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LIFE TRIBULATIONS
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this Life Tribulations study on Life Tribulations verses. This Life Tribulations Bible study on Life Tribulations quotes looks at the Life Tribulations message and asks what are Life Tribulations, why are there Life Tribulations, what is the Life Tribulations truth, why are Life Tribulations important, what is the Life Tribulations message and how does the Life Tribulations message affect you. This Life Tribulations study will open your eyes, mind and heart about Life Tribulations according to the Bible. Many are experiencing Life Tribulations and want to know why they endure Life Tribulations. Some have been told that Life Tribulations are a punishment according to the Bible. Come and let us seek and find the truth within the Bible of Life Tribulations with Life Tribulations message in this Life Tribulations Bible study, shall we?


 

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Love,
The Third Time Around
Me and Papa

By Lynda Doyle-Rodriguez
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13

 

Love,
The Third Time Around
Me and Papa

 

By Lynda Doyle-Rodriguez 

 

 Reflections: JAVIER

Mi Amigo, Mi Esposo, Mi Amor;

 My Friend, My husband, My Love;

 

             In January 1991, thirteen years ago, while trying to bring a wrongful death suit against the orchards for his death, I found out that Javier was still married in Mexico. He had left his country fifteen years before, but being Catholic, he never divorced. His marriage in Mexico voided our union in my country, leaving me, no longer his wife, with no legal standing, I had no right to his name, no legal right to file a  wrongful death suit, I was no longer, Lynda Doyle-Hernandez. I was heartbroken and feeling very betrayed.  Like I had done when he died, I boxed-up our life together and stored it away, letting go of the past, I put this manuscript away. Today, I am almost sixty years old, sick and feeling that my time left on this earth may be short; I dug out this manuscript and put it back together. Like Javier had wanted me to, I tried to move forward with my life. After seven years of loving the man, but not the alcohol, we separated in August of 2000; I decided that he too, was already married, married to his bottle.  In his own way, Andres loves me and we have remained friends, I just could not compete with his bottle.

 

 

           

While putting this manuscript back together, I had to relive those painful memories of the past.  I discovered that even after all these years, I have never come to grips with his death.  Physically, I may have boxed-up our life and stored it away, But in my mind, in my heart and in my soul, Javier’s ghost lingers still…………….. 

            Fifteen years ago, pesticides were not an issue for the general public.  Pesticide poison was only an issue to farm-workers, ‘they,’ were the only ones drying from it; I feel that in today’s world, all that has changed. 

            We have, organic farms, organic fruits, organic vegetables, and bottled water; There must be a reason that those who can afford it, even those of us who can’t, prefer our vegetables, our fruits grown without pesticides; we prefer our milk and our meats from grain fed cattle; society now understands the danger associated with pesticides.

             When allowed in our food supply and our drinking water, these chemicals have been linked to cancer, heart disease, respiratory and lung disease, and a host of other health problems. 

            Pesticides are no longer the problem for a few, ‘migrant workers,’ they have become a problem for society as a whole.  From the men and women who pick the crops, harvesting the fruits and vegetables on America’s farms and orchards, to those of us, like you and me, who put fruit on our cereal and vegetables on our tables. 

            This book is about, the pesticides that caused Javier’s sickness and his death; It is about those employers whom did not feel it necessary to provide a safe working environment and it is about the man himself.

             But most importantly, this manuscript is a love story.  It is a storybook romance, It is, ‘his story,’ it is, ‘my story,’ it is, ‘our story; it is the story of how two people, from different backgrounds, two very different lifestyles, two different races, met, became friends and fell in love. 

            “Love, The Third Time Around, Me and Papa” is the story of our short life together as husband and wife; it is the story about how sickness then death, robbed Javier and Lynda of a future. 

            Javier was a good man, always putting the needs of others before his own. Javier was an honest man, he never cheated anyone out of anything, though, he was cheated many times by others, thoughts of revenge never crossed his mind; if it wasn’t his, if he didn’t work for it, he didn’t want it.

             This Mexican/Indian husband of mine had a very simple view of life; he gave new meaning to God’s commandment of, ‘love thy neighbor as thy self,’ following the golden rule, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ 

            After our marriage, we went out to the camp to collect the rest of his belongings. Most of his good stuff that he had not taken with him were gone; his good Spanish tapes, A brown western belt with its silver buckle of a cowboy roping a steer, two of his best western shirts with pearl snaps on the cuffs and down the front. 

            I became very angry over this wrong committed against him, “It’s okay mama,’ He said, “Dios saber,” (God knows), In His own time and in His own way, God would make right whatever wrong had been done to him. 

            “But papa, those were your things!” I protested, “You need to say something, you need to get them back, no one had the right to take them!”  He pulled me into his arms, “Its okay mi amor, (my love), whatever has been taken from me, God will take from those who took from me.  It is not my job to pay back, it is God’s job.” 

            His dark brown eyes were filled with pain; he was hurt to think that those he had once considered his friends would steal from him.  “Mucho dolor mi corazon,” (A lot of pain in my heart), “But its okay, if they need it more then me, they can have it. “I don’t need it, I have you.”

             Javier gathered up whatever stuff he had left and we left the camp.  That is the kind of man he was. 

            When I married Javier on May 2, 1989, I did not marry for wealth or material things of value.  Javier could not have given me any of those things.  I was looking for more then material possessions, I was searching for love; something I had felt cheated out of during the course of my life. 

            In a lonely man, a poor man by the world’s standards, a man who made his living by following the crops, my heart found the love it had been seeking.  Our short life together was a storybook romance. Javier was, mi amigo, mi esposo, y mi amor; (My friend, my husband and my love). 

            Javier’s love tore down the walls I had built around my heart; his love took away the anger and knocked the chip off my shoulder that I had carried for so long. 

            When I married Javier on May 2, 1989, I did not marry for wealth and things of material value.  Javier could not have given me any of those things.  No, when I married mi amigo, and mi amor, (my friend and my love), I had been searching for something much more valuable then material wealth, I had been searching for love. 

            In a lonely and poor man, my heart found what it had been seeking; it found love, something I felt I had been cheated out of during the course of my life.  Javier taught me to open my heart, to trust again without the fear of being hurt, and by refusing to sleep with me until he had placed that gold band on my finger, he taught me to value my self worth. 

            Javier carried within his heart and within his spirit a goodness that has forever changed my life for the better.  I feel blessed to have been chosen by God, to have shared the last few months of his life.  And I would not have missed that for all the world and its wealth.  If I could go back in time, I would marry him all over again. 

            Within those short eight months of marriage, Javier gave me his most prized possession, he gave to me that, which can never be measured by the worlds standards; He gave me, himself. 

            Javier had no family in this country, like me, his memories were full of pain and sadness.  When we first met in February of 1989, his life consisted of hard work followed by weekends of hard drinking.

             The alcohol of his choice was, ‘Budweiser beer,’ yet no matter how much he would drink, he never became mean or nasty, Javier controlled the beer, he did not let the beer control him. 

            As our friendship deepened, slowly giving way to romance, then into love, Javier found the courage to let go of the sadness of his past, and to let go of the beer. 

            As we stood before our friends and my son, on that second day of May, 1989, making our commitment to each other, Javier became a changed man, the sadness of past memories was forgotten, he was happy to be alive, and laughter danced again those dark Spanish eyes. 

 

DOCUMENTING THE SICKNESS

 

August 1989

 

While Javier, my sister Carol and I, were picking tomatoes in the field in Martinsburg, West VA.  Javier grabbed his chest, I rushed him to, Martinsburg City Hospital.

 

Diagnosis; Heart Attack

 

August 22, 1989

 

Follow up exam; Diagnosis:  Coronary Heart Disease; Cardiovascular Disease; Pulmonary Function Test / Results of chest x-rays, Martinsburg City Hospital Diagnosis: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; Result of; Pesticide exposure Consistent with Symptoms; Clubbing of the nail beds of his fingernails; Loose sounding but unproductive cough.

 

September 1989

 

Javier collapsed in the orchard, St. Thomas, PA. Rushed to; Chambersburg Hospital, Chambersburg PA. Diagnosis: Coronary Heat Disease/ Pulmonary Cardiovascular Disease; Unknown Bacterial Infection; Note; Javier spent thirty days in Chambersburg Hospital, his doctors there felt he needed a heart specialist, and when they could not find the source of the bacterial infection, he was transferred to Hershey, PA.

 

October 1989

 

The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA. Diagnosis:  Coronary Heart Disease/ Chronic Pulmonary Disease; Bacterial infection; Diagnosis; Scarcoidosis. Note; Left untreated scaroidosis forms bacterial infection, this infection ate away at the Aorta Valve of Javier’s heart, the valve needed to be replaced.

 

October 1989

 

The Operation

 

The operation to replace the Aorta Valve took 12 hours, it was a success, He spent 10 days in ICU (intensive care unit), in the middle of October, his kidneys failed, he was put on dialysis.

 

November 1989

 

Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; Javier had a stroke; Diagnosis: Mild stroke, but it left Javier partially paralyzed on his right side, unable to bathe, feed himself, dress himself, he would need rehabilitation.

 

December 1, 1989

 

Chambersburg Hospital had an excellent Rehabilitation Program; Javier was transferred back to Chambersburg; we were going home, Almost.

 

December 2, 1989

 

Javier was admitted to the rehab program, he was doing well, learning to feed himself, to walk again, to bathe and do everyday tasks.  Both of us were excited and happy, we thought for sure that he’d be home for Christmas.

 

December 11, 1989

 

While in Rehab, Javier had another crisis, without warning his blood pressure dropped too low no matter how hard the doctors tried, Javier died.

 

Autopsy Report

 

Cause of death; Cardiac Failure/ Secondary to Hem pericardium and Cardiac Tamponada; related to Chronic Congestive Heart Failure/ Congestive Changes in the lungs.

  

DOCUMENTING THE REASON BEHIND THE SICKNESS

 

UNSAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENTS

 

Spring 1988

 

Martinsburg, West VA. While working for the same employer, (I have chosen not to reveal the name of the employers involved); he was employed by when we first met, Javier rode the back of a tractor, spraying the apple trees with pesticides.  He wore no protective clothing, no gloves, not even a simple mask that would have protected his lungs.

 

April 1989

 

Winchester, VA. Javier, along with a crew of men, pruned trees while pesticides were being sprayed in the same block of trees where the men were working; Again, the same story, none of the men were wearing protective clothing.  The air was thick with the spray, some of the men were getting sick, vomiting; they did not want to continue working but were told, ‘if they didn’t keep working, they would not have employment.’ Under the threat of being fired, they kept working.

 

June 1989

 

Charles Town, W.VA; While planting tomatoes, Javier and the others drank the water from the same hose being used to irrigate the tomatoes. It was a hot day and there was not water provided in the field, No one had warned them that the water in the hose was filled with pesticides; they didn’t know until the end of the day, when the employer found the men had been drinking the water from the hose, his wife gave them, milk to drink; the employer said, “Its okay, don’t worry you’ll be all right.” But my husband wasn’t, ‘all right,’ he died.

 

 

‘The Migrant Worker’

 

This poem is dedicated to the memory of;

Javier Ramirez Hernandez;

December 11, 1989;

 

Para tu mi amor, Para tu;

For you my love, for you;

 

‘Mi Amigo, Mi Espouso, Mi Amor;

My friend, My husband, My Love;

 

 

 

 

 

The Migrant Worker

 

From field to field he wanders,

From camp to camp he roams..

Never knowing a place to call..

Home…………………………

 

From the orange groves of …...

Sunny California to hot sand…

Beneath Florida grapefruit……

Trees…………………………..

 

From field to field he wanders..

From camp to camp he roams...

Never knowing a place to call...

Home………………………….

 

From sandy Florida to the…….

Tobacco fields of the Carolina’s

From sizzling heat of Southern..

Sun’s…………………………..

 

To frigid cold of Northern hills

The migrant worker…………..

 

 

 

‘The Migrant Worker’

 

 

From the Carolina’s to the apple

Orchards of West Virginia……..

Virginia and Pennsylvania……..

The migrant worker…………...

 

From field to field he wanders...

From camp to camp he roams…

Never knowing a place to call...

Home…………………………..

 

His labor is hard, his pay is low

His housing shameful an unfit...

The migrant worker…………...

 

Looking across the farms and…

Fields of this great country, you

Will see them there, planting and

Picking, harvesting the crops …

 

Climbing the trees, the migrant

Worker, breathing in dust and...

Sprays, pesticides that one-day..

Will take his life………………

 

At the age of 49 his work is…..

Done, his labor finished; he….

Has no more borders to cross...

No more fields to harvest….…

 

As friends and family lower….

His body into a pauper’s……..

Grave, will the world care that,

Pesticides took his life………

 

Only a few baskets of flowers

Litter his grave, he was not a,

King or a man of wealth, only

A migrant worker…………...

 

Whose life ended too soon….

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Migrant Worker’

 

 

From field to field he wanders,

From camp to camp he roams..

Never knowing a place to call,

Home………………………....

 

When the harvest is finished…

The season is done, he moves..

On; the migrant worker, from..

Field to field he wanders…….

 

From camp to camp he roams

Searching for better crops…...

Higher pay, decent housing…

The migrant worker…………

 

From field to field he wanders

From camp to camp he roams,

Searching out the elusive……

American Dream…………….

 

From field to field he wanders

From camp to camp he roams,

Never knowing a place to call,

Home………………………...

 

 

 

‘Love The Third Time Around,’

Me and Papi

 

By 

Lynda Doyle-Rodriguez

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

The Beginning

 

            Lynn had been married twice, divorced twice, and she had been left broken hearted by both relationships.  She had invested thirteen years in her first marriage to Charles the father of her four children, two girls and two boys.  And in the end, all those years had been wasted, just to have him turn his back on them.  Leaving Lynn and their four children standing on the front porch of their home in Augusta, West Virginia, in
1975, crying after him as he walked away. 

            After two years of being alone, Lynn thought she’d try it again; what she didn’t know was that this, ‘mamma’s country boy,’ didn’t know anything and couldn’t do anything and didn’t want to learn anything.  if Lynn had taken the blinders from her eyes, she would have seen the relationship for what it was, not as she had wanted it to be; but she either didn’t see it, or didn’t want to see it.  It was one of the worst mistakes Lynn had ever made in her life. 

            Whatever jobs he did work where few and only for his own spending money. Lynn worked hard providing for her children, like rent, electric, food, transportation And whatever else it took, their father never helped and country boy had just come along for the ride; why Lynn had put up with it for seven long years was a question she had no answer for.

             During those years Lynn tried to improve her education by going to college. The end came when Lynn found out that he had abused her children.  He had a shotgun in the closet, one night as he lay sleeping, Lynn took the shotgun down from the shelf, as he lay sleeping, Lynn was tempted to shatter whatever brain cells he had across the room; instead she grabbed her children and ran, leaving him with everything she had worked for; but the safety of her children was more important than the material possessions she left behind.

             It had taken years for her to rebuild her life, but now that children were grown, the two girls with families of their own, and Charles her oldest son was busy making his own way in the world; Shawn her youngest was the only child still with her.  It was 1989 and Lynn was busy too, trying to make the most out of the sour grapes life had handed her. 

            Her sister Carol was talking about, ‘love,’ and how Lynn needed to, ‘find it,’ again; how Lynn needed, ‘a man in her life,’ to make her feel wanted and needed.

             “Yeah right,” Lynn laughed, “I don’t need a man to make me complete and “When hell freezes over dear sister,” Lynn said, “When hell freezes over.”

             Carol was good at that, at making predictions, and it was uncanny how at times, her sister’s words had a way of ringing true.  But not this time, this was one prophecy that would never come to pass.   

            If it was the last thing Lynn needed or wanted, it was a man in her life. Lynn and
Shawn were doing just fine; she didn’t need or want any man coming along messing with her head, to stir up her emotions, to fool around with her heart, then stomp on it and render it into shreds.  And when the relationship was over, leaving Lynn to pick up the broken and fragmented pieces.

 It had been five years since her divorce from, ‘country boy,’ and angry over the way life
had treated her; Lynn vowed that she would never again be used, mistreated and betrayed; she vowed never again to give away her heart only to have it torn into shreds, and allow herself to be tossed aside like an old shoe that didn’t fit anymore.

             Brick by brick, Lynn had learned to erect walls around her heart and around her emotions; and within those years of loneliness Lynn never let anyone come close enough to touch the walls she had built around her heart, let alone tear them down.  

            Lynn had been working to provide a home for herself and her son, but just three years into her new life, fate threw her another curve, she became disabled.  It almost killed Lynn when she had to stop working. 

            “Neuropathy from diabetes,” the doctor had explained, “Neuropathy is nerve damage, it’s in your feet and legs.”  “What happens now?” Lynn asked, “What can be done to fix the damage?” Doctor Life shook his head, knowing Lynn did not understand, he tried to explain it to her.

             “There is nothing we can do,” he said, “Your nerve endings are dead, They are frayed like electric wires, only electric wires can be taped, nerve endings cannot, I’m sorry but your prognosis for recovery is zero.”  Lynn still didn’t understand.  She had one more question for doctor Life; “Prognosis for recovery is zero, what does this mean doctor?  What are you telling me?”

             “Eventually,” he said,” I’d say within the next five years, once you lose all the feeling in your limbs, you could end up facing the rest of your life in a wheel chair, I’m sorry.” 

            Lynn was stunned, she left the doctor’s office in anger; she wasn’t angry at the doctor, she was angry at life itself.  Looking up the sky, she wanted to scream and shake her fist, “Thanks,” she yelled, “Thanks for nothing!”  She had was question for God, hadn’t she been through enough already?  Why did she have to suffer this physical disability and pain too? 

            Lynn kept asking the power to be, God, why me? But apparently, God had chosen not to answer, her pleas to take away the pain had also fallen on deaf ears.  Heaven was not listening; and it seemed to Lynn that life was out to drag her down.  The pain was endless, night after night, day after day, muscle spasms would draw her legs into tight knots; every time her nerve endings would jump, it sent searing pain down her legs into her feet.  When the pain became too much for her to deal with, Lynn would double up on the pain medicine, Amitriplyine and Neurontin Doctor Life had prescribed. But in the morning Lynn was groggy, unstable and unable to function.  Lynn would drag herself out of bed, make coffee, yell for Shawn to get up and she’d fall back to sleep.  She was sleeping her life away, and Shawn was on his own, doing whatever he felt like doing.

            If he felt like attending school, he get up and go, if he didn’t, he’d skip. Lynn couldn’t let this continue, she had to do something, but Lynn had become dependant on the pain medicine.  Shawn was out raising hell and getting into trouble. Lynn was growing tired of sleeping her life away and not being able to take care of her son.  Six months into the disability, Lynn stopped taking the Amitriplyine, she cut back on the Neurontin.  Lynn would force herself out of bed; she would force her legs to move, she learned to walk out the muscle spasms.  The pain was part of her everyday life.  And like she had done so many times in the past, she would do again; she would force herself to deal with the pain and move forward.

             What she had been living the past six months wasn’t life, she had been existing, taking up space, and wasting away.  Once Lynn started taking control again, Shawn was not a happy camper, but that too, was life, and he would learn to deal with it.  

            Lynn had Carol to thank for her new outlook on life.  Carol had came to Lynn, telling her what was happing with Shawn, and the trouble he was getting into. At first, Lynn became angry with her sister, “Go off the pain medicine!” she yelled, “You wouldn’t say that if it were your pain.  If you had to live with it everyday.” 

            “I know, but if you don’t try, Shawn is getting into so much trouble he is headed for jail, you have to take control again; and to do that; you have to be able to function.” she said, “I know the pain must be terrible, but sis, you have try and deal with it.  You’re letting this disease defeat you, and that’s not my sister.  You always fought everything life has thrown your way, but I see you giving up.  And Susan can’t control him, he needs his mother, not his sister and not his aunt.  And I need you sis, I got another job in the orchards and I need transportation.” 

            Lynn was groggy, but she was awake and able to function.  “Thanks sis, you have always had a way of getting my attention.”  When Shawn came in that day he found his mother awake, he had skipped school again, and Lynn laid down the rules. 

            “This is the way it’s going to be,” she said, “You are going to school, even if I have to drive you.  I realize I haven’t been much of a mother these last six months. You’ve been skipping school and running the streets and doing whatever you wanted to do, but no more son, no more, I am back, and I am taking charge.” 

