A Pair of Wings

So I donned a pair of wings
once more
Before,
it was to say hello
This time,
it was to say goodbye

~~~

This past year or so I’ve seen the inside of more airplanes than I probably have in the past 20 years.  August’s trip to Los Angeles was to attend my father-in-law’s 84th birthday. We all knew, including him, that it would probably be his last.

He’d come close the previous June, so close we rushed to his side, fearful that we might not make it in time.  He was so sick then, I doubted he would see his 83rd. But he rallied after chemo was stopped and he was placed in hospice. This gave him not just an extra year, but a quality extra year.

A very good year capped off by the gift of one more birthday. His eldest daughter arranged to hold the celebration in a Mexican restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway. Ortega 120, where you can find “heart felt Mexican cooking.” Its rustic decor made you feel at ease immediately upon entering. And its theme of Dia de los Muertos seemed to coalesce with the religious artworks displayed. Death and hope rolled into one.

My husband led me around the restaurant where we were awed by the hundreds of artworks displayed, murals and ceiling paintings, the Mexican culture that we could both only imagine. I wanted to buy everything, but the pieces I truly wanted were not for sale.

It was a wonderful gathering, the reserved patio filled to capacity with extended family that I hadn’t even heard of. All there to wish Don Alfredo one more happy birthday.

The day before the funeral, my husband’s two sisters were debating where best to take us to lunch. While driving around in search of a place, they remembered Ortega 120. When we arrived, we were shown to the exact same table where we had sat the month before, with my husband ending up in the seat his father had occupied then. We were all struck dumb for a moment as the realization hit us. We’d been taken there, by Al.

The service was held in a wondrous chapel at the top of a sloping hill. From this height, the breathtaking expanse of Al’s beloved downtown Los Angeles lay below us.

My feeble attempt to capture Skyrose Chapel as my husband is walking out alone.

My feeble attempt to capture Skyrose Chapel as my husband is walking out alone.

Again, the venue was filled to capacity, as was the reception later. I was presented to and approached by numerous family members who became a flurry of names to me. We lost track of how many young people came up to tell us how Al had made a positive impact on their lives. Many went up to the microphone to recite stories about him.

There were many peals of laughter as story after story was told. Though few were able to get through their stories without stopping to wipe away tears. The one story that I think sums up my father-in-law and his self-deprecating humor is the one his good  friend recounted. He’d gone to visit Al on a day when he seemed pensive and this is what he said:

“I’ve been supposed to die for several years and yet here I am. So I asked God, why am I still here?”

“And what did God tell you?” his friend asked.

“He said, Al, you just have to wait. There’s too many Mexicans in heaven.”

~~~

Enjoying the sunset in Redondo Beach, California

Enjoying the sunset in Redondo Beach, California

sunsetsunset

My youngest who is traveling in Costa Rica made this token for her grandfather. She used "half of a rotting coconut to symbolize death, a rock washed up on the beach to represent the earth, a piece of palm to represent our family and home, and a flower for life." And then she sent it out sea.

My youngest, who was traveling in Costa Rica, made this token for her grandfather. She used “half of a rotting coconut to symbolize death, a rock washed up on the beach to represent the earth, a piece of palm to represent our family and home, and a flower for life.” And then she sent it out to sea.

Staff Sgt. Alfredo Navarro has answered his final call to duty.

Staff Sgt. Alfredo Navarro has answered his final call to duty.

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6 thoughts on “A Pair of Wings

  1. hermit2003

    At 71, with RA, Chronic B-cell Leukemia and now asthma as well, (all inflammatory diseases), I doubt I’ll last as long as your father-in-law did, but I hope I manage to maintain as much humour and grace as he evidently did along the way. This post was a lovely tribute to him.

    Reply
  2. J.G. Chayko

    How blessed you are to have known such a wonderful man. It sounded like a wonderful tribute to celebrate his life. He will live on through stories and memories. My heartfelt sympathies to you and your family.

    Reply
    1. Irma Post author

      Thank you, J. He was quite a guy. They broke the mold when they made him. The trip was lighthearted in a way, as though he was still with us. And he always will be.

      Reply
    1. Irma Post author

      Thank you, Carla. He was quite a character and he gave much of himself to his grandchildren. He will definitely be missed, though it seems he is still with us.

      Reply

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