WEEKLY COLUMN

A Sharp View: A salute to our Mexican-American patriots

Posted on: 10/10/2017 00:00

So, for the last couple of years now America has been introduced to a bizarre discussion over whether more things Mexican should be sent over a giant wall.  It is such a wall that will surely send Americans to the poorhouse in building and maintaining it.  The idea of creating a 2,000-mile-long and 60-foot-high wall across the entire Western hemisphere is surely deserving of a mad man’s imagination, especially if he expects to keep his name associated with it until our sun turns into a black hole.

The wall thing has entered our national conversation at the expense of our usual celebration of the Mexican culture in our always-partly-Mexican state of California. As for me, I would rather be talking more now about my favorite Mexican food. And garden-grown cilantro.  And Spanish landscaping and twilight mariachi. And subtle stucco and Big Enchiladas.  And home-made tamales you can buy from a box, and mission architecture.  And everything else Mexican that makes California less flaccid than Smallville and most other places.

But I will settle by dropping in on a lunch with three Mexican-American war veterans, seen here from my new collection of short stories in my Amazon Book, Every Kind of Angel.  By the way, in World War II – commonly known as the war fought by our Greatest Generation --- about 500,000 Mexican-Americans served our nation in the Army, Navy or Marines.  And eleven of them won Medals of Honor

Raymundo’s Angels

When Raymundo retired with all his state-of-California annuities inside a five-year-span, he settled into an outlook that life was all thinking.

At 70, thought swarmed into his day, but not his night, which he filled with reading.

Since everything to do with marriage and profession had left, his reading resorted to his college years. Then he concentrated on those writers who treated life the most seriously.

Raymundo alternated these writers concurrently, seeking to finish at least two very different books at the same time. At one time, he had thought they were giving him a design for living and offering the actual coordinates of life. Finally, it was becoming like trying to design a dog based on famous people telling you a hound’s dimensions by inches, while you end up with something like an anti-dog.

His life without work or reachable family – just thinking and reading – finally had to be purified by donating his television to Good Will Industries. Then, without electric competition, he took his thoughts on wild rides through walks toward town and into his beloved yogurt store.

His 70 years became his personal record. To salute all these years, he gave his mind as much freedom as possible. But the free thoughts led him to believe life wasn’t so real when the past could not be realistic. The trouble that developed was the past had no future. And all those past things of Raymundo’s life were crushed up and trampled on into the two dimensions and the distorted motion of nightmares.

Along with thinking what a Just Past would be like, Raymundo began to believe that life was only built around Justice. Looking at his hands – washing them always because sleeping on the floor endlessly darkened his hands even as it lightened his old back – he understood how well the universe preserved these extremities for basic necessities of living. Meanwhile, other more glorified aspects of his life that addressed golf courses and reacting to lonely women were falling apart on him. “In a universe dominated by the force of fairness,” he finally concluded in his dairy, “everything defers to justice.”

Raymundo gave reality tests in a meeting over coffee with his two steady friends from their mutual Veterans of Foreign Wars post. All three had been soldiers fighting people supposed to be communists, as if any of their poor ill-schooled enemies even understood what communism was supposed to mean. Raymundo had been meeting these friends at Santana’s Family Mexican Restaurant for years, each friend serving as a talisman to the others to overcome time and become younger again.

“The way for life to be just,” he said, as soon as his menudo started accelerating his thoughts “is if everyone’s guaranteed to live one hundred years. One hundred years of life for everyone. That’s when life is fair, period.”

Emilio characteristically nodded while he was disagreeing. “But life is not fair, too, my friend. That’s what our President John F. Kennedy said, too, when we all started out in this war.”

“What would give this JFK the power to define justice?” Raymundo demanded.

“So few people live to be even ninety,” said Francisco, announcing himself. “And you expect a hundred years for everybody?”

Raymundo: “Why aren’t we all dead now anyway? We were each in the Mekong Delta, and what was there for us except to cheat death? What would it really be like for angels to have put us back together so we cheat death all over again?”

Emilio: “Does this theory make me alive or dead? I have to say I wouldn’t know it if I were either.”

Raymundo: “There will be like ten minutes passing.  I’ll be thinking, it was like a train passing when I was talking with Emilio and Francisco, alive and well, when the memories of this scene will be turned by angels into very different pictures inside my head.”

Francisco: “Do you gentlemen mind if I take a walk to the end of the second block from here and back, and then doing it a second time?”

Raymundo: “Go right ahead, hombre.”

Emilio: “Me, too.”

Raymundo waved at his friends leaving the place while he watched his own hundred years pouring in on him. He looked at his hands again. They were acting still the same, performing the exact essential tasks that he remembered them doing more than so many decades ago. The skin pretty much the same as well. But he knew now that everything else had changed, even his brain, which was finally reacting as a bird’s nest would when too many birds had flown into it.

He looked at the one waitress on the floor now. He had never seen that waitress before. The clothes on the waitress looked like pajamas, and she was wearing old men’s shoes that were strange as well.

The Family Restaurant had even acquired a painting he had never seen either. It was a painting of three men, dressed like farmers, laughing over their cups. For some reason, Raymundo wondered if the painting were of Emilio and Francisco and himself, after taking care of the cows that would lend themselves to the menudo.  “Not bad for three Mexicans,” chuckled Raymundo.

But Emilio and Francisco would never step in there again. Somewhere Raymundo knew it. Just as he knew – incredible as it seemed – that in the last ten minutes, he had washed his old hands almost a million times, and shaved his beard almost a million times as well.

His waitress as if on cue waved in some others from the kitchen.

“Now we sing ‘Happy Birthday,’” said the waitress, “to our amazing one hundred year old friend Raymundo. Por favor”

The waitress had her black hair combed perfectly down the sides of her head.

Raymundo smiled.

Three waitresses straightened up.  They said their names were Ramona, Emilia and Francisca.

“Happy birthday to you, cha cha cha. Happy birthday to you, cha cha cha. Happy birthday dear Raymundo, happy birthday to you, cha cha cha because you reached a hundred, not bad for a Mexican.”

Raymundo told them: “Thank you, my angels.”

 

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.

 


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