            Shawn rolled his eyes, “And if I don’t listen?” “Simple, if you don’t want to listen to me, I’ll put you someplace where you will listen.” “You’d really do that?” “Try me.” Lynn answered. “Okay,” he said with an attitude, “but I liked it better when you took your medicine.” Lynn had to laugh at that, “I guess you do,” she laughed.   

            The next morning, when Lynn got up she was not groggy, she drove Shawn to school and then drove her sister to the orchards.

 

Chapter 2

     

            Most of the guys Carol worked with were Mexican migrants; most were young, handsome very charming, and half of them did not speak a word of English.  They were also in need of transportation to and from town; Lynn became the local taxi service. 

            Most of them spoke very little English, but there was always someone around who knew enough English to interpret.  Being a taxi service had it advantages, her gas tank was always full. 

            It was a hard lifestyle these guys lived, they would rise up at 4; am, to be in the field at 5:00 a.m.  The workweek was hard, but when Saturday night rolled around, it was party time.   

            In the beginning, Lynn would run three or four of the guys into town for food and beer and whatever else they needed; someone would always fill her gas tank, Lynn never had to ask. 

            Lynn would drop her sister off in the mornings and return in the evening to pick her up.  One Saturday evening while she was waiting for Carol, a tall, good-looking Mexican asked her in broken English to come inside and eat, he opened the door to her car, “por favor,” (please).    He said it so sweetly that to refuse would have been rude. 

            Someone was cooking beans, rice and tortillas, the food smelled good, and Lynn was hungry. “Esta, (this) burrito, con (with) meat with cheese, for you.” “Is for you,” he said.  Lynn said thank you and took the food.  “thank you in Spanish is, ‘gracias,’ he was trying to teach her Spanish, ‘gracias,’ Lynn repeated, he smiled and walked away.  Lynn couldn’t help but look, he was an older man and very attractive. 

            Stop it Lynn, she fussed, Lynn didn’t want to stop thinking about it, it had been a long time since Lynn had been with a man, almost five years, and for some strange reason, this one attracted her attention.   

            Lynn sat and ate while Carol danced and drank a few beers, it was offered to her, but she politely refused, Lynn wasn’t much of a drinker.  Lynn had not sat too long when Carol pulled her to her feet, “Come on, get up and dance,” she said, pushing Lynn into the waiting arms of a boy young enough to be her son.  Lynn was embarrassed, but she had no choice but to try and follow his footsteps to the lively, festive Spanish music blasting from the stereo.           

            Every time Lynn would try to sit down, someone would ask her to dance. Lynn had almost forgotten how much fun it was to dance and have a good time. When her disability had stopped her from working, Lynn had sank into a deep depression and hidden herself away from the world.  But tonight the music made her feel alive.  She had sat down again when a soft voice whispered in her ear, he spoke in Spanish, then repeated the words in English. 

            “Tu querer baile? (do you want to dance.)? Lynn looked up into a dark, smiling face, and into the darkest eyes she had ever seen.  She checked out the man behind the face.  He was tall and slender and wore a headband wrapped around his forehead, with A, ‘Budweiser,’ logo printed across the front.  Strands of gray mixed with black peeked out from under the headband.  But when drew Lynn’s attention and kept it, were the eyes. 

            The eyes were so dark they looked almost black, they were like the eyes of a puppy, lost and sad.  It was the same older gentleman that had leaned over her car door, asking her to come inside and had fixed her the burrito.  Lynn smiled, he had cleaned up nicely, she thought.  He lowered his lean frame into a chair beside her, “maybe you no understand,” he said, in broken English. 

            But Lynn understood every word he had spoken, over the last three months, Lynn had become an expert at translating broken English into English she could understand.  He took her hand and held it, making her stare into those dark eyes. 

            “Mi nombre, ‘Javier,’ he said, (my name is Javier), “mi amigo’s call mi, ‘Indio,’ mi amiga’s call mi, papa.” Which translated into English meant, (his male friends called him, Indio, and the ladies called him, papi.’  Papi or papa is like a grandfather figure. 

            As a slow song filled the room, gently, he pulled Lynn to her feet. “Come, we dance.”  Lynn could not refuse, the eyes held her spellbound.  Lynn moved slowly into his waiting arms.

            They danced well together, he led and Lynn had no trouble following his lead.  His strong arms were warm, comforting and inviting, Lynn melted into arms, and if the music had not stopped, Lynn could have stayed in his arms forever.  

            “My name is Javier Ramirez Hernandez,” he said, holding her body close to his. he leaned down and kissed her on the lips, “Call me, papi.”  His kiss was sweet, soft and tender, not hungry or demanding.  He wanted nothing from her, just to hold her close and dance.  But from the way he held her body so close to his, left Lynn with the impression, that he was missing someone special from his life. 

            Dancing so close was stirring up feelings in Lynn that had been lying dormant for over five years.  Lynn couldn’t help but wonder who he was missing, was it a girlfriend, or wife maybe?  As if reading her thoughts, he leaned down and whispered softly in her ear.  “Mi esposa,” he said, “my wife, but many years ago, muchos anos, no more wife, no more,” he whispered.  

            In almost perfect English, he said, “ I could dance with you forever, until the night is no more.”  His words were soft, caring and kind, and when the music stopped, he led her to a chair.  Carol and a young guy in the corner, were getting too friendly.  Javier had noticed it too. 

            “My friends drink too much,” he said, he kissed Lynn again, the dark pools of his eyes seemed to hold her in a hypnotic trance, even if she had wanted to, Lynn could not have pulled herself away. 

            Picking up Lynn’s jacket and placing it around her shoulders, he said, “I don’t want no trouble for you and your sister, my friend is too drunk, maybe it is better you and your sister go now.”  He did not say it to be rude, with just two women in a camp with many men, he was worried about their safety.  Lynn understood, she motioned for Carol, and he walked them to her car.  “Tomorrow,” he said, giving her another kiss. 

            As Lynn turned the car onto the main road, her sister glanced at her; a sparkle of gleam lit the pools of bright blue eyes.  Lynn almost knew what Carol was going to say, before she said it. 

            “Looks like someone else was having a good time too.” She laughed, “And from the looks of it, he was more than a little bit interested, sister.”  The comment was Carol’s way of fishing for information. 

            “His name is Javier Hernandez, he said not to call him Javier, but to call him, Papi.”  Lynn looked at her sister and grinned, “Don’t say it,” Lynn warned, “Don’t go there.”  But Lynn knew her sister and there was no way that Carol would let the subject drop. 

             “Before I don’t go there,” Carol said, “Do you like him?” “You know the answer to that,” Lynn said,  “And, I’m not talking about it.”  Carol laughed, she had a way of laughing that sometimes almost drove Lynn crazy.  It was like, ‘I told you so,’ a glance, a look, that let Lynn know, that she, Carol, had been right, or that she knew something Lynn didn’t know.  And sometimes Carol was right; and that is what would almost drive Lynn crazy. 

            Just knowing that Carol had figured it out before Lynn had a chance to think about it; before Lynn had the chance to run it past her emotions, before she had time to mull everything over in her mind, Carol had an answer.  It was in the way she would shrug her shoulder or the sly smile, which spread across her face.  

            “Okay,” Carol said, as Lynn pulled up in front of her sister’s house.  “I’ll be good,” she said.  Lynn laughed, “That will be the day.”  And she pulled away from the curb.  As she drove home, Lynn tried to keep her attention on her driving, on the traffic, trying, without much success, to keep her mind off of the man behind the dark black eyes. Lynn had laughed, danced, and had a good time, and that was the end of it, period. 

            But the man behind the dark, black eyes, invaded her sleep and haunted her dreams; Lynn was running through the woods, people she didn’t know were chasing her. Suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared a horse, it’s rider swooped down and lifted her up, and like the ending of a fairytale, they rode off into the sunset. 

            Lynn shook herself awake, out of the dream, she laughed,  “Better watch out for that Mexican food old girl,” Lynn smiled.  But those dark black eyes continued to haunt her thoughts.

             Lynn thought of how easy it would have been to just let go, to melt into those strong arms wrapped tightly around her waist, and to stay there forever; safe, secure, happy and loved.  But Lynn knew no matter how much he might haunt her dreams, that it could never be; she could never have a relationship with this man or any man. 

            Happy endings were nothing more than fairy tales; fairy tales made for naïve little girls and Hollywood movies.  No matter how much he haunted her thoughts, they could only be friends; as friends, Lynn would hang out, dance and party, but there could never be anything else between them. 

            But Lynn had gotten the impression that Javier, was looking for more than friendship.  Lynn could sense it; in the way he had pulled her close as they had danced; In the way he had held her hand, in the way he had kissed her, and in the way he had protected her, by making her leave the camp when his friends had gotten drunk and rowdy.  No, whoever Javier was, he was different from any man Lynn had known. 

            Lynn didn’t see him when she dropped Carol off the next morning.  When she went back to pick Carol up in the afternoon, there he was, leaning his lanky frame against the side of the building, it was as if he’d been waiting for her.

            “You can take me to the store, please?” he asked in perfect English.  Lynn felt a little scared to be alone with him, not scared of the man, but of her own feelings and emotions.  But Lynn could not refuse him this small favor.  “Get in,” she replied. 

            Lynn drove in silence to the little country store a few miles down the road, she waited in the car while he went inside. “You need gas?” he asked before they left the store, Lynn shook her head, “no, but thank you.” “Cuando, tu querer algo, tu decir me, papi, okay?” He repeated it in English, “When you want something, tell me, papi, okay?”  

            “You are teaching me Spanish,” Lynn asked, “I will never remember how to say it.”  She laughed, ‘but thank you for trying.”  A smile spread across his dark handsome face, lighting up the dark, black pools of his eyes. “One day, you understand; me too, it was hard to understand your English, but I need to work,  buy food, clothes, beer,” he laughed, “ I need learn little bit.” 

            Despite her fear of getting involved, Lynn loved the way he smiled, she loved the way in which the sunlight seemed to dance in his eyes; no matter how much she tried to deny it, despite her claims of, ‘needing, or ‘wanting, a man in her life, Lynn wanted papa.   

            Lynn pushed the feelings away, she tried to keep them hidden deep inside, but the more she pushed him away, the more he would come back, it seemed like she was fighting an endless battle.  Lynn tried to keep a safe distance between them, but Javier, Papa was determined to become a part of her life. 

            One Sunday afternoon, as they returned from town, Lynn had helped him carry baskets of clean laundry in his room, and she was standing by her car getting ready to leave, Javier pulled her into his arms. 

            “You and me are friends,” he said, a look of sadness crept into the dark eyes, “But I have many friends, I want more then friendship.  But you hold back your heart, Why?” Tears filled her eyes, as she looked up at him, no matter how much it might hurt, she had to tell him.  She could not let him feel love for her, when she could not return those feelings. 

            She could not hurt this man, like she, had been hurt; no, Lynn would not let him walk down this road to love, when she could not follow.  Lynn could not open her heart, just to be hurt again, she couldn’t take the chance.  Lynn had to be honest with him and tell Javier the truth. 

            Javier reached over and wiped the tears which filled her eyes. “I can’t be what you want me to be,” Lynn said through the tears, “I can’t take the chance of being hurt again.”  Lynn cried. 

            Sadness, then hurt crept into his eyes.  “I, me, Javier Hernandez, will never hurt you.  When I want to give my heart away, it is forever.  And my heart is for you.” 

            One look into those beautiful dark eyes and Lynn knew that he was telling her the truth; he would never hurt her.  All she had to do was melt into his waiting arms, and to speak the words he wanted to hear; yet as much as she wanted to believe that love had found her, Lynn could not let go of the pain and hurt of the past, and she could not speak the words that would break his heart. 

            Papa leaned down and kissed her, long and hard, he seemed to understand.  He took the headband from his head and dried her eyes. “Time,” he said, “You need more time.  In time you will fall in love with me; in time,” He predicted, he touched her heart, “Your heart will be mine.”  He placed her hand over his heart, “and my heart will belong to you, don’t cry me amor, my love, don’t cry.” 

            It was like flood waters rushing towards her, threatening to sweep her away. Lynn felt it, sensed it, saw it, she had thrown up the flood gates, but his love was sweeping over them and Lynn was helpless to stop it.

 

Chapter 3

 

The Road Leading Toward Love 

 

            It was an unseen, yet powerful force that kept bringing them together. Javier would always find ways for them to be alone together.  Whenever one of his friends wanted to ride into town with them, papa would speak to him in rapid Spanish, and that would be the end of that.   

            One Saturday night after they had dropped off Carol, Lynn headed back towards the camp. Javier stopped her. “I don’t want to go back right now,” he said, a happy, but devilish gleam came into his eyes, “I want to play pool,” he said, “Will you drive me?” he had almost stopped speaking to her in Spanish.  When they were alone together, he tried to speak only English. 

            There was only one bar in town where the guys could shoot pool and enjoy their beer, without some, ‘good,’ old boy wanting to start trouble.  Lynn drove Javier to, ‘Dave’s Bar.’   

            Papa opened the door for her, “Two friends,” he said laughing, he searched for a word in English, “how you say, hanging out?”  Lynn laughed, “Yes papa, hanging out is okay.”   

            The night started out harmless enough.  Javier tried to teach her to play, but there was an art to holding the cue stick and when Lynn couldn’t get the hang of it, laughing, she left papa to his game. 

            Lynn soon lost interest in the pinball games, she went to the bar for soda and chips, hat’s when the trouble started.  Two men stood at the bar, laughing and pointing, their voices were loud and Lynn couldn’t help but hear the subject of their conversation. 

            Looks like Betty has found a new mark, they laughed, “Yeah, the Mexican.” Lynn’s attention was drawn to papa; he was the only Hispanic in the bar.  Papa’s table was littered with a dozen or so, glass, ‘Budweiser bottles,’ they stood like silent soldiers at attention.  Papa was trying to play his game, but a dirty, old washed up, overweight, dyed blond hag, kept nosing up to the pool table trying to get his attention, showing every bit of old stuff she had left to show. 

            At first, papa wasn’t paying much attention, Lynn watched the scene unfold from the bar.  When papa started paying attention, Lynn became angry.  She started drinking; but Lynn’s choice of liquor was White Russians, she detested beer.  If you are going to drink, choose the good stuff.  The more she watched papa, the more Lynn drank. 

            When papa, staggering on his feet, left the pool table to cuddle up beside the washed up old hag, the night turned ugly. Lynn had not drank for years, and the liquor hit her hard.  Lynn was drunk and she was angry, the liquor had soaked into her brain and taken control of her senses.  In a fit of rage, Lynn stumbled over to papa’s table.  

            “Move!” she ordered, looking down at the old hag.  The old woman looked at Lynn and laughed.  

            “Get your own man,” she slurred. “Wrong answer you old hag!” Lynn snapped, “This is my man!”  Lynn didn’t give her another chance to respond.  She knocked the chair from underneath her, kicking it across the floor.  By the time the old woman was trying to pick herself up off the floor, the bartender was ordering Lynn and papa out of his bar. 

            Lynn started to unlock the car, gently; papa took the keys from her hand. “Mi amor, “ he said laughing and waving his finger in a, ‘no,’ gesture, “you too drunk.” Suddenly, Lynn burst into laughter, “you’re right papa, I am drunk! Lord papa, how are we going to get home?” Papa shrugged, “Yo no say mi amor, you no say.” translated, (I don’t know my love, I don’t know). 

            Lynn had no choice but to call her son, Charles was never going to let her live this night down.  He would remind her of it for the rest of her life. 

            In anger, Charles snatched the keys from her hand, “get in mother!” he growled between clinched teeth.  This was not the best time for Javier to meet her son, but Lynn was too drunk and too much in love to care. 

            Charles had been angry with her before, life goes on; he’d get over it. “Charles, meet Javier.” “Javier, my son Charles.” Silence filled the car, if anger could kill, Lynn would have been dead. 

            Lynn snuggled in papa’s arms, she was too drunk to sleep, but not drunk enough to pass out.  She had a good-looking man in her bed and Lynn wanted to play.

            But papa would have none of that nonsense.  Gently, but firmly, he kept pushing her hand away. “No,” he said, then laugh when Lynn wouldn’t give up.  Lynn didn’t understand why nothing wasn’t happening; why he wouldn’t let anything happen.

            “Mama, “ he slapped at her hand, “You need respect.”  But Lynn didn’t care about respect, she had a hot-bloodied Mexican in her bed and she wanted him. 

            “Papa,” Lynn cried out, “I know you want me, I know you love me.”  She spoke to him in Spanish, “Que es tu’s problema papa?”  Papa pulled her body close to his, “Muy bien mi amor! muy bien, Espanol!” he said laughing, (very good my love, very good Spanish)." What is my problem?  Is no problem my love. “His kisses were driving Lynn crazy.  To be lying here in his arms, feeling his kisses and to want to touch him, and have her hand pushed away, was too much for Lynn to bear.  All that unfulfilled passion was driving her insane and making her angry. 

            “Don’t kiss me papa.  If I can’t have you, I don’t want your kisses.  It’s making me crazy!” Lynn fussed, “To lie in your arms, feel your kisses, and have you push me away when I want to make love.  Maybe, you don’t want me, maybe you don’t love me.  Maybe you are just playing games papa!”  Lynn was in tears, she turned away from him.  But papa being papa wouldn’t let it rest.

            He made her face him. “No mi amor,” he said pointing to the absence of a wedding ring on her finger.  “With no ring, it is not right.  I don’t want one night and nothing more. 

            “Before I take you, you will be my wife.”  He struggled for the words in English. His words almost made her sober.  Javier wanted marriage, and Lynn wanted a roll in the Hay!  This was not going to work. “Me here with you my love tonight is okay, but next week, next month, Que? What happens then? I’ve had that before,” he said, “Sex, I want commitment and love.  When two people, one man and one woman have commitment, marriage and a ring, then it’s right, not before, you understand?” 

            But the only thing Lynn understood that night was that her hunger, her passion for Javier was being denied.  The only other thing she understood was that he wanted commitment and marriage.  Could Lynn do that?  Was she ready to make another commitment?  Lynn passed out before she had to answer those questions. She awoke to the smell of coffee, her head was pounding, it felt like someone had hit her in the head with a hammer.  Who was fixing coffee? Then she remembered, Javier.   

            Lord, she had been drunk last night; Lynn hoped she had not done anything stupid.  Suddenly, she remembered, as her brain cleared, the events of last night came back to haunt her.  She wondered why in the world had she been drinking in the first place?  Lynn had stopped drinking five years ago, when she had to start taking the medicine, what in the world possessed her to start that again? 

            As the fog in her mind cleared, she remembered.  She had been at the bar, when she saw papa leave his game of pool and start paying attention to the old hag; The more he paid attention; the angrier it made her and she started drinking.

        There could only be one reason why, she was jealous.  She remembered the rest of the night too; She had wanted a roll in the hay, but Javier would not let it happen. He wanted commitment and marriage, not just a night of passionate sex.  What a fine mess you’ve gotten into this time, old girl, letting yourself fall in love, Lynn thought.  

            There, it was, her innermost feelings had been revealed.  Lynn had tried so hard to keep those feelings hidden deep inside and deny their existence; deny it even to herself. 

            She pulled back the covers and slowly made her way into the kitchen. Smiling, Javier handed her a cup of coffee.  Lynn mumbled, ‘thank you,’ and tried to leave it at that, but a simple thank you, would not do for papa.  Kissing her, he wrapped his arms around her waist. 

            “Do you understand about last night?” he asked.  Lynn was embarrassed. “Sorry,” she said, “I was drunk.” “Me too, did you think about what I asked?” He repeated what he had asked in Spanish, “Yo querer tu, para querer, matrimonio, entender?”  Lynn shook her head, “no,” “ You understood last night,” he said laughing, “Por Que no hoy?” When Lynn chose not to reply, he repeated everything again in English.   

            “I said, I want you, but I want marriage, and I asked why you didn’t understand today.  You understood my Spanish last night?  Why not today?” He had left her no way out; Lynn couldn’t pretend that she didn’t understand English. Lynn sat the coffee cup down and the table and sat down next to him. 

            “Papa, I love you very much,” she said placing her hand in his, “I realized that this morning, that’s why I started drinking.  Seeing you pay attention to that old hag, last night, it just made me so angry.  This morning I knew the reason behind my anger, I’ve let myself fall in love with you,” Lynn said, “But as much as I love you, I don’t know if I can make that commitment and get married. “  Javier caressed her hand.  

