Tag: Navy

Cross Country

The last ten years I have been making notes in my journal, or my husband has put out his digital recorder, when my parents visit us. Last year, my mom and I made “patitas” which is her signature stew for Christmas brunch to serve with tamales. This summer, I called her for a few clarifications and made it with my daughter who was teaching me to make tamales. I know, the daughter teaching the mother…another blog for that story.

My dad told us a story from our past, I had not heard before. He and Mom were moving from Corpus Christie to Norfolk, his new duty station. I was a toddler. It was the first time my Mom had ever left the area and my grandparents were having hard time. They were saying goodbye and Mom and Grandma Sotelo were so despondent, my Mom barely noticed my Grandfather Sotelo putting some money in the shirt pocket of her blouse.

They traveled cross-country to Norfolk via Roanoke, Virginia. I was surprised, because I never knew they had to go that route, through the mountains. It was here my Dad said he knew they were almost out of gas and they had no money. Dad was strategizing, but he had not spoken to Mom about it yet. He planned to leave Mom and I with the car, hitchhike to Norfolk, get an advance on his pay and hitchhike back. When he related this to me, I was so surprised. I know it was a different time, but how he must have agonized, having to leave his young wife and child and hitchhike his way to a Naval base. No money, no food and it wasn’t like it is now, with fast food and convenient stores. I cannot even imagine how far apart the stores and gas pumps were apart from one another in the hills of Virginia.

Mom, with the intuitiveness, that is present to this day, asked my Dad how the gas was. When he told her and then presented his worst case scenario, she remembered that her father had put some money in her pocket. When she took it out, it turned out to be fifty dollars. Fifty dollars is like having four hundred 2011 dollars!

When I think of how my grandparents lived in a little house with no indoor plumbing, a chicken coop, a shed where everyone took turns bathing, a garden and a pen where they raised pigs, I wonder what this money represented to him. I know my parents helped my grandparents when they needed help. It had to humble my parents that my grandfather had the foresight and the means to give his daughter, who was traveling far from them for the first time (the first of many such times), money to not just make this trip, but to help my parents get settled into their new life in a new state.

Mom in the Mirror

“Mom in the Mirror”

My mom is from Pleasanton, Texas, a small town south of San Antonio, Texas.  She is one of five sisters and four brothers.  I remember as a child, when we would visit my grandparents, I would go out to the chicken coop with my grandma and get eggs.  The roads leading from the main drag in Pleasanton to their house were dirt for the longest time and my grandparents did not have indoor plumbing until I was a teenager.   My brother and I still talk about that outhouse and how we didn’t want to go out there in the evening, but didn’t want our cousins teasing us that we were afraid to go out there. Another vivid memory, was in the late sixties when we returned from the Philippines, where my Dad was stationed, my mom’s family butchered a pig in the backyard of my grandparents house.  I don’t know why this didn’t seem out of the ordinary…it just wasn’t, it was the way of our family.  

My mom had been a Navy wife during the 50’s when women’s lib had not even hit the news.  But, even as she was a traditional wife, at home mom and homemaker, she took on the responsibility of paying all the bills and handling the household, the car and my brother and I, while my dad was at sea for 10 months at a time.  She drove us from San Diego to my aunt’s apartment in San Francisco in the early sixties so we could visit and go to Candlestick Park to see the Giants play.  My Tia Jane worked for the front office back in those days and we were a baseball family.  My memory of this visit was driving at night through China Town and visiting the Golden Gate Park…not the revered Candlestick Park.

My mom gained confidence from these responsibilities and experiences when my Dad was on deployment and it translated to me.  As a young wife and later, a single mom, I had to rely on this confidence to thrive in a workforce that was not tolerant of single moms.  I always thought I was so unlike her, she is petite, cool and collected…I am plus sized, emotional and demonstrative…but as I got older and had kids, I learned we had more in common than I realized…she instilled in me the value of education, whether formal or self-taught; to pay attention to the world around you, appreciate sports and politics and find a faith that speaks to you.  She dresses, to this day, impeccably, and only said to me, “always look your best, because you never who you are going to run into…” and that echoes in my ear when I have looked less than my best when running into one of the kid’s teachers or the principal of their school.  Now, my kids tease me because I am always “overdressed”…but I am old school and make no apologies…it is what it is.

Bottom line is that my mom is my mom, and she is my also my best friend.  She has been through a lot this year worried about me being laid off, about my brother working too hard, her struggle with her own health issues and tragically, losing her younger brother, my Tio Johnny.  Through it all, she has dealt with it as best anyone can…but my mom is strong and will not let you see her sweat.  My mom’s living legacy to me, my children and their children, is that family is everything…through the good, the bad and the ugly, family first…

Thrill Seeker

Thrill Seeker

Three years ago this last August, I was driving home when I received a phone call from my daughter, Megan. She had been in San Diego for a conference and was flying back to Norfolk. Megan is an Aircrewman in the Navy and was flying on an H-53 helicopter with her crew. Problem was, she was not home yet…she was in the middle of a field in Tennessee. There had been a fire and they had to put down.

Her voice was strong, adrenalin filled, exuberant. I was driving as she explained what happened and the land owner who came out on his four wheeler and overalls to investigate. Mija, I told her, you don’t call your mom as the accident averted has happened, you call me, after you have been rescued and are safe on a base somewhere!

She laughed away my shock with the reassurance of accomplishment. Everyone did what they were supposed to do…everyone did their job, she reassured me. Everything else is secondary…

We are all spinning

I am the one who told him about the Chinnook that was shot down and the Navy Seal Team Six members that were killed. I told him, because I expected his young vets to call…I wanted him to be prepared for group, and in preparing himself, he started to spin. He is not sleeping, he is snapish, he is not engaged.
The coverage on the President meeting the plane bringing the remains that have to be sorted and identified…he is having trouble with this. We are both having trouble with the images in our heads…