Feeling Grateful...Yet Feeling a Loss
A father's wish on his only son's birthday
I woke up to terrible news . A commuter train crash killed 4 people and injured many others less than 5 miles from my home. A helicopter crash in Iraq killed 31 young Marines in Iraq...somebody's children won't be coming home.
Published on LatinoLA: January 31, 2005
On that day, I had planned to be happy. It was my only son's 28th birthday. I love my son as any devoted Father can. I wish I could be with him on this day, but he's away serving in The California Conservation Corps up in San Francisco, and I'm busy at work in Los Angeles...and I miss him.
...on this day I feel sad, and a feeling of loss overtakes me. I'm also feeling grateful that my son is alive, doing well, happy and free of the curse of the L.A. streets that overtakes many young Brown men before they hit 30.
Right after High School graduation, my son wanted to follow my footsteps & join the U.S. Marines. I talked him out of it, and the troubles in the Middle East soon followed. After a year in college, he applied for and qualified for admission into the Police Academy. I talked him out of it, and at least 5 Los Angeles Police officers have been killed in the line of duty since then, and many more have become injured victims of gang violence in Los Angeles. I thought I had saved him, myself and my family a lot of grief.
After awhile, the call of the wild and unknown beckoned to him, and without any notice, he came home from College one day. He told me he was leaving in a week to join the California Conservation Corps. No worries, I thought...until a series of natural disasters in California like fires, floods and heavy storms had him in the mix for over a year...and I worried my graying hair white until he came home, safe and visibly matured.
He's safe in an administrative job now, and too old to enlist in the military. 50% of my worries for his life are gone. The other 50% is what I'll take to my grave...a father's love for his son is like that. For that I'm grateful.
What I'm feeling a loss for is for other fathers who have not been so fortunate as I. I'm not talking about guys who have been simply sperm donors, guys who have "knocked somebody up", or guys who simply say "yeah..I got a couple of kids." I'm talking about MEN who are and who have been proud to say they're FATHERS, despite the cards in life they have been dealt.
The fathers of divorce...the fathers of victims of crime, violence, substance abuse and incarceration...the fathers of victims of disasters...and mostly, the fathers of sons & daughters serving in uniform in the Middle East...especially of those 31 young brave Marines who lost their lives.
My father's generation found it hard to say or show their love for their sons. Emotion was not in their inventory. But when I went to Viet Nam, I was told years later my father boo-hoo'd his ass off, and watched the nightly news every night till I came home. He was one of those chingon Pachucos from El Paso,Texas, who to this day has a little hesitation being emotional...you go, pops. I know what's up...but I'm different.
After the news, I got some e~mail and read on a Latino website about the loss of the young Marines. I read a beautiful poem by a Chicano Viet Nam Vet from Texas named Johnny "Hollywood" Barron, and I thought of my son's birthday in the midst of my busy day at the office...and I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears! I ain't no punk, by any means. I've survived the mean streets of L.A. with street and biker gangs, Viet Nam, jail, drugs, 4 divorces, discrimination as a CHICANO most of my life, the loss of close friends and family, and at age 50, I can still knock a mo'fo' out if the time came..but today, I'm a soft taco...and missing my son.
Through all this, I'm grateful and I'm sad. I hurt for the families of all our service men & women who are bravely serving our flag. Make no mistake...there's no draft nowadays, so THEY ARE bravely serving. May God watch over them.
I hurt for the families of the victims of that morning's train crash in Glendale, California.
Despite the hurt, and through all this, I can end this piece with one happy thought:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MIJO!! YOUR FATHER LOVES YOU!!
I pray there are other fathers who can feel as fortunate as I, on a day like this!
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano Oldies but Goodies & latin Soul music on the World Wide Web every Thursday at 6:oopm,pst, on www.kclafm.com, and daily on www.chicanoexpress.com