            “It’s okay, mi amor, my love, I will wait until you decide when the time is right. But your son, Carlos, he was very mad, maybe he don’t like me?” “Charles?  He was mad because I was drunk.  It’s not you,” she said. Javier kissed her again.  “We will talk later,” he said, “I need to go to work.”  

            Lynn stopped and picked up her sister, when Carol saw Javier in the front seat, she grinned, “Good morning,” she said.  But Lynn could tell by the devilish glint in her eyes, that her sister wanted to say much more than, ‘good morning.’  

            When Lynn dropped them off at the camp, Javier leaned inside the window and kissed her on the cheek.  “”I see you tonight,” he said. It was more of a statement than a question.  Lynn couldn’t answer, she didn’t trust her feelings enough to answer.  

            As she drove home, Lynn’s mind was filled with questions; questions she didn’t have any answers for. 

            She had spent so many years building a new life.  How could she have let this man get so close?  She should have backed away before he had the chance to fall in love with her; but should have and didn’t, were events she could not change.

            As handsome and sincere and sweet as papa was, and as much as Lynn had fallen in love with him, could she throw caution to the wind and follow her heart? Did she dare? Lynn had to be realistic, Javier was a migrant worker, and he made his living following the crops.  When the season was done and the harvest was over, he’d move on; what would she do then? 

            Would she take Shawn and follow him?  Or, would she sit out the cold West Virginia winter and wait for his return? Part of her, wanted to say the, ‘hell,’ with it; Throwing caution to the wind and follow him no matter where that road might lead. 

            Maybe Carol was right, maybe, this was love, the third time around; and if she followed Javier down that road, who knew what the future would bring?  Lynn knew for sure, that Javier loved her; she could see it in her eyes when he looked at her. 

            Lynn could feel it in his touch and when he kissed her, it was that gentleness in him, that kept drawing her close, like a magnet whenever he was near.  But, what if she was wrong?  Would she just be opening herself up to more of the same hurt and pain she had felt in the past?  Or, would this time, could, this time be different?

            But Lynn could not deny it any longer; she had let herself get too close. And she had fallen in love with him.  Over the last three months, Lynn had let down the walls and emotions around her heart; rather, papa had taken them down. 

            What had taken Lynn years to build, with love, trust and understanding, brick-by-brick, in just a few months, papa had town down the walls around her heart. 

            As Lynn went about her day, she had to laugh about the fight she had with the old woman and about being kicked out of the bar.  Even in her old drinking days, Lynn had never been kicked out of a bar in her life!  But she knew why she had did it; she felt that her love for Javier had been threatened and like a wild cat defending her cubs, Lynn had reacted to that threat, in the only way she knew, to fight for what she wanted; and she wanted papa. “Damn you Javier!” Lynn fussed, “Why did you make me fall in love with you?” 

            Now that she had the answers to the questions, which had been haunting her thoughts, Lynn knew it would only be a matter of time before she would follow him down that road to love. 

            Lynn knew it would not be for money, papa could not give her riches.  He could not place a diamond ring on her finger; but if she decided to make this commitment, Lynn would be accepting all he had to offer; himself and his love.  Out of two failed marriages, the love he was offering was more than enough for Lynn.

 

Chapter 4

 

The Road, Which Followed 

 

            When she went out that afternoon to pick up her sister from the camp, she looked for papa, now that Lynn had found him, rather, he had found her, she wasn’t about to let him go; wherever this road to was destined to take her, Lynn would follow; and she’d follow with all her heart.  How hard could it be?  With papa beside her, there was nothing that the two of them could not handle together.

            But she wanted a private place to tell him, not here at the camp with everyone hanging around. When she saw him coming in from the orchard, it was all Lynn could do to contain her excitement.  She felt like a child on Christmas Day, waiting impatiently to open her presents. Papa waved, a smile on his face, he walked up to the car.

            Lynn wrapped her arms around him, “I got something to tell you,” she said, “But not here, come with me for dinner at my house.” “Ahora?” he asked, “Now? I am dirty from the trees. Mi amor (my love), is necesito, una ducha.  I need one shower,” he repeated in English “Go ahead, I will wait.” he leaned down and kissed her. “Poco tiempo, (little time),” he replied.  Lynn watched as he disappeared into the building.

            “What a day,” Carol said, opening the door.  She started to sit down in the front seat. “I am tired. What are we waiting for?” Lynn glanced at her sister and grinned.  She might as well share the good news.

            “I am waiting for papa, and I got something to tell you.  But don’t you dare say, ‘I told you so,’ promise?” “Tell me?” Lynn shared the secret with her sister. “Sunday night when Chuck had to bring us home because I was too drunk to drive.” “You told me about it,” Carol said laughing. “That Monday morning when we picked you up, you thought we had been together, but we hadn’t.  Javier wouldn’t let it, not until he put a ring on my finger!” “Is there any more out there like that?”  Carol laughed, “What are your going to do? “What do you want to do, sis?” “I’ve been thinking about it all day, he wants commitment and marriage. I do love him sis, “Lynn said, “You were right, I think this is love, the third time around. I’m going to tell him tonight.”

            “I’m glad for you sis,” Carol said, “It’s about time things turned around for you. I’m glad you’re taking the chance.” Carol hugged her, “You weren’t meant to live alone.”

            Lynn fixed dinner while papa watched television.  She sat the table and called him.  “It’s ready,” Lynn called.  Lynn had fixed chicken, rice, red beans and a salad. Papa ate every bit of it and helped her clear the table.

            As they sat down to watch a movie, papa took her hand and held it. “Mi amor, I’m full the food, muy bien, very good. But something is wrong?” Lynn smiled, “No,” she said, “Everything is right. I’ve been thinking all day about our talk this morning, if you still want a commitment and marriage, I’m ready.”

            Javier grabbed her and hugged her; laughter lit the dark Spanish eyes. “Mi amor, mi amor, (my love, my love) yes! Yo mucho feliz, (I am very happy). Tomorrow, after work, we go shopping for clothes, okay? Lynn fell into his waiting arms, she was crying.

            “”No, tears mamita, no tears.” “It’s okay papa, it’s happy tears, I love you papa, I love you.” “And I love you mama, I love you.”

            Their big day came on May 2, 1989.  With her son, Shawn and two of Papa’s friends by their side, Julie and Jessie, by their side, Javier and Lynda exchanged wedding vows.

            The love they felt for each other spilled out into the small courtroom in Winchester, Virginia.

            Repeating his vows, holding her hand, papa slipped the gold band on her finger. “No mamita, not even death will take me from you. I will be with you forever.” He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, repeating the last few words in Spanish. “Para siempre, mi amor, para siempre, (forever my love, forever).”

            When Javier added those words to his vows, ‘about death never taking him from her, a sudden chill swept over Lynn.  Foreboding and cold, like someone had just walked over her grave.

            No matter how hard she tried, Lynn could not shake the feeling; his words seemed like another prophecy yet to be fulfilled. His arms encircled her waist and whispered softly in her ear.

            “Now, it is right, mi amor, my love. Now it is good.” “You’ve made a good woman out of me papa,” Lynn laughed, “I love you papa.” Pulling her into his arms, they shared a long and passionate kiss. “I love you mi mamita,” papa said, “Forever and forever.”

            Their wedding night was all Lynn had expected it to be and more. Papa was a gentle lover, very attentive to her needs. “I love you mi mamita,” he whispered, “You have made my life happy.’ When papa looked down at her, a smile spread across his dark handsome face.

            “See mi amor, it is better we wait until this night.” “Yes, papa it is better we waited until this night.” Laughter lit the dark pools of his eyes.

            “I am an old man, I am tired but happy.” “Papa, you will never be too old for me,” Lynn teased. he kissed her gently on the lips. “No, my love,” he whispered, “I will never be too old to make love to my wife. Time.” he said, “In my heart, I know that is all you needed. Time to trust, and time to make you fall in love with me.” He placed his hand over her heart and placed her hand over his heart. “Today, our two hearts are one.” Happy and contented, safe and secure, Lynn fell asleep in his arms.

            It surprised Lynn that Shawn got along well with papa.  It was hard for Shawn to get along with people.  Because of past abuse in his life and neglect by his father, Shawn pushed people aside, most the time he stayed in his own little world; emerging from his self exile only when it pleased him, and very seldom, allowing outsiders to enter that world, papa was the first stranger Shawn let enter his world.

            But Shawn grew to love Javier. Papa was patient with him, he didn’t try to rule or become the father figure Shawn never had, instead, papa became Shawn’s friend and would speak to him in a gentle voice.

            One afternoon, she had fussed at Shawn over the mess in his room, when he talked backed to her, papa gave Shawn a disapproving look. “No Shawn, this is your mother you need to show her respect.” Shawn hung his head. “Sorry,” he said. “No sorry Shawn, when your mother tell you to do something, you need to listen.”

            That was papa’s way, gentle, friendly, yet firm. Shawn soaked up the attention that papa gave him, he never let Shawn feel like he was being left out. If it was quick trip to the store, papa would invite Shawn to come along.

            Lynn was happy she had followed Javier down this road to marriage.  After work at night, Lynn would curl up next to him on the sofa and watch television. Papa liked nothing more then to sit with his arm draped over her shoulder, he was content to be at home with her.

            He got Lynn hooked on wrestling. “It’s mentir mama,” he’d say laughing, “It’s a lie. “But you love it don’t you papa?” he would look at her and grin, laughter dancing in the dark Spanish eyes Lynn loved so much. “Si, mama, si,” (yes mama, yes).

            If papa wasn’t too tired after work on Saturday afternoon, after he’d clean up, they would spend the rest of the afternoon going from one-yard sale to the other.  Papa loved looking at other people’s junk. 

            Sometimes they would luck out and find,’ good stuff,’ as papa called it. One such afternoon, papa picked up a small stereo. “This is good mama,” he said, “I want this.” Lynn couldn’t understand why he wanted it, when he a nice, expensive stereo at home. “No for me,” he said,” for Shawn.” “That is sweet of you papa, to think of Shawn.” “Is mi hijo now mama, is my son now.” Sadness filled the dark pools of his eyes. “Maybe one day mama, we will take a trip to visit mi hijo’s and mi hija in Oklahoma. “You, me and Shawn and Carlos too, if he wants to go.” “Papa you never told me you had children in Oklahoma?” “No children mama, grown up now.” “Papa? You keeping secrets from me?” Papa smiled. “No mama.” he said.

            One afternoon late in the month of May, Papa got Shawn out of bed. “Come on Shawn, he told him, me and you go to work today.” They were clearing brush in the orchard and papa took Shawn along to help. “I need to teach him to be a man and to work,” papa said. Shawn was not a happy camper. He grumbled and fussed at getting up so early. But papa would have none of it.

            “I don’t need to work,” Shawn fussed, “I get a check.” Papa laughed. “Maybe one day Shawn, no check. You need to learn to work and be a man.  You are not a little boy any more.” Then papa told him the story when he was a little boy in Mexico.

            “Shawn, in Mexico when there is no money, little boys work in the field. There is no money for school.  Maybe I was five or six, I went into the fields with my mother, and brothers and sisters. I wasn’t working fast enough, and my mother, she took a little switch and smacked my legs, “mass rapido mi hijo, no rapido, no dinero.” The Spanish was lost on Shawn.  Papa explained it to him in English.

            “More fast, my son, no fast, no money.” “That was mean,” Shawn said.  Papa shook his head. “No Shawn, my mother teaches me how to work, how to make money. We didn’t have money for school, she taught me what she knew, and that was how to work the fields. “You understand?” Shawn shook his head. “No.” “Anyway, my mother teach me, I taught my children and now, I teach you.”

            Lynn packed two big lunches and drove them out to the orchard. Shawn grumbled under his breath. Papa heard and understood. He gave Shawn a playful pat on the back. “Come on Shawn, be happy.  Today, you learn men’s work.”

            Papa hadn’t given him a choice; he paid no attention to the grumbling.  He just let Shawn know what was expected of him.  Papa expected him to be a man and he didn’t take, ‘no,’ for an answer.  He went about the business of teaching Shawn how to grow up.

            To Lynn’s surprise, after that first day, Shawn like the work, he liked the money it put in his pocket and he liked working with papa. For the next two Saturday’s, Lynn would pack his lunch and drive them to the orchard.

            “Than you papa,” Lynn said, one afternoon. “What for mama?’ “For taking the time to teach him.” Papa smiled. “No problem mama,” he said, “ I like Shawn, he is a good boy.”

            “Papa? I want you to show me how to make those great burrito’s, with beef and cheese.” “No jalapenos?”  He laughed. “No papa!  No peppers!” He grabbed her and hugged her tightly.

            Papa taught her to make the burritos and other Spanish foods.  He loved beans and rice with chicken.  It was his favorite.  Papa would take a plain tortilla with cheese, (queso) in Spanish.  The cheese would make her gain weight, but Lynn loved it.

            Lynn learned to make refried beans, just smash the pinto beans and cook them in oil.  Papa liked his Spanish food, Lynn was happy she had learned to cook most of his favorite dishes.

            One night after she had made his favorite chicken with rice, papa finished it off. He laughed, teasing her. “Muy bien! (very good) I can eat again,” he said laughing. Lynn pretended to be offended. “Papa!” “I play mi amor, I’m playing.”

            Lynn was happy, content and in love.  Carol had been right in her prophecy; Love had come for the third time around and it had caught Lynn in its grip.  She thanked heaven for papa and prayed that he would be with her forever.

            Shortly after their marriage, Lynn had filled out forms for papa to get his, ‘Green card,’ this would not make him legal, but it would give him legal status under Immigration laws, allowing him to live and work in this country.

            Lynn wouldn’t have to worry about papa being shipped back to Mexico when Immigration agents raided the orchards and the fields! She never told papa, but that had been one of her biggest fears, with him not having legal status, he could be shipped to Mexico before they had a chance for a life together.

            In order to make him legal, he would need his birth certificate and other documents from Mexico.  Papa had written his family and asked for them.  They arrived on his birthday, June 30, 1989.

            Lynn had never seen papa so excited.  He grabbed her, hugging and kissing her. Papa starting laughing as he read over the documents. “Mama! I am an old man!” he laughed, “I am 63, not 59! he laughed, “Come on, una fiesta! One party! Vamonos, tienda! “Go to the store,” he repeated in English. “Mama, I want cake, soda, ice cream and maybe a little beer for me.”

            Lynn laughed as papa blew out all 63 candles on his cake.  No wonder Javier had wanted her to call him, ‘papa,’ he was 63, and Lynn was 44! but papa had his party, soda for her and Shawn, and beer for him. Papa put his Spanish tapes on the stereo and they danced and laughed until late into the night.

            Now that they had his documents, it wouldn’t be long until they would make the trip to Pennsylvania and get the process started. “Mi amor, (my love) you want to sleep with this old man?” Papa laughed. “Always papa, “ and Lynn turned to him.

            In June, papa changed jobs. Through another crew leader, papa learned there was a farm in Charles Town offering good money to plant tomatoes.  The drive was longer, but the crew leader would provide transportation.

            Papa would work the fields, planting, until the peaches were ready. Lynn would get up a little early and fix his lunch, she always coaxed him to carry a water jug.  It was mid July now and hot in the fields.  Lynn wanted him to have plenty of fresh water.

            “No need mama,” papa said one morning, “There is water in the field from the pipes.”

            Papa had been working about three weeks when he started getting sick Lynn watched him shuffle up the walk, she knew something was wrong.  His face was pale; a yellow tint marred his bronze complexion. She met him at the door.

            “What’s the matter papa?” “I don’t know mama, I’m sick.” he handed her his lunch pail, “I need lay down.” “I should have taken my water mama, we been drinking the water from the pipes, but today the boss said not to drink the water. The farmer’s wife gave us milk to drink. She said, it would be okay.” Panic filled Lynn’s mind, the water papa had been drinking was poisoned with pesticides.  She had to get him into the emergency room.

            “Papa, you need to go to the hospital.  The water was contaminated, it will make you very sick.”  But papa acted like it was no big deal, and that scared her. “I will lay down, don’t worry, I will be okay in the morning.” he kissed her, trying to reassure Lynn. “It’s okay mama, it’s okay” But Lynn knew it wasn’t okay. Maybe papa didn’t understand the danger, but Lynn did.

            “Papa, I know you’re sick and want to lay down but first you need to be seen. Maybe you don’t understand the danger, but I do. What kind of pesticide was it papa, Do you know?” “No honey I don’t know.” he said.  Lynn had to find out what kind of pesticide was used. She needed to call the farm where he had been working.  But when she tried to explain it to papa, be became angry. It was the first time he’d been angry with her.

            “No!” he said, “Leave it alone. I’m going to bed!”  Tears filled her eyes, falling down her face. When papa saw her tears, he lowered his voice and wiped the tears running down her face.

            “Mama, it’s okay don’t cry.”

            “It’s okay, I am a little angry yes, but not too much.  You are an American woman, I love you, but you don’t understand your Mexican husband. He tried to smile. “In Mexico, if something happens at the work, it is not the business of the wife. It is man’s business, we take care of the problem.”

            “But papa, pesticides can make you more than sick. And I don’t want to lose you, okay?  You are my life papa, and I would die if something happen to you.” “Mi amor (my love), on our wedding day, remember, I said, I will be with you forever? I have not changed my mind; I will be with you forever.  Please mama, no more talk okay?  I need to sleep.”

            “Okay papa, you sleep.”  Lynn closed the door and left the bedroom. Going into the living room, Lynn knelt down and prayed, Lynn believed in God, she didn’t know Him like she should, but she knew he heard prayers and he was the only one who could help her now.

            “God, I know that you hear prayers, and sometimes you answer them. I don’t know if I have the right to ask, but Javier is my life. Please, help him and keep him with me. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost him.”  Tears rolled down her face.  God just had to answer her prayers.  Her prayer had been selfish, but after everything she had been through in her life, Lynn felt she deserved some happiness for a change. And life with Papa made her happy. And if it was selfish for her to think that way, then so be it.

            She checked in on papa, he was sleeping soundly.  Closing the door, she called her friend June, whose husband, Jose, worked with papa.  Maybe June would know something.  If papa was sick and if it was from the water, Jose might also be sick.

            “I just got in the door,” June replied,” Did your hear, did papa tell you the water the guys drank had pesticides in it?” “That’s the reason I called,” Lynn, explained, “Papa is sick too, and I was hoping you would have some information” “I wish I did,” June said, “It was some kind of herbicide, but we don’t know the name of it. Lynn, I got to go, Jose needs me.  Just get Javier to the emergency room. I’ll call later.’

            Lynn would have like nothing more than to get papa into the emergency room. But he had refused to go, Lynn had wanted to fuss until he consented, but he was sick and feeling bad like he did, Lynn didn’t want to argue with him.

            Papa finished out the rest of July planting tomatoes. Lynn was glad when the month of August rolled around, she would be glad when he could go back to the orchard for the peach season.

            But while the guys had been planting tomatoes, his old boss had hired another crew to harvest the peaches.  Papa moped around the house for two days, he wasn’t used to not working and it was getting to him. Lynn tried to tell him it would be okay, that he would find another job soon.

            “Okay mama,” he said, “No work, no money? “Maybe Carol is working,” Lynn, said, “ Let’s go visit papa and find out, okay?”  Papa threw his hands up in the air, he was angry, not with her, but because he didn’t have a job. “Okay mama, vamonos!”  Translated means ‘go.’

        Papa always had to be working, he was not used to being off, and it was driving him crazy. Lynn sensed his restlessness; she hoped that her sister might know of someplace where they could work.

            She had talked to him about picking peaches for another orchard, but because of his immigration status, papa didn’t want to sign on anywhere else.

            “Papa? Do you need to work for the same orchard? There are plenty more orchards around Martinsburg, couldn’t you try another orchard?” “Yes maybe, ” he said, “But sometimes other orchards are not good for illegal workers. It’s best to stay where you know. Don’t worry mama, maybe you, me and your sister go to the strawberries? You want to go mama?” “If you want to try papa.  I won’t be fast enough to make any money, but.” Papa leaned over and kissed her. “Mama, I know because of your disability, it’s okay.  I don’t want you to go to make money.  I just want you to be there with me, okay?”  Papa laughed, “I know one place, we go today.  We pick up your sister and go, okay?”

