholic religion. I tried to explain that nature is my religion. Chris got me, but Grandpy didn’t. Last month I went to visit him and mentioned that there was a book I would like to give him. He said with contempt that he didn’t read anymore. The month prior, he fell down while dancing at my sister’s wedding. There were always deep bruises just under his skin because of his blood pressure, or something like that. He lost track of conversations in the end.

However, the Grandpy I remember most is the one who has instilled in me a great love and appreciation for myself. This unconditional love that he carried for me, now lives in me. I cannot imagine living a life less grand than anything he would want for me. What a gift. To have been loved so deeply that you can feel the love living in you even after the one who gave it to you has passed on.

At his very Catholic vigil and rosary, I placed in his casket a Goddess necklace my mother bought for me years ago. I love this necklace. I’m not sure what this symbolic gesture means, only something related to the fact that I am merging and incorporating his beliefs and loves into my own, and hoping this can be a symbiotic act. That we can let go of the obstacles that bar the bridge to each other’s hearts.

I love you Grandpy.

1 comment:

Gritzy said...

What a beautiful and gracious tribute. I am sure your Grandpy is so very proufd of you!!