And Death was his name….
--For those of you who aren’t familiar with the great writer, Piers Anthony, Google him and you will see his plethora of writing achievements.
My words today are going to cover a topic that I have had to deal with very much since this year of 2012 began- DEATH. I have sadly lost two new friends in January. Two people who made an impact in the lives of so many people who knew them. I want to say Rest In Peace to my friends COL. (U.S. Army retired) Alfred Earl Spry, whom I had the pleasure of hearing some very interesting tales of his adventures during the Viet Nam conflict and my friend and fellow gamer, John Barry, whom I had the honor of knowing for just a little close to 3 years. Both of these men left behind family and friends who love them dearly and who can attest to the many great things these two men did in their lives. Feel free to Google Col. Spry. He was a published author of military related materials and topics and from what I have been told he was an amazing tactician.
In February I lost a truly amazing woman in my life, my Mom Ida. Mrs. Ida Cantrell was in fact the grandmother to two brothers, my friends Alex and John. These two boys became friends of mine sometime in late 1989 and we will be friends until our spirits leave this earth. I started calling Ida “Mom” since the first day I met her and she has been that and so much more to this young boy who became a young man in her life. We kept in touch for more than 20 years of our lives and each day I was able to spend with her was truly a taste of heaven. I cried for her and with her when she lost Pop, nearly a decade ago, because I knew how much they loved each other. Mom Ida saw my kids grow up from little rascals to the big monsters they are now (just kidding, I have good kids). She saw my son CJ when he was a babe and I showed her photos of the young man of 20 he is now. All my girls and CJ called her Grandma Ida because I taught them to love and respect her as I did from the day I met this amazing woman. We spoke about her life and mine so many times, both in person and on the phone and those moments will forever be in my heart and mind. I know the power of a phone call because of how happy she sounded every time I would call her and see how she was doing. She is loved by many and always will be…R.I.P. Mom.
Then we come to a tough subject for so many, the world over---suicide. My first encounter with suicide was during my first tour of duty at Fort Stewart, GA. It was around 1995 when I found out that one of the guys I worked with, Mike, had lost a friend in the barracks to suicide. I didn’t know how close Mike and his friend were but after days of observing Mike as he dealt with the pain of losing his friend I came to realize they were really good friends. I saw the pain in his eyes and his face. I now see nearly 20 years later just how much pain Mike was dealing with back then.
I just recently lost a man whom I will always hold dear to my heart. My Tio (that’s uncle for those of you non-Spanish speaking folks), took his life earlier this month. Like so many other heart broken people out there, no one had a clue and no one saw this tragedy coming. My Tio was a very loving man. He had the heart of a lion and would help anyone as long as they were willing to take the first step. He always had a smile on his face whenever he was with family and friends. Of course he argued with my mother because after all they were brother and sister and family loves to argue. This activity never got in the way of the fact that my mother loved my Tio very much. They spent the past 23 years in Virginia living only 30 minutes apart. My trips to Virginia were always memorable because I got to spend time with my parents, 2 of my little brothers, my nephews, and my Tio. In later years I would discover that my Tio had a new joy in his life. Someone who made his face light up brighter then the sun, his son Shane. Shane changed my Tio’s life for the better. I always imagined how good a father he would be when I was a kid and when I was just a teenager who was roommates with this great man. My Tio came up to me one day and asked me if I wanted his comic book collection and I was both happy and sad but I knew why he was asking me once I took the time to collect my thoughts. He now had a son to devote his time to. A son to show the wonders of the world and the adventures of life he was ready to show as a new father.
I have many fond memories of my Tio and I, as I spent a majority of my teenage years with him. They were not just years together as roommates but as uncle and nephew, little brother and big brother, and as friends. He showed me how a hard-working man can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. I can say with great pride that much of my character I obtained from his example and influence. He always welcomed everyone who came to our home with open arms. He always made sure that when I decided to throw a party (knowing full well all my friends were older than I was) that we were all okay and that no one went full throttle overboard with our drinking. I will admit that there was Dan, who somehow managed to piss himself every time he tried to go to the bathroom to piss. I’ve even got a photo of him passed out in my tub with a monster piss stain in his crotch. To this day still HILARIOUS! Also I told this story at my Tio’s wake/rosary. My friend Tammy got so hammered at one of my parties that she barfed all over her clothes and the bathroom too. My awesome Tio took care of her while the rest of us were still partying it up. He took her puked up clothes and washed them for her after he put her in his own bed so she could recuperate. He told me right after he laid her down and then he hung out with us and after the party he crashed on the couch. The next morning Tammy woke up with a bit of shock and awe. I mean who wouldn’t freak out if they woke up in another person’s house in their bra and panties. I explained everything to her and she was so very thankful for my Tio taking care of her and also embarrassed because she couldn’t hold her booze lol. It showed me how truly awesome my Tio was.
Now onto the meat of this blog; I know like so many other family members and friends out there, that I am shocked by this tragedy in our lives. I am sure in my assumption that I am not the only one telling or asking myself the question-WHY? WHY is one of those words that can be interpreted on so many levels. Why did he not call me? Why did he not call anyone close to him? Why did he not give us a sign? In the end it goes to show each of us that we cannot be there next to our loved ones every second of every day but we can remember to pick up the phone and make a call. The power of voice for a loved one is sometimes so very amazing. I proved that to myself each time I called Mom Ida.
No one will really ever know what led to the untimely demise of my Tio but what I can say is that he left his family way too soon in this life. He left behind many great memories that I was so proud to hear as I made my rounds through the many people gathered at my Grandmother’s house. So many of our cousins were there and it made me feel so good inside knowing that there were only good words of great memories being shared about my Tio. As I discovered that afternoon, most of them knew my Tio from his childhood to his late teens before he moved away to be with my family in Dallas and then onto Virginia. There was not one foul word said and trust me, with a Mexican family there is always at least one person who wants to talk shit at some point in the gathering. This is true.
Nevertheless, the family gathering was amazing. There were over 5 generations of family present. It made me so proud to see family there supporting my grandmother during her time of need. Family I had not seen in over 20 plus years. I saw Great Uncles and Great-Great Aunts that I didn’t even know existed. I saw the power of not just prayer but of faith. Most of my close friends will tell you that I have not been one to claim the church by any means or to pray often but I will always say that I have faith. That alone has gotten me through so many rough spots in life. We each have that little something that helps us travel through life. You just have to find it and hold on to it.
Before I close this blog out I have to mention that in this mist of my Tio’s funeral week. A friend and longtime military supporter, RPG, passed away this week as well. RPG was his nickname and his friends knew him as Bob. You will be missed RPG-R.I.P.
So to wrap this up since I am sure I sound like I am rambling by now, I ask that everyone of you who manages to read this blog to please treasure those around you who mean something to you. It could be family. It could be friends. It doesn’t matter. Always stay in touch and always remind each other just how important each of you is to one another. Those of you who are aunts or uncles, I challenge you to be the best aunt or uncle you can be to those kids in your lives.
R.I.P. Tio Rufino. I will miss you more than you know.
Signing off for Rio’s Lair of Wonders--
My tio sometime in the late 70s
My tio -- age 45