            They stopped and picked up Carol and papa showed Lynn where the strawberry field was located.  It was still early morning, so it wasn’t too late or too hot to get into the field.

            Papa and Carol signed in, they could use more pickers.  Lynn had not been in strawberry patch since 1976.  With the disability in her feet and legs, the standing, bending, and walking was sending searing pain through her feet and down her legs. No matter how hard she tried to keep up with papa, she could not.  It was physically impossible. 

            “Mi amor, (my love), go to the car,” he took the bucket from her hand. “You are in too much pain.” Papa had been watching her going up and down the rows. Lynn started to protest, but papa stopped her. “The work is too hard for you now,” he said, “You try, but you can’t. Wait for me in the car.” “But papa.” “No, go. I am the man, the husband, I will make the living.”  Papa had spoken, Lynn waited for them in the car.  “Darn these legs! Lynn fussed; she couldn’t work on them for even two hours.  She had tried, but papa was right.  The pain shooting into her feet and muscle spasms knotting in her legs was unbearable.

            For the next two weeks, Lynn would pack lunches for her and papa; they would pick up her sister and head out of town for the strawberry fields. The strawberry patch was too far away for Lynn to drop them off and come back.  She would stay until the work was finished.

            On the way home one afternoon, papa started laughing. “What’s so funny papa?” “I was thinking, maybe tomorrow, we bring Shawn?” Lynn thought it was a good idea, but her sister did not.

            “No! I won’t make any money,” she said, “He’ll be picking at me all day. Then I’ll have to take those berries and throw them at him.  No!” Shawn stayed home.

            After the berries were finished, the three of them went to work for a farmer Carol knew who needed help picking tomatoes. The first morning they were to work, papa got up feeling sick and clutching his left arm. Once again, Lynn wanted him to go to the hospital, and once again, papa refused.

            “Papa!  You might be having a heart attack!  The way you’re holding your arm.” ”No, I’m okay, a little pain that’s all. Let’s go.” Papa didn’t want Lynn in the fields, they had a slight  disagreement over it.

            “No,” papa told her, “No.” He had said no, and thought that would be the end of it. “No more discussion,” Papa said. “Yes papa, more discussion. If you can go out there with your chest hurting and too stubborn to let me take you to the emergency room, I can go in the field.” Lynn took the five-gallon bucket and headed off to the tomatoes. If papa was going, she was going. Period.  She would work with him today no matter how much pain she would be in.  Lynn knew he was hurting and she became determine to stay by his side. If papa needed her, Lynn wanted to be right there.

            They were big tomatoes and it didn’t take Lynn long to fill one bucket then another, that’s the way it went all morning until it was time to take their lunch break. Papa was still a little bit upset that she hadn’t listened, but he loved her and Lynn knew he would get over it.  They sat under a tree and ate their lunch.

            “You still angry with me papa?” Lynn asked,  smiling, he leaned over and kissed her. “No my love, no more angry. You got a lot of buckets.”  Lynn laughed. “You were watching me papa?” “Okay, I don’t want you working too hard,” he said. “They are big tomatoes papa.”  They laughed together. It felt good to be beside him, working next to him and laughing.  This is the way marriage should be, Lynn thought, working together, playing together, give and take.

            Papa picked up his bucket and they started to head back into the field, but they never made it; yelling for her, papa dropped his bucket and started to claw at his chest; as if doing so, he could make the pain go away.

            Some nearby farm workers came running, they helped her get him into the car. His face was pale, “It hurts mama,” he said, tears filled the black pools of his eyes. Lynn tried to reassure him.  “It’s okay papa, it’s okay.”

            Fear rose in her heart, making it difficult for her to breathe. Lynn said a silent prayer, ‘God help me get him to the hospital on time.’

 

Chapter 5

  

Saturday, December 16, 1989 

 

            Lynn needs to visit papa today; his spirit has been calling, beckoning Lynn to his side. “I want my wedding ring, mamita,” (mama), the sweet sound of his voice gently calls. “And I want my headband, please come mi amor (my love).  I am lonely, mamita (mama), so lonely.”

            The sound of his voice awakened her, without thinking, without remembering, Lynn reached across the bed to pull him towards her, to snuggle in his arms. But papa’s side of the bed was cold and bare.  Feeling the vacant space next to her where papa should have been, Lynn remembered.  Tears of sadness filled the pools of her Irish, hazel eyes, cascading down her cheeks.  A choking lump formed in her throat, beginning anew the aching of her heart.

            Lynn was wide-awake and helpless to stop the tears. The dawn of the new day had brought with it a remembrance.  Reminding her that after seven short months of life together, that papa’s side of the bed would forever remain cold and bare; vacant, like her life.

            Lynn climbed slowly out of bed, she wanted so much to share this moment with her children, but she could not. They would not understand, “You were dreaming mom,” is all they would say.  But Lynn knew better, it was not a dream.  Papa had called to her, and Lynn would not keep him waiting. “I’m coming papa,” Lynn called, “I’m coming.”

            “She pushed aside the curtains which framed the small bedroom window overlooking the front of the lot.  Overnight, the world outside her small two-bedroom mobile home had turned white.  The outside world was engulfed in a blizzard.  The wind howled, the small rose bush papa had planted was shaking with the wind.

            Listless, Lynn’s fingers traced the outline of snowflakes clinging to the cold window glass.  Being awakened by papa’s spirit calling her had set a strange mood within her mind.  The storm raging on the outside world, matched the storm raging within her heart, within her soul.  Lynn was glad the storm had struck; she hoped and prayed that it would last for days, stranding her within the confines of her home.

            If the storm lasted for days then she would not have bury papa.  She would not have to see him lying there so cold, so still, so alone, and so dead, in that dark gray casket; she would not have to bury her life. Lynn wanted to scramble back into bed, grab the covers and pull them over her head.  Instead, she screamed, ‘God! Help me make it through another day.’ But God wasn’t listening.

            If He had been, papa would still be alive. As long as the storm battered the outside world, Lynn would not have to face reality. She could crawl back into bed, pull the covers over her head and forget; forgetting the nightmare that had engulfed her mind, her body, and her very soul.

            Papa wasn’t dead!  He wasn’t! It was all a nightmare. Someone’s idea of a sick and horrid joke.

            When the storm was over and the roads were clear of the ice and snow, she would drop Shawn off at Carol’s and make that long drive to Hershey Medical Center.  Papa would be there in his room, waiting for her. Not knowing what had delayed her return, his dark eyes would be filled with questions.

            The first thing Lynn would do would be to hold him and smother his handsome face with kisses.  She would then explain that the storm had kept her away from him; Being careful not to disturb his tubes and monitors, she would climb into bed and cuddle up beside him, and there she would stay until the night nurses chased her from his bed.

            When the bright morning sunshine once again filled his room, Lynn would awaken papa with a kiss, then she would do what she had done everyday since he’d been sick. Lynn would help him to the bathroom.  She would bathe him and help him into a fresh, clean gown.

            After breakfast, while student nurses made his bed, Lynn would wheel papa into the sunroom; and there the two of them would stay, snuggled like a couple of love struck teens until mid afternoon when it would be time for papa’s dialysis treatment. While papa was in dialysis, Lynn would take care of her needs, take her medicine and eat.

            While Lynn continued staring into the outside world, the storm changed. The white sky laden with snow disappeared; in its place were thick black angry clouds. Sudden blackness engulfed her soul, yanking her down into the black pit of its violent churning center.  Feeling her body sway, Lynn tried to move away from the window, but fingers like claws reached out and grabbed her. Stiff and void of emotion, void of life, Lynn surrendered, collapsing to the floor.

            From somewhere deep inside the pit where Lynn was trapped, an agonized scream sounded in her ears. The scream lasted only a few seconds before giving way to the sound of quiet sobbing. He bedroom door was flung open, noise replaced the silence. Lynn’s daughter Kelly and her boyfriend Martin were kneeling down to comfort her. Martin helped her to stand. Fear and pain filled the dark brown pools of Kelly’s eyes. “Mom you were screaming, what happened?” Lynn did not answer.  She was shaking and sobbing.

            “Mom? You need to eat and you need your medicine for your diabetes.” “Come on mom,” Martin said, “Let us help you into the kitchen.” Lynn tried to resist Kelly and Martin’s efforts.

            Lynn didn’t want to eat, she didn’t want her insulin, she didn’t want to bathe, to dress, brush her teeth, or wash her hair.  She never wanted to do any of these mundane things of everyday life ever again.

            What Lynn wanted was to escape to her room, the room she had shared with papa. Lynn wanted to scream and yell, to curse the day and the night, and to curse those who had taken him away from her.  She wanted to crawl back into bed, pull the blankets over her head and forget. Forget that while her heart still beat inside her chest, that papa’s heart would never beat again.  She wanted to forget that his side of the bed would forever remain cold and bare.

            Like an obedient child, Lynn let them lead her into the kitchen.  The aroma of fresh perked coffee was tempting; she let Kelly fix her a cup.  The overpowering smell of food, of bacon sizzling in the frying pan was nauseating. When Martin fixed her a plate, Lynn waved it away.

            Lynn didn’t need or want food. What Lynn needed, what Lynn wanted, was dead. And would never again be alive for her to snuggle close, for her to cuddle in his arms on a cold winter’s night; for her to love and to cherish.

            What Lynn needed, what Lynn wanted, was laying cold and dead, alone and void of life in a cold, empty room at Brown’s Funeral Home in Martinsburg, West Virginia. While papa slept, his restless spirit calling out to her, Lynn slipped deeper and deeper into a black pit of depression.

            Married at the age of seventeen, Lynn had always been the mother her children needed, now, the roles were reversed.  Lynn was the child, her children, all four of them, had become her mother.

            As mothers do, reminding Lynn constantly, that she needed to shower, she needed to check her glucose levels, reminding her to take her insulin shots and to eat.

            Sometimes the veil over her mind would grow dim and she could hear their voices, it was a reminder to Lynn that she was still alive.

            Lynn grew content to curl up into the black pit. It was a strange place where her loving children could not follow.  In the strangest of ways the blackness acted like a friend with encircling arms in a time of darkness.  Comforting, protecting, shielding, keeping Lynn’s mind from slipping over the edge into insanity.

            Lynn knew that her children suspected that she had already crossed over that threshold, especially her older two, Charles and Kelly. Charles and Shawn had been by her side when papa has the first heart attack in August.

            Later, when he was in Chambersburg Hospital, it was the girls who had been with her.  While in Chambersburg, Lynn would stay with Kelly and Martin, and then with Susan. When he died on December 11, it was Kelly and Susan she had held on to.

            Lynn looked from one face to the other; they feared for her mental state; none of them had to express it; it was a look that would pass between them, unvoiced thoughts that Lynn could almost read.

            At times, Lynn’s mind would become almost rational, she thought she could accept papa’s passing.  But as the day neared to say her final good-by’s Lynn refused to accept this nightmare as reality.

            Lynn had often heard that there was a, ‘thin line,’ between sanity and insanity; if that was true, Lynn’s mind was trapped somewhere in the middle.

            While waiting for the storm to subside, Lynn sat silently rocking back and forth in Papa’s favorite chair.  Gratefully, she accepted another cup of coffee from Martin. She sipped the hot liquid, starring blankly out the window. It didn’t matter that she had chosen to retreat from the world; life went on without her. 

            Thinking on these thoughts made Lynn angry.  How dare it! How selfish it was for the world to continue on as before! As if nothing had happened; as if Lynn’s very life had not jerked from beneath her.  Lynn’s world had collapsed and the outside world had not even slowed down enough to notice.

            Why should it? Lynn thought, papa had not been a man of the world, he had been special only to her.  Tears flooded Lynn’s eyes, as she cried, rocking back and forth in papa’s favorite chair, the sounds of life went on around her.

            Martin was busy cleaning the kitchen, her four grandchildren, Ramada, and Manuel, Michelle and Juan, laughed at cartoons on television; Shawn fussed with her sister’s over who would get their shower first.  Even in her own household life continued on as before, as if nothing had happened.

            Somewhere from within the numbness, within the blackness, within the depression, a voice filled with agony and despair, cried its way to the surface. “Won’t someone please, make the world go away!”

            Lynn’s children didn’t know how to react to her strange behavior. Physically, she was there; emotionally, Lynn had drifted into a dark place where none of them could reach.  She had drifted into a world where none of them could follow; and the nightmare continued.

 

Chapter 6
  

The Nightmare Continues 

 

            The storm had stooped; Charles arrived; helping her with her coat and down the icy steps to his car, fussing at Shawn. “You could have cleaned the steps Shawn,” he fussed.  Life goes on, Lynn thought. “It’s time mother,” he said helping her into his car. Within the fog swirling around her mind, his soft-spoken words reached her ears. Time? Lynn questioned, time for what? Confused, Lynn starred blankly into the concerned faces of her children. There was something she had to do today, but she could not remember what it was.

            Numbness filled her mind and body, she tripped on the carpet, her boys caught her before she fell. They guided Lynn down the long narrow hall.

            “Are you okay mother?” Charles asked.  Lynn starred blankly into his eyes. Concerned filled the hazel pools of Chuck’s eyes; anguish, doubt and confusion, clouded the dark blue pools of Shawn’s eyes. And fear that Lynn was losing touch with reality haunted the faces of all of her children.

            Her daughters also rushed to stand beside her.  With her children beside her, Lynn walked down the long isle. Lynn stood in front of papa’s casket, starring down into his handsome face, his spirit spoke to her. ‘you came mama, you came.’

            As if she had been awakened from a dream, Lynn’s mind became clear; she smiled down into the casket, speaking to papa in Spanish. ‘yo estoy aqui mi amor, you estoy aqui.’ I am here my love, I am here.

            With the exception of the casket and chairs, which had been set up for the viewing, the room was empty and cold.  Lynn’s children had gone together and placed a spray of pink and white carnations at the foot of papa’s casket.  Lynn had wanted a spray of red roses, but her credit had been rejected.

            Carol and her children had placed another spray of red carnations at the other side of the casket. Lynn was angry that credit for red roses could not have been extended to a grieving widow whose last name happen to be, ‘Hernandez.’ keep it together her mind warned, Lynn erased the angry thoughts of injustice and discrimination from her mind; today was not the time to think on those thoughts.

            Lynn could not fight all of her battles at one time.  She would slaughter her giants, one giant at a time. But today she needed to think about papa; she needed all her strength to get through this day, tomorrow and the rest of her life without papa.

            Tears of sadness welled up in her eyes,  “Oh papa,” she cried, I can’t even buy you flowers.” ‘It is not important mama,’ papa spirit replied, ‘you are here mama, tu estoy mi amor, tu estoy, is what is important to me mama, you are here my love, you are here.’

            Lynn thought of how quickly he had been taken from her and how time had slipped away from them. Three short months of wedded bliss, followed by five long months of sickness.  When it looked as if papa would recover and come home, without warning he was gone.  Lynn wiped the tears running down her face.

            “I don’t understand papa,” she cried, “You were getting better.  You came through the operation with flying colors. Your doctors at Hershey Medical Center were so pleased with your recovery that after four weeks they released you into Chambersburg Hospital, into the Rehabilitation program.  What happened papa? What happened?”

            ‘No llorar mama,’ papa’s sweet spirit whispered, ‘yo estoy aqui para siempre, mi amor, para siempre,’ (no weeping mama, I am here forever my love, forever). No matter how hard she tried, Lynn couldn’t stop the tears. “You were doing so good papa,” she cried, “learning to walk again, to bathe, to dress; You were regaining the strength in your arms and legs. You were doing so well. What happened papa? Why did you leave me? Why?”

            “Mother? Mother, snap out of it.  This is not healthy.  You are talking to Javier as if he can hear you and talk back to you.”  Lynn had not heard her son Charles, come and stand beside her, until suddenly, he was there.  She had been with papa. Lynn chuckled, If he only knew that papa’s spirit had been speaking with her. But this would stay papa and Lynn’s secret.  If she dared share this with her children, the question and the doubt about her sanity would be answered.

            Slowly, a thought took root in her mind, Lynn could not shake it. Could this person lying so still and so cold and so dead, really be papa? Or was this someone’s idea of a cruel hoax?

            Except for the chalky color of the face, it looked like papa.  The body was dressed in papa’s new clothes.  The western tie, a Christmas gift from Shawn, a blue western shirt with snaps down the front, and dark blue western style jeans, Lynn’s Christmas gift.

            Lynn had wanted had wanted to send the white shirt with the Indian Chief embroidered on the back.  Papa had worn that shirt on their wedding day and Lynn could not find it.  Perhaps it was in papa’s stuff or it could have gotten lost in Chambersburg.

            Papa’s face was too white, he didn’t look natural. The funeral home had used too much make up.  Her papa had not been a, ‘white man,’ but Mexican-Indian, dark and bronze from too many long hours in the hot sun.

            Lynn took the headband and wiped at the make up on papa’s face.  Charles was shocked and reached for her hand. “Mother! he cried, “What are you doing?” “Papa is too white.”  And to the embarrassment of her son, Lynn continued wiping off most of the make up. Charles took her hand and tried to coax her away from papa’s casket.

            “Mother, I know this is a sad time for you,” he spoke softly, “But please try and keep it together. Maybe we should go home now and come back later.” Lynn stared into his hazel eyes, fear stared back at her.

            “You’re afraid I’ve lost my sanity aren’t you” Charles did not reply.  His silence confirmed that Lynn had expressed his unspoken thoughts. “Maybe you’re right, maybe I have lost touch with reality.  But I can’t leave just yet. Papa needs his headband and he wants his wedding ring” Charles sighed.

            “Yes mother, but then, I’m taking you home.” His words were soft, but spoken like a command Lynn needed to obey.

            She turned to look around the room for her other children, as she did, Lynn noticed that the room was no longer empty. Papa’s friends had come to pay their respects. Lynn recognized some of the faces but their names escaped her memory.  Most of the sad faces starring in her direction were of strangers she didn’t know.

            Papa had kept his home life with her and Shawn separate from work and his friends.  There were only a handful of his very best friends papa had allowed to come to their home.  Lynn remembered talking to papa about it. Lynn had not understood the reason why, she had wanted papa to know that it was okay with her if he had wanted his friends to visit.  Papa had shaken his head. “No my love, just a few.” Papa had his reasons and she never questioned his judgment.

            Oblivious to the stares and whispers, Lynn continued with her task.  Gently she lifted papa’s head and tied his headband around it. Reaching into the casket, lifting his left hand, Lynn slid the gold band back on papa’s finger.

            “This ring is a symbol of my continued love for you papa, like you said in our vows papa; not even death will ever take you from me; forever my love, forever.” Lynn whispered softly for only papa’s spirit to hear her words.  Lynn felt a soft touch on her shoulder, turning she expected to see her sister.

            Then she remembered, Carol just had major surgery, when Lynn needed her the most, she wouldn’t be able to be there.  Lynn’s eyes filled with tears. It was her girlfriend Shirley who stood beside her; Shirley had just lost her son had put aside her own grief to be here for her.  Lynn fell into her arms sobbing.

            “Shirley, I am so sorry about your son, I would have been there if I could have.” “Its okay, you were where you were needed at papa’s side.” “We didn’t have enough time Shirley,” Lynn sobbed, “We didn’t have enough time.” “I know, She whispered, “There is never enough time for any of us Lynn, never enough time for any of us. But papa knows you’re here.”

            Shirley and Lynn had worked together many years before at Community Action in Romney, West Virginia.  When Lynn became disabled and could no longer work, Shirley was working for Legal Aid, and helped Lynn get her disability.

            Lynn could not bear to move away from papa’s casket.  If God would allow her, she would join him in paradise. “Javier was a good man Lynn,” Shirley said, “He had a lot of friends and loved by them all.  Let’s go and sit down okay? So papa’s friends can say their good-bys.”

            Silently, Lynn sat and watched the mourners file past papa’s casket.  It touched Lynn’s heart to see these guys touch papa’s casket; make the sign of the cross, bidding him a final farewell.  Tears of sadness and grief streaked their faces.  Most of them had worked with papa in the orchards and in the tomato field.  They too, had drank the water filled with the pesticide, which had taken papa’s life.

