In Spanish-speaking countries, the two most common names are José and María. Some parents name their sons José María and their daughters María José. My Uncle Eutimio and Aunt Asunción named their sons José Eutimio, José Ricardo, José Carlos, José Ignacio, José David, José Daniel, and José Agustín. They named their daughters María Concepción, María Elena, María Angélica, and María Carmen. They had fifteen children, but I can’t remember all their names right now. When I first met them on my last trip to Celaya, Guanajuato, they introduced themselves as Timio, David, Carlos, Ricardo, etcetera. Later, I heard one cousin call his brother Pepe, which is the nickname for José. I asked my cousin why he called him Pepe and he said that his name was really José. Later on, another cousin called another brother Pepe. This was a different from Pepe from the first one. I asked how they could both be Pepe. Then they explained to me how all the brothers were named José and all the girls were named María. I still don’t understand how they can name them like that, but they did. Afterwards, I thought about how convenient that would be. If you needed something, you would merely shout José or Pepe and you would have at least two or three sons running in to help you. Ditto if you shouted María.
When I was little, I wasn’t sure how long I would live. I was a healthy boy, so I’m not sure why I always wondered about my longetivity. Of course, being a Catholic, I was always reminded not to commit any mortal sins because if I died suddenly and unexpectedly I would immediately go to hell.
And now that I think about it, I could die at any moment. I could some day walk out onto Halsted Street and get hit by a bus. I only say this because I was once almost hit by a bus on Halsted Street just the other day. I was thinking about many things other than paying attention to crossing the street. I’m still not sure why I didn’t see the bus.
When my uncle Joseph “Pepe” Rodriguez died in Viet Nam, I was sure that I would never live to see twenty-one. I was sure I, too, would be drafted and die in Viet Nam. So I always considered all the years beyond twenty-one bonus years.
My mother died when she was fifty-one, and now that I’m fifty-one, eight months old, I have lived longer than her. I have always been an optimist and I realize I’m lucky to have lived to be this old. I actually like having gray hair, particularly because I have a full head of hair. I can still run six miles everyday, when I have time. I’m not rich, but I’m not starving either. Since I didn’t get drafted to go to Viet Nam, I’ve had all these bonus years that I haven’t always used very wisely. However, I realize that I’m lucky to be alive! The way I see it now, all the years that I live beyond fifty-one will be bonus “bonus years.”
There was a time when I wanted to live to be a hundred, mainly because 100 is a nice big round number. Now, I’d rather continue living the happy life that I now have without thinking about how much time I have left. I am ever the optimist!