            Martin stopped and looked down at papa. Gently he touched the casket making the sign of the cross.  Lynn had been so wrapped up in her grief, she had forgotten the special bond of friendship the two of them had shared. Martin’s shoulders slumped and he sobbed. “Vaya con Dios, mi amigo,” he sobbed, “Go with God my friend, go with God.”

 

Chapter 7 

 

Precious Memories 

 

            The viewing had been a nightmare.  Lynn had drifted in and out of a fog, remembering very little of what she had done, or what she may have said. Her daughters Kelly and Susan had been there too, crying and holding her hand.  They had loved papa too.  He had been an easy person to love. At one point Kelly had broke down in tears.

            What was it her daughter had said?  Lynn tried to remember. “I feel so guilty mom, “ she had said, tears filled the big brown pools of her eyes. But Why would her daughter feel guilty? It wasn’t her fault papa had died. Lynn was transported back to that day and she remembered.

            The morning of December 11, had dawned cold and snowy.  Lynn was dressed and ready to visit papa.  She had to wait until visiting hours, Lynn marked the time by taking Susan Christmas shopping.  When that was done, she had to pick up Kelly the children were sick.

            By the time she got to the hospital papa was down in the emergency room. His blood pressure had dropped; the doctors were trying to bring it back up. She ran to his side. Papa was okay, and happy to see her.

            Lynn had explained what had kept her and papa understood.  He smiled at her, “Its okay mama, take my babies home.” “No papa, I need to stay with you, they can wait a little while.” Papa held her hand. “Mama, its okay.  I will be here when you come back”

            Lynn took them home, she had only been gone a little while, when she returned, and papa was gone. “If only you had been there with him,” Kelly cried. “It was our fault,” Susan said, “We kept you from spending that last day with him.”

            Remembering that day, Lynn felt the throbbing pain began anew in her heart. It seemed that no matter what was going on in her world, someone always needed her. Lynn would not blame her daughters; she blamed herself.

            But even in death papa had kept his promise, he had waited for her return. He was lying there so peaceful, like he was sleeping. As Lynn turned his head and kissed him, a smile spread across his lips. Papa had waited for her and he knew when Lynn had returned to his bedside.  After she had kissed him, she started screaming; Lynn lost it that day and there was no one with her.

            One nurse yelled at her, “You’re scaring the other patients,” she said.  If Lynn hadn’t been so full of grief, she would have decked her. “I just lost my husband, the heck with your other patients. I am alone here, do you mind? Can I please get a little compassion, if it’s not too much trouble for you!” And Lynn didn’t care that she was screaming and yelling.

            A priest from a near by Catholic Church came and offered his help.  Lynn wasn’t Catholic, but she was grateful and accepted.  She had wanted to stay with papa, but they would not let her.  She had come to the hospital with him, now; she would have to go home alone.

            Lynn had been beside him all the time, from the first heart attack in Martinsburg; She had kept a vigil at his beside.  While she had been gone maybe thirty minutes or less, death had sneaked in and snatched him from her.  No, Lynn could not blame her girls. It was her fault, when papa had needed her the most; she had not been there.

            One of the last memories she had of the viewing was Shawn crying on her shoulder. “I loved him mom,” he cried, “I loved him more than dad.  He treated me more like a son than my own father.”  The boys closed her bedroom door, “You need to sleep now mom,” Shawn said, “You need rest for tomorrow.” “Tomorrow,” Charles said before letting the door close, “Tomorrow this nightmare will be over mother.”

            No you’re wrong Charles, Lynn thought, as she sank down into her bed. This nightmare is not over, it is just beginning. Lynn closed her eyes to sleep, letting her mind travel back into time; to papa’s room at Hershey Medical Center.

            Lynn was waiting in his room when he returned from dialysis. The nurse helped him into bed.  Papa looked tired, he was close to sleep.  Lynn kissed him softly on the cheek. He opened his eyes. “I’m so tired mama,” he said, “so tired.” “I know,” she said, “You sleep papa. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

            Lynn curled up in the chair beside his bed. And she thought about what had brought them here to Hershey, so far away from home.  Lynn watched him as he slept. Papa had grown so tired of the hospitals, from Martinsburg, to Chambersburg, to pick apples where he had collapsed in the field.

            To Chambersburg Hospital, from there to Hershey medical Center.  Papa was 63 years old and he had been fighting so hard. First the heart attack, then the bacterial infection, the operation, now dialysis.  She didn’t know where he got the strength to keep fighting.  But she knew why; she didn’t think papa was fighting for himself; he was fighting for her.

            Papa’s once strong arms now thin, looking like pin cushions from the endless round of needles for blood testing. He was growing so tired of the dialysis treatment leaving him weak and tired.

            Papa never wanted to eat, Lynn had to coax him, “you need to eat papa,” papa would shake his head. “Is for dogs mama,” he’d say, “is for dogs.”  But as much as he would complain about the food, when he did eat, he could never seem to get enough of it.

            The only meal papa didn’t complain about was on Thanksgiving Day; it would be the only holiday they would share.

            “The food it is good mama,” papa said smiling, “It is good.” Lynn laughed. “No for the dogs papa,” she teased. “Not today mama,” he said, “Not today.” He would take small bites at a time; after eating the turkey and dressing, Lynn got him a plate of ham and sweet yams, followed by cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, a thin slice of cake with chocolate ice cream and coffee to drink.

            As papa ate, Lynn sat on the edge of his bed giving silent thanks to God that she was here with him. Lynn was making plans for the future, when papa was well enough to come home.

            “I can’t wait for you to come home papa,” she said, “Then we can go ahead with our plans.  Sell my trailer and move to Oklahoma like you wanted.” Laying aside his fork, he brought her fingers to his lips and kissed them. “I love you mama,” he said, tears stung his eyes, “I think maybe, I don’t get better. “Maybe you need go home without me.” “Don’t talk like that papa, I won’t let you talk like that. You are getting better everyday, Papa. Your doctors have said as much.” Lynn said.  A tear rolled down his handsome face, Lynn kissed it away. “You are my life papa, without you, I would have no life.” Lynn said.

            “You are my life too, mama,” Lynn held him close to her while he cried. “But I think my life is for a little time more. I’m tired mama,” he said, “But I know you need me; I will fight mi amor, (my love), I will fight to stay here with you.”

            Tears rolled down her face.  Papa had grown so tired of it all, and Lynn had grown tired too; tired of sleeping in hospital waiting rooms. It was taking its toll on her and her health.  But she would not tell papa, she did not want him to worry about her.

            Carol was able to spend a couple of weeks with her at Hershey.  It was good to have her sister near; and papa had been glad to see her there too. If it had not been for Carmen, a social worker at Hershey, Lynn and Carol would not have had a place to sleep, And when their money ran out, if it had not been for Carmen, they would not have been able to eat.

            But Carmen must have been an angel sent by God, she found resources in the community for them; volunteers opened their homes for people with loved ones at the hospital One such volunteer shared their home with Lynn and Carol.

            After weeks of not eating properly and sleeping in the chair next to papa’s bed, Lynn was able to stretch out on a bed, take daily showers and eat properly.

            Lynn remembers one morning as she got up to use the bathroom, it was early morning, and she opened the bathroom window to look out.  In the backyard she saw a statue of the Virgin Mary with her arms stretched out. Lynn remarked about the statue to her hostess during breakfast, asking if it was okay for her to look at the statue in the backyard.

            “Honey,” she replied, “We don’t have a statue back there.” Remembering that now, Lynn knows that seeing the statue must have been God’s way of showing her that papa’s life was in His hands, not Lynn’s.

            Towards the end of their stay in Hershey, when Lynn’s money ran out for food, Carmen was able to provide her with meal tickets from the hospital cafeteria.  When Lynn’s stay at the volunteer’s house was up, Carmen found lodging for her at the Cancer House in Hershey; when her car broke down, Carmen found a Catholic Church in Gettysburg, that could provide the funds to have it repaired. Carmen had been an angel sent by God in Lynn’s time of need.

            One afternoon while papa was down in dialysis, unable to stand the stress any longer, Lynn broke down crying her heart out in Carmen’s arms. “I don’t know if I can take it anymore,” Lynn cried, “Day after day, sometimes I think he is getting better, then sometimes I look at papa and I see how hard he is fighting, and I know he is in pain and I just want to tell him to let go and rest. But Carmen I can’t, and that is selfish of me, isn’t it?”

            “Lynn I don’t think its selfish.  You and Javier have been here a long time, and both of you are a long way from home, without friends and family, and his illness, that alone would wear anybody down.  But he is getting better one-day soon, he will be going home.  You have to believe that.”

            Lynn wanted to believe that Carmen was right; that papa was getting well and soon they would leave Hershey and be on their way home. While papa fought the sickness, Lynn stayed faithfully by his side.  As if sleeping in a chair by his bedside, day after day, week after week, she could control their destiny and keep the hands of death away from them.

            Bright rays of sunshine streamed into her bedroom window.  Lynn didn’t want to wake up, she didn’t want to bury papa.

            The patter of little feet sounded outside of her bedroom door and Manuel her little grandson came running into her room.  Climbing onto her bed, he handed her a picture, it was of a man and a woman. “It’s you and papa,” he said, “Don’t cry grandma, when I get bigger I’ll put papa back in your bed.”  Lynn hugged him, this sweet little boy, he had loved papa too. All the grandchildren had loved him.

            Javier had told all of them to call him, ‘abuelo,’ (grandfather) in English. And whenever they would visit, all the grandchildren would run into his arms.  Even after a hard day at work, whenever they would come to West Virginia to visit, papa was never to tired to get down and wrestle with them, or kick a ball around out in the yard.

            Kelly came in after Manuel, Come on now, stop bothering your grandmother.” Her daughter’s eyes were red and puffy, she had been crying. “Chuck is here mom,” she said. “Kelly? Why are you crying? If you’re crying over papa, don’t. I know you and Susan feel guilty because I was with both of you instead of being with papa. But I don’t want you feeling that way, okay? None of us had anyway of knowing that it was papa’s last day.” Kelly slipped her arms around her mother.

            “If there was only something I could do,” she said, “Mom, I’m going to miss him. He was a good person mom.”

 

Chapter 8

 

Time to let go
 
 

            The funeral home was filled with papa’s friends and Lynn’s.  Despite her operation, her sister Carol was there, along with her two daughters’, Debbie and Susie. “I can only stay a little while,” she said, “I still can’t sit, but I had to be here for you.  And I had to tell my friend, Javier, good-by.”

            “Oh sis, I can’t let him go, how can I spend the rest of my life without him.” Carol hugged her, “He will always be in our hearts, sis.  It won’t be easy, but I will be here when you need me.” “And so will we aunt Lynn,” the girls said giving her a hug. “Papa’s spirit will always be with you, sis, you know that,” Carol hugged her, “I’m going to say good-by to Javier, then I’ve got to go.  If you need me, please call me.”

            Last night at the viewing Lynn was upset because papa didn’t have any flowers. But today, as Lynn looked around the room, there were so many flowers she could not have counted them all. Tears filled her eyes.

            “Oh papa, you have your flowers,” Lynn cried as she walked around the casket reading the cards.  She read the cards out loud, she wanted papa to know who had sent them. “Red carnations papa, from Carol and her family; Red roses papa, from my aunt Bonnie in Arizona; Pink and white carnations papa, from me and the kids; Yellow roses from my brother in Montana; more yellow roses from the staff at Martinsburg Hospital; more red roses papa, from the nurse’s and doctors at Hershey Hospital; a lot of purple lilac’s from Your friends papa; pink carnations from your employer at the orchard; and white roses from Carmen.

            “Oh papa,” Lynn cried, “You were loved by so many, and today, you have your flowers papa. Papa, I’m never going to have a life without being part of it.” Lynn caressed the casket.  “Papa, I can’t let you go, I can’t.”

            Little Michelle took hold of her hand, crying she laid a single rose on papa’s casket.  “Its okay grandma, grandfather is okay now. he’s in heaven and he’s not sick anymore.”

            Lynn and Michelle walked around the baskets picking out special flowers from the different sprays. And Bible scripture speaks, ‘and a little child shall lead them,’ Little Michelle just four years old, but wise beyond her years, took her grandmother’s hand and leading her to a seat and cuddle up next to her.

            As friends moved past the coffin paying their respects, Lynn’s mind slipped away from the funeral; to a happier time right before their marriage.

            They were together at Hagerstown Mall shopping for clothes for their wedding day.  Papa was trying on dark Navy blue slacks; they looked grate, hugging his lean frame like a glove.

            “Mama,” he said, “Thirty dollars is too much money.” papa put the slacks back on the hanger and handed them to her. “No papa, they look good on you.” Lynn said, Mama, the clothes for you is okay. “But mucho dinero para yo, (too much money for me).” papa was fussing about the price. “Don’t you like the pants papa?”  Lynn was disappointed that he didn’t want them. Papa kissed her and laughter danced in his dark Spanish eyes. “Si mama,” he laughed, “Yo gustar pantalones, pero, es mucho dinero. Yes mama, I like The pants but is too much money.” he repeated in English.

            It became important to Lynn that papa have the slacks.  They were a good brand name, snug around the waist, hugging his lean frame and showing off the muscles in his legs.

            “But papa, you have nothing but jeans in your wardrobe and most of your pants are baggy.  Please papa, let me buy them for you.” Papa laughed. “Okay mama, he said, “If it will make you happy, I will buy the pants.”

            That was so much like papa; Lynn could have spent a hundred dollars on herself, but thirty dollars was too much to spend on him; unselfish, loving and giving, that was her papa.

            Julie and Jessie were there, beside papa’s children; they were her friends and papa’s friends too, or should have been; and yet never once did they speak to her; never once did Julie introduce Lynn to papa’s children; Lynn felt betrayed, like she had done something wrong.

            When papa died Julie came to her house only once.  And before, when papa was alive, they had spent many hours at each other’s houses. Julie had turned her back on their friendship, and Lynn was at a loss to understand why.

            Lynn erased the hurt from her thoughts; she could not deal with that today. She watched papa’s three children stare down at their father; Lynn would have like to have introduced herself; she would have like to have told them what a good man their father had been; she would have liked to have told them how happy he had made her; And how he had loved her, and how much she had loved him.

            But as her friend, Julie should have introduced her; she should have given Lynn the chance to say all these things.  But when his children looked in her direction, they looked angry. Lynn could understand their anger, but what she did not understand why it was directed at her.

            Lynn understood how hard it must be for them, to be away from their father all these years, to be reunited at his funeral. Thinking on these thoughts, Lynn felt very special to have been chosen by God to meet papa, to have fallen in love, to have Married him, and to have shared the last eight months of his life with him.

            The priest was praying, translating English into Spanish, the music played softly behind him.  Lynn sat on the front row, her children sat beside her.  Physically Lynn was there; but Lynn had chosen to travel back in time; to a happier place, another time, another day, where she could be with papa.

            It was Sunday, December 10, the night before papa died.  Lynn was curled up on the bed beside papa. His arms were around her; they were watching a wrestling match. Their laughter rang out, disturbing the quietness of the room.

            They were laughing over the antics of Brother Love, who was holding an interview with Macho Man, Randy Savage and his manager, Scary Sherri.  Macho Man is spouting off about his plans for his opponent, Hulk Hogan; When Hulk appears on the  stage all the devil breaks out on the platform. 

            Papa is laughing so hard his eyes are filled with tears. “It is metira mama, it is a lie.” Lynn reached over and kissed him. “But you love it don’t you papa?” ‘Yes mama, I love my wrestling.”

            Lynn felt so good to be here with him.  He was alive and on the road to recovery. Papa had been through so much; many times during these long five months, it looked liked papa wouldn’t pull through.

            While waiting for the operation to replace the Aorta Valve in his heart, papa had a second heart attack. Lynn had gone home to Martinsburg, to pay bills and check in on Shawn.  When she returned three days later, papa had a second heart attack; a mild stroke, his doctor’s called it, but it left papa partially paralyzed on his right side.

            Lynn thought about the pesticides that were responsible for his sickness. Right before their marriage in May, papa had left the camp and moved in with her the last of week in April, during that week he was trimming trees in Winchester, Va.

            Papa had come home from work and slumped down in his favorite chair. “Was your hands papa,” Lynn had called from the kitchen, “Dinner is ready.” When he didn’t answer, Lynn stepped into the living room.  Papa was asleep. His was face was drawn as if in pain, his dark skin had a slight yellowish tint. Lynn knew that something was wrong.

            “Papa, are you okay?” Papa opened his eyes. “Yes mama, I am tired today,” he said rubbing his eyes.  “Today in the orchard, the air stinks with spray.  The trees are soaked with it.” It was clear to Lynn that papa and the other workers were in the orchard while the trees were being sprayed.

            “Papa you’re not to be in the orchard when the trees are spraying.” “I know mama, some of the guys were sick and we wanted to go home.” “Why didn’t you papa?” “The boss said, no finish the work, no more job. We had to finish the work.” “Did you wear a mask or anything papa?” “No mama, nothing.” Lynn felt the panic rising up in her heart.

            “Papa you have to go to the emergency room.  You could very sick from this.” “No mama, if I go to the hospital, I will have no more work.” “But papa!” “No, I am the man and a soon to be wife does not talk back to her soon to be husband.

            Lynn tried talking to him about it, trying to convince him that he needed to be seen.  But it was like sex before marriage, papa would have none of it. But Lynn could not ignore the issue.

            “But papa!” Lynn started to protest, but papa would not let her finish what she was going to say.  He was very angry with her. “No mama! I have to work! There is no time for doctors and hospitals!” Anger flashed in his dark eyes.  It was the first time he had been angry with her, and Lynn didn’t like it. “Mama, I am the man, and I have spoken! No more talk of doctors and hospitals!”

            Lynn’s eyes filled with tears, she was hurt that papa was angry with her. He went to bed without kissing her good-night; and fussing in Spanish, that, ‘American women,’ do not know when to shut up or how to let a man be a man and make the decisions. In Mexico women do not talk back to their man.’

            What papa called, ‘talking back,’ Lynn called, ‘communication,’ in marriage, soon to be marriage; papa was the man, he would make all the decisions, his word was final, no ifs ands, or buts,’ and no discussions.

            Lynn slept on the sofa, she stayed awake half the night crying.  She loved papa with all her heart, but this was one obstacle they would have to overcome.

            In June, papa had been planting tomatoes in Charles Town, where they drank water from the same hose used to irrigate the plants; the guys didn’t know until the end of the day, that the water they had been drinking was filled with herbicide,

            Lynn wanted him to go to the hospital then too, but papa refused.  As much as she didn’t want too, Lynn did not force the issue. When the planting was finished in late July, Lynn, papa and her sister Carol, went into the strawberry fields; when the crop was finished, Carol found them work for a farmer that needed help picking green beans and tomatoes.

            While picking tomatoes, papa had his first heart attack.  Lynn rushed him to Martinsburg Hospital; this time, he was in too much pain to argue with her.

            “You got him here just in time, ’Mrs. Hernandez,’ the doctor said. “I wanted him here this morning when the pain first started,” Lynn explained, “ But he is very stubborn, doctor.”

            “Mr. Hernandez,” he said looking down at papa,” If you had waited any longer, you might not be alive now.” Papa grabbed her hand.  Lynn stayed with him until they chased her into the waiting room; she didn’t want to leave his side.

            “He is going to be okay,” the doctor assured her, “We need room to work on him. I will call you when it’s okay for you to see him.” “Doctor, he has been exposed to pesticides in April, while trimming trees; and in June while planting tomatoes, he drank water being used to carry pesticides to the plants. I thought you should know.” The doctor shook his head. “How in the world could this have happened? Yes, this important information, he could have damage to his heart from this.  After we get him stable I’m going to order extensive testing on his lungs.”

            “Doctor, we do not have health insurance.”

            “That is not important. I’m going to admit your husband, and I will do my very best to save his life. Do you have anyone with you?” “Yes, my sister.” “Good, I didn’t want you to be alone at this time.” Lynn waited in the waiting room with Carol by her side; and they prayed.

            Papa’s life was saved that night, thanks to the doctor’s and nurses at Martinsburg City Hospital, they didn’t care that papa was a migrant, and his status in this country was not important, and they didn’t care that he was uninsured.  They treated papa with the same respect, as any other patient would have received.

            Papa was lucky that time; he survived his first heart attack. The tests done on his lungs left no doubt that Javier had been exposed to pesticides. Papa didn’t want an interpreter. “I speak English and I understand.” he fussed.  But the doctors wanted to make sure that he understood in his own language, what his medical condition was.

            Through an interpreter, they explained to papa that pesticides had damaged both lungs.  He had developed a condition called, ‘pulmonary fibrosis,’ and that he could never return to orchard work, ever again. Tears filled papa’s eyes. “Doctor, yo no tenes ortra trabajo.” translated in English “I have no other work.”

            The doctor had warned us, had warned papa about working in the orchard. But it was the only work that papa knew, the only type of work he had ever done was the orchard, the field, planting and harvesting the crops.

            Two weeks after being released from the hospital, papa grew restless.  He would sit in his favorite chair, rocking back and forth, staring out the window at the guys returning from work.  Some days, he would stand on the front steps and waved to them. A far away look would dance in his dark eyes.

            Lynn could feel his pain, she knew that papa longed to be among the men returning from work; Lynn knew from experience how it felt not to be working. She tried as best she could to comfort him.

            “I love you papa,” she said one afternoon as she brought him his medicine. “I know how badly you want to join them.” “You don’t understand,” Papa said, tears filling his eyes. “Papa you’re wrong, I do understand, more than you think.  But you know what the doctor said.” A determination came into his eyes. “I don’t care what the doctor said, next week I am going back to work.”

            Lynn knew, deep down in her heart, that if he ever returned to the orchard, that one day, she would lose him. Lynn pushed those thoughts into the back of her mind. She could not, she would not think on them

            In September when apple season rolled around, Lynn closed up the trailer, leaving Shawn with Carol’s daughters, she, papa and Carol, headed north to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to harvest the apple crop.  Lynn didn’t try to talk papa out of it.  To do so would have served to cause tension between them.

            From a fiend, papa learned that orchards around Chambersburg were paying good money for apple pickers; anywhere from $12.00 to $15.00 a bin. Papa was determined to go, with or without her. “My love, I know you don’t want me in the orchards. I love you mama, but I’m going with or without you. I will take the bus and stay in camp housing.” “No papa, you will not.  If you are determined to go, as your wife, I will honor your decision.  I will go with you and be there if you need me.”

            Thus began their journey from Martinsburg to Chambersburg, from Chambersburg to Hershey Medical Center, and back to Chambersburg; it was the beginning of the end for Papa and Lynn.

 

Chapter 9

 

December 20, 1989

 

The Journal

  

            “In four days papa, you will be thousand’s of miles away from me in another land, your homeland of Mexico.  It has been too hard for me to let you go papa.  Knowing I will never again see you smile and watch the laughter dance in your dark Spanish eyes.  Oh papa! How will I ever live my life without you? It is a question I cannot answer papa.”

            Tears filled her eyes, as Lynn read the words she was writing in her journal. her words to papa were true; she could not live without him, she did not want to live without him.

            Papa had been her life and her world; now that life was gone; dead. Soon to be buried in a far away land, a land she would never visit; Durango, Mexico.

            It was way past midnight and Lynn could not sleep; she sat at her desk writing. Telling papa all her thoughts and feelings; as her tears fell, papa’s sweet spirit filled the room, speaking to her in Spanish. ‘No llorar mama,’ he whispered, ‘no llorar.’ Translated in English is; no weeping mama, No weeping. “Perdonar mi papa,” Lynn cried, “Forgive me papa, forgive me.  In Spanish, ‘perdonar,’ means, ‘forgive.’ ‘Forgive me papa, I’m not strong like I promised you I would be.  Forgive me papa for letting you down; I can’t do it papa!” Lynn cried, “I can’t do it!”

            During those long months of sickness, his death was a subject of conversation Lynn could not and would not think about it.

            Dialysis always left papa feeling drained, weak, tired and sick. One afternoon when he returned from dialysis; as Lynn sat beside him holding his hand, papa started to talk about the possibility that he may not recover. Lynn refused to hear it. “No papa,” she said, “I don’t want to hear it.” “Esuchar mi, mi amor,’ papa said, “listen to me my love.” he made her face him and look into his eyes. “Yo estoy aqui, mama, ‘I am here mama’; pero along dia,’ but someday’ when yo voy con Dios, ‘when I go with God,’ I need you to be strong for me.  promesa mi amor, ‘promise me, my love,’ “Okay papa, I promise.  I will be strong for you.” Lynn promised.

            “One more thing,” papa said holding her hand, “fight the orchards mama for what the pesticides did to my lungs and to my heart. The fight is not for me mama, but for my son’s and my daughter and for you mama.  I may not be here to take care of you.  It is not revenge mama, but, ‘justicia,’ justice,’ mama; for all the men whose life is in the fields.”

            What an easy promise it had been to make, to comfort him and make papa feel better.  But instead of being strong like he had asked her to be; she was falling apart. Everyday Lynn felt like she slipping more and more over the edge into a fantasy world; A world that shielded and protected her fragile emotions from the harsh reality of life.

            The fight for justice was the one thing that kept her going. The anger Lynn felt over papa’s death, the discrimination and injustice provided Lynn with the courage she needed for the battle, which lay ahead.  She had begun to lay the groundwork; she was in the process of gathering all of papa’s medical records. When all the records were in order, she would search for an attorney to handle his case.

            As Lynn cried, she was reminded of what he had said that day in Hershey when he was very sick and thinking he might not live. “It is no correct mama,” he said, “When crops are more important than a man’s life.” “No papa, when any employer puts his crops before the safety of his workers, it is not right. And I promise you papa, I will fight to stop it.”

            “Oh papa,” Lynn cried, “You gave so much of yourself to other people and you asked for nothing in return.  It is five days before Christmas,” Lynn wrote, “The first Christmas you and I would have shared as husband and wife. Instead of being here on Christmas Day, you will lying in a cold, shallow grave thousand’s of miles away.”

            “Papa, I’m sorry for being so angry inside.  Sometimes I feel like a time bomb waiting to explode. I know that while you want me to seek justice, you would also want me to forgive.  Yes papa I hear your sweet spirit whispering, ‘perdonar mama, perdonar,’ Forgive mama, forgive,’ But papa I am not like you were.  My heart has waxed cold with anger and grief. I cannot forgive papa, I cannot forgive.

            “We held your service on December 18; Shirley our friend, wrote a beautiful poem for you. It spoke of you, ‘being in heaven, cradled in God’s arms,’ and it spoke of you being, ‘free, with no more borders to cross and no more fields to harvest.’ I could not afford the roses I wanted for you, but papa, I shouldn’t have worried papa because you had your flowers.”

            “I remember what you said to me the day we closed up the trailer and headed for Chambersburg; taking me in your arms and holding me close, you said,’ I love you mama, but the orchard is all I know.’ I remember how you tried to explain it to me papa.  It wasn’t that I didn’t understand your way of life. I understood only too well papa. I was being selfish; I knew if you went back to work, I would lose you.

            “But what about your heart papa,” I had protested.  You took me in your arms and in Spanish you said, “Media mi amor, (look my love), quando Dios querer mi, yo vas, no antes; (when God wants me, I go, not before).

            “I was so scared papa, scared of losing you. But I knew that you would do what your childhood training had taught you; to be a man and work and provide for your family. I tried not to think about how you would lift those heavy apple sacks on your back to fill your bins; and how you would climb the ladders to top the trees.

            “You were so determined to prove that you were not sick; and my job in the scheme of things was to stay by your side in case you needed me.

            In my heart papa I prayed that after that first day, you would come to the car, smile at me and say,’ okay mama, you were right, let’s go home.”  But I should have known papa that you would never give up the battle and admit defeat.

            But you didn’t, and on the second day after filling two bins, you collapsed in the orchard.  That was the beginning of the end for you and me papa, the beginning of the end of our life together.

            “I am really sorry papa,” Lynn wrote, “I am sorry that I lost it during your services. It was just too hard for me to say good-by papa. I remember glancing around the room with friends and strangers looking in my direction.  Poor Charles papa! He never got the chance to know you, like the rest of us did.

            His eyes were filled with tears and voice shook while he was trying to control his emotions. “I know you can’t help yourself mother,” he said,” But please don’t go off into never-never land.  Will you please try and keep it together.” “I am so sorry Charles that you didn’t get the chance to really know papa, you would have liked him.” “Mother, I did like Javier, because he was good to you.” “I’m sorry Charles, but what did you ask me?” “Do you want to say your final good-bys to Javier.”

            “Has everyone paid their respects?” “yes, we’ve been waiting for you.” Holding her arm, Charles walked his mother up to the casket, “Why were you waiting for me son?” “Mother, you sat through the entire service starring into space. You gave us a real scare. We thought you had lost it.” “I’m sorry I scared you, I was with papa, its time for me to say good-bye.’

            As I walked toward your casket papa, I felt a hand drop on my shoulder, I knew it was you papa; it was your way of showing me your spirit was still with me.

            “Starring into your face papa I kissed you on the forehead, holding your hands in mine, I took two red roses from the basket and laid them across your chest. Do you remember what I said papa?  I spoke in Spanish. ‘Para tu mi amor, Para tu.’ (For you my love, for you).

            “I touched your hair and smoothed it back and began talking to you. “It’s over now papa, you wanted to go home so badly. ‘I want to go home mama, to mi casa, to my house.’ Your going home now papa, the sickness is over; be free now papa, free of the pain and free of death; its okay to go home papa.’

            “Standing there talking to you like that papa, giving you permission to go home, I felt like my heart was being jerked from my body; as if some unknown force had reached inside my chest and pulled out my heart.  I came to my breaking point papa, I lost it; I felt it slipping away from me but I was powerless to prevent it.

            I remained there for a long time, I began screaming and yelling in Spanish, words that were strange and foreign to my mind.  Your friend Carlos was there. ‘You’ve got to let him go Lynn.  Indo would want that, its time to let him rest.” “I knew you were losing it,” Carlos said, “When you started screaming and yelling at Javier in Spanish.” “What did I say Carlos? I don’t even know what I said.” “You told him to get up and come home with you; that it wasn’t right for him to die and leave you alone in this cruel world.”

            “Charles said that before Carlos could lead me away from your casket, that I tried to pick you up; Shawn said, I tried to climb in there with you. All I know papa is that you are gone from my life and my world. Buried in a strange land, ‘Durango Mexico, that I will never visit. 

            “I wanted to buy you here in Martinsburg.  But after the service your children asked for your body.  That was the only time they talked to me papa, was when they wanted to take your body back to Mexico.

            “At first, I wasn’t going to allow it, I wanted to be selfish, forgive me papa. They said, your mother who was ninety years old, was waiting to bury her son. It was then I knew that no matter how much pain that decision would cause me, that I had to let you go, it was the right thing to do. I could not deny a grieving mother her son’s body.

            Because I had refused to talk to you about your possible death, I didn’t know where you wanted to be buried.  Yet knowing the kind of man you were, in my heart, I knew you would want me to do what was right.

            “I love you papa,” Lynn wrote, “I’m going to miss you forever. Para siempre, mi amor, (forever my love).

 

The Journal

 

December 23, 1989 

           

            “I am coming papa, I am coming. I can no longer bear this pain over losing you. I will not keep waking up every morning without you; if I can’t have you in life, I will be with you in death, and soon papa, soon.

            The kids keep telling me, ‘time, time will heal my broken heart. But will time also heal my broken spirit?  Will time bring you back to me? I think not. We had so little time papa! It is so darn unfair! I won’t let it end this way papa, I won’t! Time will not heal my broken heart.  The only thing, ‘time,’ has done is to keep bringing back memories of a love we once shared, that I will never have the chance to share with you again.

            ‘Time,’ is nothing but a constant memory of what once was and what will never have the chance to be again; ‘time,’ is nothing but a constant, painful reminder that you are gone from my world and will never again be a part of it.

            “Charles, has become my father! Insisting I spend Christmas with the girls in Chambersburg.  Being that he has now become my father, he has ordered me and Shawn to go! Ordered me, papa! And Carol thinks that this decision has also become her business! ‘It will be good for you sis. You need to get away.”

            Papa, I’m so tired of everyone thinking they know what is good for me! I am never alone, my children are afraid, ‘I will do something.’  I just want them all to go away papa!

            The girls have a life back in Chambersburg, they need to return to it! Charles has a life in Maryland, he needs to return to it!  Even Carol thinks that my life is now her life! I love them all papa, but they need to stop hovering over me like a mother hen! I feel like I am being smothered!

            “Papa, I am so torn between loving you and missing you and wanting to be with you, that I cannot decide what is best for Lynn. “Sometimes the depression and sadness over losing you is so overwhelming that I feel like exploding. Papa, you know how much I love all of them, but if I choose to join you, do you think they will ever forgive me?

            “Or will they hate me forever, like they hate their father.” “Thanks to my diabetes, I have all the means. Too much insulin; too many pain pills; Papa, it does not matter; I want so badly to wake up in heaven by your side; to feel your soft kisses on my lips; to snuggle warm and safe in your arms.

            “I know in my heart papa that I cannot desert them like their father did in 1984; My heart see this papa, but sometimes within this depression I feel my mind slipping over the edge; sometimes, like today, when the pain becomes to unbearable, I just want it all to end, even if I have to end it by my own hand.

            “I thought I knew how to play this game papa, this game called, ‘life.’  But just when you finally reach the level of understanding, someone changes the rules.” 

 

Chapter 10

           

Thursday, February 22, 1989

  

SO MANY CHANGES

 

            “Today is my mother’s birthday, I sent her a card yesterday.  Knowing how much you loved your mother and how much respect you had for her, I have decided to have more respect for my mother. I only wish that mother and I could have had that same bond of friendship my daughter’s and I share, but at last papa, even though I love and respect her because she is my mother; some things are not meant to be are they papa?

            “I have talked to many lawyers, they have all rehearsed the same line,’ sorry, but we don’t handle these cases.’ Angry, I slam down the phone and wonder, ‘who in the dickens does handle them? There seems to be nowhere to turn for answers.  It leaves me to wonder if everything is just one giant conspiracy.  I will keep pressing forward papa, refusing to shut up and refusing to give up the battle.

            “The fight to link your death, directly or indirectly with the pesticides and the bacterial infection which ate up the Aorta Valve of your heart is just beginning.  One hurdle is no sooner behind me, when life throws another hurdle down at my feet.  Yet, Papa, I continue one more day, one more month.

            “My emotions bounce up and down like a stupid sea-saw, with more downs then ups; the choice is not mine to make, something more powerful seems to command my actions.  Sometimes, I feel that if the world was flat papa, I would find the edge and jump off.  The many tears I pour into this manuscript seem useless, in the end papa, who is going to care?

            My anger over the injustice and discrimination and over the world’s indifference of it all, serves to release this burning pain eating away at my heart and spreading like a cancer sore.

            The desire to drink, riding myself of the existence of the world burns in my mind. But turning into a sot would not reverse the hands of time. Your side of the bed will forever remain like my life, bare, cold and empty.

            In my, ‘good days,’ I cry out to God, begging, pleading, for Him to release this bitterness and anger from my soul and make me whole again.  I don’t know if that will ever happen papa.

            Today has been a rough day and the day is not over.  I take a break from the typewriter and walk around our small trailer; sitting in your favorite chair, I stare out into space and the walls close in around me.  I can’t bear the thought of losing this place.  It was the last space we shared together; each room has its own memories of you and of our short life together as husband and wife.

  

March 1, 1990

  

            “Our bedroom where we consummated our marriage and finally shared the love we felt for each other; the small bath where we took our showers; the kitchen, where you taught me to make your favorite Spanish dishes; the living room where we spent so many happy nights cuddled together watching movies; and where we celebrated your 63rd birthday, laughing and dancing until late into the night. The memories are burned into my mind.

            “Bare and empty walls jump out at me, cleaned of every last scrap of memory that was our life.  Small rooms, once filled with laughter and everyday sounds of life, are now silent.

            “Running the sweeper over the carpet keeps my hands busy and my mind preoccupied with many needed chores.  Making it difficult for my mind to dwell in the past; leaving the anger my heart feels over the injustice of it all, buried deep in my soul.

            “As I clean and scrub our small trailer for its new owners, my boy’s are on their way to our new apartment, with our life loaded and boxed up in a rental truck.  Bringing about so many changes; so many unwanted changes papa.

            “When the sheriff delivered the eviction notice, pushing aside tears blurring my vision, I drove to Mr. Cook’s home. Anger and resentment burned in my heart; angrily, I slapped the notice down on his table.

            “You promised me time to get caught up on my lot rent after the death of my husband! Why have you changed your mind?” He starred at me with contempt from under hoods of cat like hazel eyes. A smug grin played on his old, thin lips.

            “I’m just being realistic,” he sneered, “Sooner or later, you will take another husband.  Probably another Mexican, I think its best you move before that happens.”

            “Mr. Cook, my Mexican husband, as you have called him, his name was, ‘Javier,’ and he never bothered anyone in this park, or caused any trouble in this park and he is dead! When you speak of him, you can call him by his name, “Javier Hernandez.”

            “I never said he ever caused any trouble in this park.” “You know what, you are a racist, and that is discrimination! Discrimination is against the law!” “Sue me,” he said, “Like it or not, those are my feelings. You have thirty days.”

            “I left quickly papa before I lost my temper and slapped the bigotry from his old wrinkled face.  Tears stung my eyes as I slammed his door and I be darned if I would let him see my tears.  I wasn’t about to pled and beg with the likes of him.

            “I collapsed onto the sofa and the tears gave way to rage. I thank God that Chuck was there, If he hadn’t been papa, I would have probably went into a rage and tore the place apart.

            “I can’t fight anymore Charles, “ I cried, shaking and sobbing. “Papa’s death has taken the fight out of me. I’m too drained and too exhausted to keep fighting the discrimination and bigotry in this town and within the hearts and minds of people like Mr. Cook.”

            “Then don’t mother, Charles said, “Sell the trailer and I will find us a place in town.  Don’t give in to the frustration and anger.” Lynn cried in her son’s arms, much like he had cried in her arms when he was a little boy.

            “This is all I have left Charles. It’s the last space I shared with Javier. I can’t bear to part with it.” “Mother, you have no choice and maybe it’s for the best.”

            “Letting go of the trailer papa was like losing you all over again. Closing the door behind me was like turning the pages of a book; and closing out the best chapter of my life.

            With our love and our life, boxed up and shoved into the past, I have no choice now but to try, if I can, to build a new future for myself.  I don’t want that papa, if you can’t be a part of it. I don’t want to let go of the life we had together. If I let go of the past papa, I will have nothing left of you but memories.

            As I sit here typing out my feelings to you papa, the door to my, ‘future,’ stands ajar; waiting for me to turn the knob and walk through.  But I lack the courage papa. What kind of future will it be without you being a part of it? It will be no future at all; This new future will only be deception and mockery of a life that once was but is no more.

  

April 11, 1990 

 

            Today marks the fourth month of your death. As I sit here writing to you, I’m feeling guilty and ashamed.  Please don’t hate me papa, I hate myself enough for the both of us.

            If I just hadn’t let my girlfriends talk me into going to that dance.  Everything would still be the same.  But it isn’t the same. I am not the same. While it is easy to lay blame on my girlfriends, I am a grown woman responsible for my own behavior.

            How easy it would have been to have just said, ‘no.’ My mind screamed, ‘no Lynn, no.’ The mind was betrayed by a body gone too long without love and betrayed by the wine.

            Soft kisses on my lips, powerful arms holding me close, the physical contact as we danced to all the slow songs.  For a little while papa, it was like being with you again. The mind and the spirit are willing, but the flesh is weak papa; denying too long the passion which burned within. Denying too long the burning hunger since the last time you and I had made love; September 1989.

            With tears silently streaming down my face, I laid awake in his arms; I had tarnished the memories of our love with a one-night stand.  But for that one lonely night papa, he was you.

            As I sit here typing, my fingers fly over the keyboard, guilt and shame burn like a hot fire in my heart and in my soul. I have no right to ask for your forgiveness papa, no right at all.

            During the time you and I were together I never looked at another man.  My commitment to you and to our marriage vows was true and I kept it papa. Your sweet love was more than enough to keep me satisfied.

            But you are gone from my life papa and I have been with another. My mind and my soul refuse to let go of the guilt and the shame of that one night. I feel like I am having a sordid affair while you lay in your hospital room at Hershey waiting patiently for my return.

            It is no longer a one-night stand. I have been seeing him sometimes on weekends. The relationship is not what I want or what I need.  And most of the time it is one-sided. I tell him, ‘no more,’ but he does not understand my Spanish. I have broken it off a dozen times, but he keeps coming back. I need someone to interpret.

            He brings my fingers to his lips, kissing them the way you once did.  He speaks words of love, but his actions say the opposite. For one more night I play the fool. Fooling myself into thinking that he, is you.

            It is not the physical act that I crave papa, it is the touching and the holding; Of being wanted and being needed and the attention he is willing to give. My heart does not want the love, but like an addict, my body craves the physical.

            Darn it papa! Why can’t he be you. But he is just the opposite of everything you were. And I am tired of playing the fool.

            The dancing makes me feel alive again. But once the dance is over, we have nothing else in common; there is no emotional connection. I know I am not searching for love.  It’s the attention that attracts me.  Out of pain and loneliness I grab for what ever attention comes my way.

            I have broke it off for good this time papa, the price is too high. I have finally understood that you papa, were one of a kind.  When God created you, He threw away the mold.

            Sometimes on weekends I will still dance and party, trying one more time to conceal the aching in my heart, trying one more time to mask the loneliness that has become my life.

            This time I leave the guys where I find them, at the dance. I have paid too high of a price for attention and for my self worth and I won’t pay it again. There is no room in my heart for another.

  

May 2, 1990

 

Happy Anniversary papa!

 

            I wish you were here with me to celebrate this day with me papa. But life can be cruel, it has been cruel to us. Instead of making passionate love entwined in each other’s arms and toasting our marriage, you are a million miles beyond my reach in a cold and dark, lonely grave forgotten by the world; forgotten by everyone except those of us who love you still.

            And me? Sadly I am still here, my heart still mourning its loss. I am Alive papa, but feeling no pain.  Mixing one more White Russian, pouring the next drink into my empty glass. Knowing that mixing booze with medicine could cause a diabetic coma, smart enough to know, but caring less about my fate.

            Your favorite Spanish songs blast away on your stereo, belting out the sadness that fills my heart on this day. The loneliness of this empty apartment is slowly driving me insane.

            Taking your picture down from the wall and placing it against my chest, over my heart and dancing by myself. Wishing to become drunk enough to numb the pain. But the combination of booze coupled with sadness serves only to intensify the pain. Making it more acute and the tears keep flowing.

            Darn it papa!  When will it ever end? ‘you’ve got to live mama,’ you said, don’t be sad, live for me mama.’  Tell me papa, how do I accomplish that?  Get back into life? Learn to love again?

            That is not the answer papa, since you have been gone, I have been there and done that. Getting back into life served only to bring another into our marriage bed.  Making me feel like a cheap tramp. Getting back into life served only to tarnish the memories of your love. Getting back into life served only as a betrayal for a body with too much pent up passion; a body gone too long without love.

            That is what you and I had papa, not just lust to satisfy the physical needs of the body, but love.  Tenderness, caring, concern, meeting the needs of your mate before your own; that is what we had papa, love.

            Getting back into life served only to drive my mind insane, thinking it could replace a dead husband.

            I will just dance by myself and mix my drinks, praying that by mixing too many, there will be no more tomorrows to face. Don’t you see papa?  This is my only way out. This is the only road I can follow leading me back to you.

  

May 24, 1990 

           

            Words have been flowing from my brain again papa. In trying to tell the story of our short life together and of how pesticides took your life, energy flows through my fingers as if they have a will all of their own. Its like some unseen force takes over and my fingers fly across the keyboard.

            Working tirelessly on this manuscript serves as salvation for my sanity. Sometimes I rise before the dawn and stay at my desk until after the sun has gone done. Many days I sit at the keyboard until the muscles of my legs knot up so badly that the pain forces me to give up for the day.

            The wheels of justice are grinding slowly papa, but at least they are grinding. I have become involved with, “Migrant Legal Action Program,” which is taking up the cause for legal action for migrant workers. I have written two more complaints to The Department of Labor.  In my complaint I describe how the rules of OSHA, does not apply to migrant workers. I explained that the rules do not apply because most migrants do not have legal status in this country. And because of this, the rules are often ignored.

            I have explained that if the rules of OSHA had been followed in Winchester VA, that you would not have been allowed in the orchard until 24 hours after the trees had been sprayed; and you would not have been forced to remain under threat of losing your job.  Papa, you should not have been in that orchard while the trees were being sprayed.

            In my complaint I explain that if the rules of OSHA had been followed while you were sitting on the back of the tractor spraying the trees you would have been protected by protective clothing and a mask to keep the spray from entering your lungs.

            Also in the complaint I describe how there was no fresh water in the field that day while you were planting tomatoes; and there was no sign in Spanish warning not to drink the water that it was contaminated with pesticides.

            I have also filed complaints of discrimination, stating that because you were Hispanic, the rules were ignored.

            I have written three editorials in The Martinsburg Journal. In the article I talked about the discrimination against the workers and how your employers did not care enough to provide a safe working environment.

            I had a response from your last employer. He spoke of how much he had helped his workers and he felt he was being singled out and not being given the credit he deserved. But he never raised the issue of discrimination nor did he speak about the unsafe working conditions and the pesticide issue.

            I have become determined that my letters and complaints will not be ignored. I refuse to let anyone sweep this issue under the rug and cover it up. If there is no response to my complaints within the next couple of weeks, I will keep writing until someone decides to listen.  I will not shut up and be ignored.

            I have written to several magazines that deal with environmental issues. Yesterday I received a copy of, ‘Buzz Worm,’ enclosed with the magazine was a note from the editor expressing sympathy over your death.

            One article in the magazine described a fight raging in California between the migrants and the growers over the death of workers and small children by the over use of pesticides. The article explained how many workers have died because of pesticides being used on the trees, on the grapes and the vegetables.

            One worker was spraying the field and he, even though he was covered with protective clothing and a mask, the pesticides got into his lungs; he had a heart attack and died. They say he was drinking a soda and that was how the pesticides got into his lungs.

            The article described how babies are being born premature and deformed and how little children are dying of cancer, while pesticides continue to be dumped in the drinking water; and how their backyard playgrounds have been turned into dumps for toxic waste.

            It’s a sad world I ‘m living in papa, when nobody seems to care about the life of another; where too often money and political power take precedence over human life.

            In my view papa the reason is that some politicians shrug it off with an, ‘why should I care,’ attitude. The reason being that the people being affected are not your, ‘average American voter.’ Many are illegal and having no legal standing in this country. I have learned that many of the illegal workers are hired by The Department of Agriculture to work the fields and orchards, when the season is finished they are shipped back across the border until the next contract is signed.

            Also papa, the people being affected are, “Mexican Americans,’ with little or no education and like you papa, they work the fields and are treated like second class citizens; and the growers with their money and political power are able to cover up the issues.  While the world turns a blind eye, the little children keep dying.

            While the pesticide issue is not affecting, ‘main stream,’ society at this point in time, I have a feeling papa, that someday all of that will change. You are the lucky one Papa your days of facing the discrimination and bigotry of this world are over.

            Like our friend Shirley wrote in her poem, “Let us cry not for Javier. Let the tears we shed be for those of us he left behind. When we think of Javier, think of him being free, with no more borders to cross and no more crops to harvest; think of him as being free.’

            Heaven has no discrimination and I know that is where you are papa. It is hard for me to believe how quickly these past five months have past. My children often tell me that it is time to stop mourning and time to move forward with my life.

            But what they don’t tell me papa is how do I accept your death, tie all my memories up into a neat little package, shove it into the past and store it away? And darn it papa, my body cried out for the love we shared; it cries out to be in your arms once again. I cannot vanish that love into a past life.

            As much as I don’t want to admit it papa, I have needs that are not being met. I am hungry for emotional ties; hungry for financial needs, and yes papa, I am hungry for the physical love that you and I once shared. Your death has left me in a state of confusion. I have no idea of what I’m searching for, but I know that whatever I’m searching for, it will not be found in this town.

            Sometimes I think that in order to salvage what little scrap of sanity I have left that I need a change of scenery.  Selling the trailer gave the illusion of leaving my ghosts behind.  But in my heart, in my mind, in my everyday thoughts and everyday life, and in my very soul, those ghosts linger still.

            Time is standing still, unable to let me move forward and unwilling to let me stay in the past.  Some days I feel like I can let go one small piece at a time, other days seem to be one trial after the other.  I’m tired papa, tired of fighting a battle that I may never win

            Just when I think I have gotten over your death, memories crop up and the ache in my heart begins anew.  Sometimes I think it is better to live in the past then face the harsh reality of life without you; the past is like a cocoon, warm, safe and secure.

            I often think of the person I was before you came into my life, and it is not a pretty picture.  I was bitter and angry, afraid to trust, afraid to love and be loved. Often I was spiteful, uncaring and with a chip on my shoulder daring the world to knock it off.

            But that night while dancing in your arms I let you come into my life. Your love melted my cold heart and knocked that chip off my shoulder. It was your love for me papa that healed old wounds of my past.  Your love replaced the bitterness with warmth and with giving and replaced my low self esteem with a new self respect. It was your love for me papa that knocked down the protective walls I had built around my heart and my emotions. It was your love for me papa that took away the darkness and replaced it with sunshine.

            Now that you are gone from my life papa, old wounds have been reopened. And once again bitterness and anger fill this heart of mine.  The protective walls are back in place and the chip is back on my shoulder. And once again I dare the world to knock it off, but I want to keep the respect and self worth that your love gave to me. It was important to you papa and it has become important for me.

 

Chapter 11
 

 
Saturday, June 30, 1990 

 

            Happy Birthday Papa! I ‘m a little better today.  Yesterday was a very trying day for me.  It was your birthday, you would have turned 6; yesterday had me thinking of the year before the sickness began.  Pain filled memories opened like a flood gate, flooding my heart and my mind and my soul.  The depression and sadness of that day had me mixing drinks like there was no tomorrow.

            Hoping and praying that by drinking and taking medicine there would be no more tomorrows to face. I’m scared papa, scared of loving again, scared of the emotional ties that might bind me to another.  And yet, while I’m scared, I was not meant to live alone papa.

            For now my energy is focused on telling the story of your death and the reason behind it.  Working on this manuscript keeps my mind from straying and is keeping me sane.

            Sometimes I become discouraged asking my self, what is the purpose? Maybe I ‘am just wasting my time and energy writing words that maybe nobody will ever read.  Some days papa, while writing to you I feel as if maybe I have slipped across the edge into insanity by pouring my heart out to a dead spouse.

            Sometimes, life seems like one hopeless struggle after another. Yet while on the verge of giving up my fingers continue to fly across my keyboard.  Buried within the depression is a tiny little spark of hope that refuses to be extinguished. A little spark of life that must know that someday, I will be needed by another..  This leaves me to wonder, by whom will I be needed?

            It is not by my children, they are adults now with families of their own.  And the last thing any of them need is a depressed mother who is slowly losing sight of her sanity.

            At times, I realize that I cannot keep continue to live in the past, making me realize that you are gone and I have to accept that what once was, will never have the chance to again.

            I have come to the realization that I must close the door on the past and move forward.  But closing that door does not mean that I cannot keep the memories of the love that we once share.  Those memories will always be alive in my heart and in my soul.

            The past is over and the door to my future stands before me, but papa the courage to open that door does not exist within my heart.

  

Monday, July 16, 1990 

 

            His name is, ‘Andres Rodriguez,’ he is not a new person in my life, just a friend I have known for three years.  In the past before you and I, there were many chances to be with Andres. But because of his drinking I stayed clear of any involvement. Carol and Andres had a little fling but because of his drinking, the fling did not last long.

            You met Andres papa, do you remember that one weekend last summer when we visited Kelly and Martin in Chambersburg, after we had taken them to the store and my old car broke down?

            Martin had walked to the place where Andres stayed whenever he was in Chambersburg.  But of course Andres was drunk and was in no condition to help.  But his nephew followed us out to the repair shop on Route 30, where I dropped off my car.

            They were headed back to Virginia and dropped us off in Martinsburg.  When you thanked him for the ride, he said, ‘no problem.’ It is hard to forget Andres, papa.

            If I choose to become involved this time it will be my second time in the eight months since your death.  I don not know if that is a good track record or a bad one When you were dying papa I begged to die with you, ‘no mama,’ you said, ‘live for me.’

Okay papa I ‘m living, but I can’t live alone, I don’t want to live alone. While I still may be disabled papa, there seems to be a lot of life left in this old girl.  Until death lowers its black cloud, I refuse to curl up in a rocking chair, sit on the front porch of this apartment and watch life pass me by.

But to open my heart and take another chance on love, I am not ready or willing to take that step. You papa, were the love of my life.  Do you remember what you said, while trying to make me fall in love with you?

You said ,”Mama, what if life but one chance after another?” And you were right papa, that is what life is about, one chance after another, one choice after another and praying the choice you make will be the right one.

If I am being too bold or too brazen now papa it is your fault for tearing down the walls of protection I had built around my heart and my emotions.  It is your fault papa, for teaching me how to trust again and how to give without the fear of being hurt.

I met up with Andres during a week-end visit to Kelly’s.  “Andy is looking for you,” Martin said.  But Andy had been, ‘looking,’ for me for three years. I was never lost, I was just involved or not interested.  The last time Andy,’ looked,’ for me, you and I had become husband and wife, marking the passing of another year.

            From time to time, during my week-end visits to Pennsylvania, I would run into Andres.  When I did, he was usually drunk, making our conversations short.  “Hi, how are you,” end of conversation.  he seemed to know, don’t ask me how, whenever I was in town.  If he wasn’t drunk he would seek me out. But this time, I was the one who went looking for him.

            Susan had some junk that needed to be removed from in front of her house, or she would have to pay a big fine to the city of Chambersburg. I remembered that Andres had a truck.  When I found Andres, we had our usual conversation, “Hi, how are you?”  As usual he had been drinking but he was not drunk.

            I told him about the junk that needed to be removed from in front of Susan’s house and asked if I could borrow his truck. He reached into his pocket and handed me the keys, “be careful going through town,” he said, “The truck is not inspected.”

            After loading up the junk, I searched the back country roads around Chambersburg, looking for a place to dump it. But every time I thought I had spotted a good place, a car would come down the road, or someone would be watching me from their front yard. I never found a place I could dump it without being seen.

            After two hours of this, I returned the truck to Andres.  He laughed when he saw the junk still piled in the bed of the truck. “Don’t worry,” he laughed, “ I will dump it in the back of my house in Virginia.’ I thanked him for the use of his truck, but I still felt the need to apologize. “I am sorry about the junk.  I could not find a spot to dump it without being seen.”

            I handed him the keys to his truck and without warning, he pulled me into his arms and planted an unexpected kiss on my lips. I was taken by surprise and yet thrilled and excited by his passion within that one kiss.

            I don’t know how to explain it papa, but I kissed him back. Andy grinned. “Does this mean our relationship has changed?” he asked. “It’s possible,” I said, making no commitment but not ruling one out.

            I don’t like talking to you about this papa, but I feel the need to be truthful. Something strange happened within that kiss.  It was like a, ‘click,’ I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.  Some people just, ‘click,’ and others don’t.  You and I, ‘Clicked.’ And Andy and I, ‘clicked.’

            It seemed to me that during that simple and unexpected exchange of our kiss, that I could feel his heart reaching out, begging and pleading for me to feel his pain. It was just a simple kiss and nothing more.

            I have not yet become involved.  I am holding off on that decision, mainly because of the alcohol that is so much of a part of who he is.

            It seems that each time I run into Andy he is drunk to the point of falling down, or he is passed out on the floor of his friend’s apartment.  It is very seldom when I find him in Pennsylvania that he is sober.

            But when he is sober, there is a strong force that draws me to him. Yet, even during those few times that he is sober enough to carry on a conversation or go to a dance, warning bells ring loud and clear in my head, ‘stay clear,’ they warn,’ because of the drinking,’ and I often wonder papa, if that is your spirit telling me not to get involved?

            His kisses are sweet, yet passionate, with a demanding hunger.  Right or wrong, the image of Andy and the powerful hunger reaching out from his heart refuses to be erased from my memory.

            The pain in his heart seems to tug at my soul, making me wonder if underneath that macho toughness that the world sees beats a heart begging to be loved and a mind begging to be understood; and a body begging to be set free from the addiction of it’s Alcoholism?

            Even thinking about the possibility of becoming involved has made me ask myself some tough questions. Could I do for Andy what you did for me those long months ago?

            Would the giving of my time and patience teach Andy to open his heart and learn to trust again? And would my love, if and when I choose to give it, be enough replace the alcohol in his life? Would understanding the man beneath the alcohol be enough to bring down the protective walls he has built around his heart and his emotions?

            Even thinking about going into this relationship makes me wonder papa, if I am in such a desperate search for a new life, in such a desperate search to be needed and wanted by someone that I would be setting the stage for the biggest fall of my life.

            Not being a seer papa, I have no crystal ball allowing me a glance into the future. While the warning bells ring in my head, as it was when I had to sell the trailer, the choice was not mine to make. I find that as I must move from the apartment, again the choice is not mine to make.  

 

Chapter 12

 

Moving Forward With This Process called ‘Life.’

 

August 31, 1990 

 

            Don’t be angry with me papa, but I have left Martinsburg behind and moved with Andres to his house in Virginia. He has fixed up a room for me where I have my own space. After Charles moved out, I could no longer pay the rent on the apartment by myself.  You need to know and understand how this relationship got started papa.

            One Sunday afternoon Andres showed up at my apartment.  He was sober. “I can’t go back to Virginia just yet,” he said, “My boss told some friends to tell me the police are looking for me. Could I stay here for a week or so, until they think I have went back to Mexico?”

            I did not know what to make of his strange request. “I have a sofa bed,” I said, “You’re welcome to it.” Andres grinned. “Do you have any beer?” I had to laugh at that. “No, but I have iced tea or lemonade.” “Okay, ice tea.” I poured him a glass of ice tea. “It’s none of my business but why are the police looking for you? “ He shrugged, “Could be tickets or maybe I didn’t show up in court, I don’t know” “If you need something let me know and I will help okay?” “I don’t have any Spanish food,” I said, ‘No sauce or peppers and tortillas. You might   want to pick some up while you’re at the store.” “You got meat?” I checked the freezer. “Hamburger and chicken.” “Let’s get to the store, I’m hungry and I can’t eat food without peppers.”

            Whatever I needed Andres would buy it. In some ways he is a lot like you were papa. He might drink, but he is not lazy. The first thing he did the following Monday morning was drive around until he found a job working construction.

            When my landlord showed up the following Friday, demanding September’s rent, Andres paid it. “This is for September,” he said, “But she won’t be here in October.” “Is this my thirty day notice?” he asked. “Yes,” Andy said.

            After the landlord left I talked to Andy about what he had said. “It was good of you to pay that for me,” I told him, “But if I move from this apartment. Me and Shawn will have no where to go.” “Yes you will. I am going back to Virginia, you are welcome to come with me.”

            The next morning when I told Shawn that we were moving, he threw a fit. “I don’t like him! He is a drunk and I am not going!” “Shawn, I can’t keep this apartment. Do you want to homeless and on the street?” “I don’t know why Javier had to die!”  he yelled, “We could have kept the trailer!” “Shawn I don’t why he had to die either and I miss him like crazy. But he is gone  Shawn, and like it or not, I have to make decisions based on need.” “Then do it!” he yelled, “I will go to Susan’s! I am not going to Virginia!” he yelled, slamming the door and running out of the apartment.

            Like Shawn, Carol was not happy with me when I told her that I was moving. “You’re crazy Lynn,” she fussed, “Running off to Virginia with a man you hardly know.” I had to stifle my anger.  Once again, like they did after your death papa, everyone knew what was good for me.  Everyone had an input into my life. They all had plenty of advice but no money to back it up with.

            And that is what I needed the most papa, was more income to pay expenses. “Carol, I am forty-five years old, I hardly need to, ‘run off’!” “And what about Shawn? Are you giving him up too, along with the rest of your family?” “Shawn does not want to move! How do I give up a 17 year-old boy! He has made the decision to go to Susan’s!” “What about his emotional disability? Lynn he might be 17, but he still needs you.” “I am not moving to Alaska! I will still be there if he needs me.”

            “Don’t be angry with me sis,” tears filled the blue pools of her eyes. “I just want you to know what you might be getting into.” “This is about Andy’s drinking isn’t it? Carol, we are only friends, we are not lovers.” “But I stopped seeing him because of the alcohol. You have suffered enough sis, I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

            “Carol if I ever decide to let this relationship become more than friendship, maybe that would change him.”  “Remember Bob? Don’t live in a dream world sis,” she said, giving me a hug,” People change when and if they want to change.” “Don’t worry sis, if one-day our relationship changes, I would walk away before I’d let myself be hurt.”

            Remembering our conversation that day makes me wonder, now that I am with him and even though I have my own room and have not yet shared his bed; in many ways I have let him become the master of my life. And it makes me wonder if it would be that easy to walk away?

            Some days he dominates my life completely almost as if I were a creation of his own making. He is the master and I am his slave, dancing like a puppet on strings he commands.

            One month has passed since I have moved into his house and the drinking is still very much a part of him.  During heavy bouts with the alcohol, I feel as if I am losing my identity, one small piece at a time; and I feel that I have no will of my own.

            The power he seems to possess radiates from within him; revealing more and more of his personality with each passing day. Some days life is good, some days it is not. Papa, I know that I can never replace the kind of love that you and I shared. And If I become involved in that kind of relationship with Andres, we will never have that special bond that you and I shared.  In lots of way we, ‘click,’ but while I want only good from this friendship, I will also have to accept the ugly side of the alcohol.

            This friendship, and at this point that is all it is, will never be too good and too real to last.   In getting over your death I have learned that whatever is real and whatever is true, does not last forever; does it papa?

            This is the real world papa, and I must live in it, and make my way the best I can, without you.

            The company house where we live has become our, ‘together,’ project.  While I clean, scrubbing away years of dirt, grime and neglect. Andy paints and repairs the walls; Giving the old boards a face life and making the little house come to life.

            During the, ‘sober,’ week-ends we spend together, as the house comes to life, so does his love for me. “I want more than friendship,” he said, “I want to make love to you.” “Andy, I can’t do that without marriage.” “What! Marriage! No,” he said, shaking his finger at me, “I guess we will just stay friends, good friends okay.  I will never marry again.” “I don’t want to marry again,” I said, “Right now, I just want to be friends, but good friends.” “Okay, we keep the arrangement the way it is, you clean my house, wash my clothes and cook my food, and I will take care of your needs.” “Sounds like a deal to me,” I said, “And thank you for understanding.” “No problem. But sometimes I want to take you in my arms and make love. But for now its okay. But someday I will make love to you.”

            Andy is very much the boss in this friendship. His personality is very complex and very demanding of my attention. He is tireless and fearless, refusing to be dominated by neither man or woman.

            Yet at times, his need for alcohol dominates his world completely, making me feel overwhelmed by the forces that surround him. The alcohol brings out a side of him that scares me. During those times he can be mean and angry, verbally abusive, making little snide remarks that hurt my feelings. Most of the time he passes out sinking into his world of alcohol.

            I am thankful that I have chosen not to let this friendship turn into anything more. Even though sober, Andy can be fun and full of surprises.  Like the one weekend he loaded up his truck and we took off to Ohio.  Coming home he stopped at an indoor flea market in Western Pennsylvania; if I saw something I wanted, Andy brought it.

            There was another time after Kelly and Martin moved to Martinsburg; we dropped in, packed them up and Andy surprised all of us with a trip to a theme park, (Cedar Point) in, Sandusky Ohio.

           It is during these times that I am content. What I cannot tell you papa is that I am happy with this life. I am not.  Andy will lavish me with gifts, his way of showing love or his way to make amends for something he may have said while he was drinking. I smile and show a brave front, but that is all it is, a front, a deceptive face; like a mask that hides the hurt buried deep inside my heart and my soul.

            Like everything else in my life, where I have been out of options, and have often made the wrong choices I have learned to cope with the consequences. I wonder that if I did give myself to him, would it make a difference? And the answer is, no. Respect is all I have left papa, and I want to keep it.

            Sometimes, during rare mood swings, Andy will share his ideas and future plans with me.  But keeping his problems hidden, buried within that macho toughness where it cannot be reached.

            “I am not a child!” he yelled one night.  Fire burned with such intensity in his dark eyes, that it scared me. “I am a man!” he yelled, “I am not a child that needs his mother to come looking for him. I will go where I please and come back when I please without feeling like I need to ask my mother’s permission!”

            We had taken a trip to Pennsylvania to check on Shawn and to visit Susan and the kids. Andy visited with Susan for a while before taking off with friends. As the night wore on, thinking he had been gone too long, I made the mistake of, ‘looking for him.’

            His anger over this consumed him.  He stayed angry with me on the long drive home and for the next two days.

            You were right papa when you said, ‘ I was an American woman and did not understand Mexican men.  At this point in time, I think it may be that I do not understand any man, regardless of race, creed or nationality.

            Within that tough shell lies a tenderness, a kindness for babies, dogs and kittens. We share his house with a small white terrier I have named, ‘princess.’ A friend of Susan’s gave me to her. I didn’t adopt her, she adopted me.  There were three little tiny puppies in the box, they were all so cute I didn’t know which one to pick.  As I was trying to decide, this one little puppy crawled out of the box and onto my lap. She had chosen me, I named her, ‘princess.’

            We also have a large breed mutt named, ‘Bud.’  Andy named him Bud which is short for, ‘Budweiser.’  This dog was Susan’s.  He was given to her for the grandchildren, Michelle and Juan, but unable to keep the dog, she gave him to us.

            We also share his house with two female cats, one Tom cat and six small offspring.  The kittens have become, ‘our babies.’

            And just like you and I papa, Andy loves yard sales and flea markets and long drives into the country.

            You and I were content to cuddle together and stay at home.  Andy is not like that at all. When he is off work and not drinking, he is like a caged animal pacing back and forth, restlessly seeking its freedom.

            His love makes me feel alive again. Don’t hate me papa, but I am now sharing his bed. I have moved on papa, but you knew that this time would come didn’t you papa? 

 

Monday, October 17, 1990

 

            The love I am starting to feel for Andy is pushing me into an unknown future. There remains within my heart a special place belonging only to you.  The love we shared lingers there; never to be touched or erased by another. The special bond you and I shared papa, will never be broken. And papa, even though I have moved forward with this process called, ‘life,’ I would not have missed loving you for the world with all its glitter and gold.

            No matter what my future may hold with Andy, I cannot live in the past, but I will never forget you papa, my heart and my soul would not let my mind ever forget my life with you.

            I have sent all your papers and medical records to the, ‘Migrant Legal Action Program,’ in, Washington DC. Their lawyers want to look through them and see if there is enough medical evidence linking your death, directly or indirectly, to the pesticides. If there is then I can file a wrongful death suite on your behalf.

            My manuscript is shaping up and breathing a life of its own. I regret having to leave Martinsburg just as the fight over the discrimination was in its beginning stages. I feel there was too much important business unfinished.

            Sometimes I have tried to talk to Andy about the discrimination but he turns away refusing to talk about it. “Leave it alone,” is his response. “But Andy,” I protest, “I can’t do that.” “You have no choice, you’re not there anymore. Forget about it.” “Sometimes I wish I could, ‘forget about it,’ but I just can’t turn my back and walk away pretending the discrimination and bigotry never existed and that I, had never been affected by it.” Sometimes he will become upset with me.

            “It’s your problem now?” “Andy, discrimination and bigotry is everyone’s problem.” “Lynn, we have a good life here, don’t mess it up okay?” “How can wanting to fight injustice mess up the life we have here?” “Never mind,” he said, “You don’t understand.”

            He is right on that, I did not understand. But talking to him about it and asking his help, was like talking to myself.  His mind was closed on the subject.

            It would be better if I could take Andy’s advice, turn my back and walk away and, ‘leave it alone.’ But the indignation rising within my soul, refuses to rest until the wrongs have been righted.

            Perhaps the need to correct injustice stems from the Irish blood inherited from my father, or from the Cherokee blood inherited from my mother. I have no idea where it comes from. It is a powerful force that keeps me writing letters and filing complaints, letting the, ‘powers that be,’ know that even after all the laws which have been passed against discrimination, that injustice and discrimination still exist. And that someone in authority needs to correct it; someone somewhere needs to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough.’

 

Tuesday, December 11, 1990

 

            It is unbelievable that one year ago today papa, I lost you. How dare time pass so quickly? I was depressed and moody, lacking in Christmas spirit but not understanding the reason why, until I glanced at the calendar. Realizing that today’s date was December 11th, marking the first anniversary of your death. As guilt consumed me, I cried.

            How dare I papa! How dare I push aside memories of you and continue with my life? I have no right. Yet, I have done just that, pushed aside your memories and the ending of this month will mark the passing of another year.

            Within the, ‘happiness,’ of my new found, ‘life,’ there still lies within my mind a deep seated need to describe to you papa, the joys and sorrows and everyday happenings of my world. I have the need to describe every event of this new life, down to the smallest detail, especially when my depression becomes overwhelming like today.

            But even a day like today has been cannot steal the joy from small victorious battles. Breathing life into this manuscript is beginning to pay off. The post office has become my friend, bringing a reply from an editor expressing interest in one of my other manuscripts, titled, “Daring To Be Themselves.”  Perhaps the coming new year will bring everything together.

            While the migrant action lawyers in Washington are working hard on your case, trying to link your death directly or indirectly, with the pesticides you inhaled and with the water you drank, my fingers slave away at the keyboard.  The ending of one manuscript is the beginning of another. Writing has become the key to the saving of my sanity.

            My emotions are split into two different individuals with each enjoying a separate life from the other. One is brazen and carefree carrying a chip on its shoulder, clinging to its, ‘I could care less,’ attitude, flings open the door rushing head-long towards its unknown future; the other more cautious and reminiscent personality remains sullen, trapped by memories of its past life. She is lost in limbo papa, longing for its story-book romance, longing for her long dead lover. Marking her present life with feelings of guilt and shame. Blackened by her insecurities her mind questions and doubts her future.

            As my feet follow down this strange path I have chosen papa, you are still very much a partner in this, ‘new life.’ As life makes its changes pushing me towards a new crossroads and as the months push ahead, you remain alive in my heart and in my soul. 

 

December 25, 1990

 

            Feliz Navidad mi amor, Feliz Navidad!  Merry Christmas my love, Merry Christmas!

            While there is great joy in laughing again and in loving again and in being loved, the mind is like a court jester full of tricks sliding blindfolds over the eyes. Moving the body into a new dwelling, sometimes turning frowns into smiles, turning tears into laughter, it is only an act papa, creating the disguise of happiness.

            Crying tears of silence the heart remembers. The body starved for love and attention may reach out in hunger to satisfy its need, but ravaged by pain and guilt the soul weeps; mourning that which can never be recaptured.

            There are times when Andy is like two different people, one is loving and kind, making me want to wrap myself in his arms and shower all the love on him that once belonged to you.  All too soon the alcohol rushes in that dark, mean and nasty stranger. Who destroy all happy moments, deflating the heart like a busted balloon, making me want to flee, running as fast and far away as possible,

            More and more, I am finding it impossible to cope with Andy’s mood swings which cause sudden changes in his behavior. Today, Christmas Day 1990, has been one of those impossible times, where escape seems to be the only answer.

            The morning started out like any Christmas morning should with Christmas greetings and a kiss. Andy kissed me good morning and took me into his arms. “I think I’ m falling in love,” he said, “Look in my room I have something for you.”

            Excited, like a child, I rushed into his bedroom, I screamed when I saw the new Typewriter, it was a Word Processor, he had tied a red bow around it. I rushed into his arms and smothered him with kisses.

            “Thank you,” I cried, “I really needed that. I have been wanting to buy one but they were expensive. Thank you so much Andy. Now I have something for you.”  Going into my room and taking the box from my shelf, I handed it to him.

            “Merry Christmas,” I said. “What is this?” he asked. “Open it.” he tore open the box, starring in surprise at the new black cowboy boots. “I hope you like them and I hope they fit,” I said. Andy walked around the room in the boots. “I like the boots and they fit great. Just the right size, how did you know black is my color?” “It wasn’t hard, all the clothes in your wardrobe is black, all but your work clothes.” “Thank you,” he said, pulling me into his arms. “Maybe sometime toady I will take you to Pennsylvania to visit Shawn and your kids.” “It is snowing. We can’t drive in the snow.”  Correcting my words, he laughed. “You can’t drive in the snow. I have a truck remember? I can drive in the snow.”

            We spent Christmas morning together, laughing, loving and being loved. As I went about fixing Christmas dinner, Anders started to drink. I returned to living room, to ask him if he liked pineapple rings on his ham, it was then I saw the bottle of liquor. “My Christmas present to me,” he said grinning and taking a swig from the bottle.

            While I prepared Christmas dinner, Ham, sweet yams, corn, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, rolls and pumpkin pie; Andres was busy celebrating the day drinking. When dinner was ready, I called to him from the kitchen. He did not answer, thinking he had fallen asleep and not wanting the meal to get cold, I shook him. “Hey sleepy head, dinner is finished.” When he opened his eyes, I could see that he was very drunk. Swaying from side to side he tried to stagger to his feet, but fell back onto the sofa each time.  I tried to help.

            “Leave me alone,  -------- -------,” he said, pushing me back and when he had used all the curse words he knew in English, he started shouting them to me in Spanish. With tears stinging my eyes, I retreated to the kitchen, leaving him alone to wallow in his drunkenness.

            As I ate my dinner alone in the kitchen, tears rolled down my face. His drunken rage had destroyed whatever love I felt for him that Christmas morning; destroying too, the illusive image of, ‘my new life.’

            If it had not been snowing that day, I would have packed my clothes, my manuscripts, picture albums and whatever else I deemed important and fled. But unable to do what should have been done, I retreated to my room, unpacked the word processor, connecting everything together and escaped into my writing; my fantasy world where I am wrapped in a cocoon; safe, warm and secure, a world of my own choosing where the harsh realities of life do not exist.

            My heart was aching on Christmas Day, aching because I could not be with Shawn, Susan and Kelly and the grandchildren; and aching for a love that my mind tells me will never be; and aching for you papa.

            My heart tries to tell me, that it is not Andy the man, who turns into this dark, mean and nasty stranger; it is not Andy who speaks the nasty vile words, but the alcohol talking through him.

            Try as I might do push aside the reality I don’t want to accept, my mind speaks the truth; ‘lift the blindfolds Lynn, the two are one and the same.’ My mind speaks a truth I do not want to hear.

            “Your words hurt my feelings.” I told him the next day as I handed him his coffee. “You don’t like my drinking?” he shrugged, “You need to go. Look, the drinking is my life. I like it. You can deal with it or find somewhere else to go. I think I might be falling in love with you,” he said, “But if you accept me, you need to accept the alcohol.”

            “Is that all you want for your life Andy? “ I asked, hoping he would open up and talk about it. “Look, I had a good day yesterday. Sometimes when I get to drinking, I don’t know who people are. If I hurt your feelings, I didn’t mean to.” “But Andy why don’t you let me help you?” He laughed. “How can you help me? Look, I don’t have a problem okay? If you can’t deal with it, it’s your problem, not mine. I don’t want to talk about no more today.” For Andy that was the end of the discussion and the end of the problem.

 

Chapter 13

 

Betrayal

 

Tuesday, January 15, 1991

 

            Okay papa, we have a problem, or I should say I have a problem. Again it seems like I have jumped through hoops and overcame obstacles just to have more hurdles strewn along my path.

            The long awaited news from The Migrant Legal Program is not what I had expected to hear, This news is not what I have struggled and fought for this past year. To say that conflicting emotions fill my mind and soul would not be an accurate description of my feelings. I  am devastated by the news that has made its way into my mailbox this morning. There is no other way to describe these feelings but hurt, anger, resentment and betrayal.

            Jessie, your crew-leader and friend, confirmed the working conditions in Winchester, Va., where under the threat of losing your job, you were forced to work the trees while they were being soaked with pesticide spray.

            He confirmed that while employed with your old boss in the orchard, in Martinsburg, W.VA., you afforded no protection while you sprayed the trees; no protective clothing and no mask.

            Jessie confirmed that while planting tomatoes, it was mid July and hot, but there was no fresh water in the fields and no sign in Spanish warning the workers no to drink from the hose because the water was carrying pesticides to the plants.

            One more detail that Jessie confirmed papa, just a small minor detail you overlooked before coming to the United States, papa; your Mexican wife. Remember what you said the night we were dancing at the camp? When I looked into your soul and felt that you were missing someone special from your life? As if reading my thoughts, you said, ‘my wife, along time ago, but no I have no more wife.’

            That was the first time you lied to me papa.  You still had a wife in Mexico. Just one small detail Jessie confirmed. Before our marriage papa, you neglected to divorce your wife in Mexico.

            This new revelation papa leaves my mind to question our life together. Was everything we shared a lie papa? Or was just the marriage itself a lie? Remember when your spoke of taking a trip to Oklahoma to visit your son’s and your daughter? And jokingly, I asked what other secrets you were keeping from me? Laughing, you said, ‘Nothing mama.’ That was a lie too, wasn’t it papa?

            On May 2, 1989, when you placed that gold band on my finger and spoke of how our love would span the bonds of death; how could everything we shared have been a lie papa? Yes papa, I am feeling, cheap, used and betrayed. I am not your wife, she is. I have no legal right to carry your last name, no legal right to file a wrongful death suite on your behalf; but your wife will.

            How could we have shared so much papa, and all it turns out to have been a lie? How could any of it have been faked? And yet it seems that it was.

            My love for you was real. And in spite of my anger papa, in spite of this news that has left me reeling, I know you loved me. During our short time together, we shared one heart, one mind and one soul.

            Since my county does not recognize our marriage, I have no legal standing to file a wrongful death suite against the orchards. If you had not died, perhaps we could correct that little small detail of your marriage in Mexico.

            My heart is angry, papa, it reeks with bitterness from the very bottom of my soul. I wonder now, how many more workers will die in the orchards, farms and fields of this great country? How many more workers will be exposed to dangerous pesticides by blatant negligence and disregard for the value of human life?

            I should have listened to Andy, I should have, ‘left it alone and walked away.’ But I could not, and now Julie being the turncoat and greedy little waif she is, will profit from all of my hard effort, proving that your death was directly linked to the pesticides.

            The only, ‘good,’ thing that may result of this bad news is that your children and your Mexican wife, will be able to file a wrongful death suite.

            Remember that one afternoon in Hershey, when thinking you were going to die that day, you asked me to, ‘fight,’ the orchards and the farm for what they had done to your lungs? “Fight for me mama, for my son’s and my daughter, and for you mama, because I won’t be here to take care of you.”

            I have fought papa, and those who did not fight, have won the battle. I have lost papa, I have lost. But at the end of my life it will not matter. Like you papa, I too, will one-day leave this world the same way I entered into it; with nothing.

            But that too, does not matter. Though my heart and my soul may be reeking with bitterness, I will do what I have done in the past; life goes on. In time, I will pull myself up, ‘get over it,’ and move forward with this process I called, ‘life.’

            The lawyers have asked me to testify before a congressional committee on, ‘the misuse of pesticides and how it affects migrant farm workers.’

“You would make a, ‘good,’ witness, she said, Because your testimony will come from your heart.”  If I can get through this bitterness and resentment, I may testify. If I do, I will testify for you papa.

            But as I sit here typing away, I wonder, in the end who will care? Not the politician with his hands in the cookie jar; not the grower whose use of illegal labor, puts profits above the value of human life.

            As sad as it may be, it is truth. It’s all part of the game called, ‘political power.’ The politician plays for, ‘votes;’ the grower and the farmer play for, ‘political power and profit.’

            Everybody wins. Every one of them takes home a slice of the American pie. Everybody wins, with the exception of farm workers and their families. But of course that too, is just one small minor unimportant detail in the harvesting of the crops.

            “Tell me what comes next papa? Rest in peace papa, the fight is finished, rest in peace.’

            As Lynn wrote these final words in her journal, which had turned into a manuscript of their short life together, tears flowed from the hazel pools of her eyes. Hurt, angry and resentful, reaching down into her heart Lynn found love.  She used that love to forgive him

            “Thank you mama,” papa’s sweet spirit whispered, “Thank you for fighting for me; thank you for forgiving me.” “You’re welcome papa,” Lynn said, “You’re welcome.” 

 

THE END

 

 

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