Thanksgiving Day was a reunion of sorts for the Rodriguez family in Chicago. I really enjoyed getting together with my family as much as possible. As usually happens, this reunion was a last-minute get together that turned out better than if someone would have planned it for weeks.
I really had no plans for Thanksgiving Day since my sons would spend the day with their mother and her family. When we were married, many relatives came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. But now, I never know what I’ll do for Thanksgiving until the last minute. I’m not really very good at planning too far in advance. Anyway, our family started the day with a memorial mass for three relatives who had died in the last six weeks: My cousin Shirley, my Aunt Marcela, and my Uncle Meño’s mother-in-law.
My Uncle Placido was coming in from Lubbock, Texas, where he is the bishop of the archdiocese and he would say mass for us. We all agreed to meet at St. John Fisher Church for the 9:00 am mass and then go our separate ways because everyone, presumably, already had Thanksgiving Day plans. Well, we stayed in the back of the church talking awhile and then we started taking pictures. Lately, we can’t take enough pictures of each other. I took extra pictures on my iPhone so I could add everyone to my directory, even though I had no immediate plans to call anyone.
Then, my brother Jerry suggested we go back to his house for coffee for an hour or two, but then we’d have to go because his wife was having dinner for her family in the afternoon and it was the first Thanksgiving without her father because he had died earlier this year. Whoever was available could come back at about 7:00 pm. Well, some of us stayed and never left. I won’t mention any names, but I could name all the people who came and stayed, and all the people who left at the appropriate time–because I was there until midnight. And I didn’t come alone either. I brought my father, my Aunt Conchita, and her son Peter. No one complained that there was extra company in the house, especially not the people who had overstayed their invitation. Uncle Placido showed us the 25th anniversary book for his archdiocese in Lubbock, Texas. Later, we looked at more pictures after we ate a huge dinner. Despite the fact that there were more people there for dinner than were invited, there was plenty of food for everyone. In fact, everyone was invited to take leftovers home. We all said good-bye and promised to see each other very soon. We shall see.
J should have been D. But he wasn’t. He was J. And for a very good reason. My mother said so! Well, I’ve already talked about my mother’s naming process in my previous blog entries. My parents had six children: David Diego, Daniel, Diego Gerardo, Dick Martin, Delia Guadalupe, and Joseph Luis. All of names started with D–except for Joseph (which starts with J and not D, as I’m sure you probably noticed. I have always admired the intelligence of my readers!). The other notable oddity in the naming process is Daniel who has no middle name! I was less than two years old when Daniel was born, so I have no idea why he has no middle name. Were we too poor to afford a middle name for Daniel? Was my mother mad at my father for getting her pregnant again and so she denied my father Diego yet again the opportunity of having a son named Diego? I really don’t know because neither my father nor mother ever talked about how Daniel got his name. To this day, Daniel’s lack of a middle name remains one of the great mysteries of our family.
Before my youngest brother Joseph Luis was born, my parents were in the middle of a hostile separation and later a contentious divorce. How my mother got pregnant was a mystery to me even back then because I hardly ever saw them together for about a year. But somehow she got pregnant. And my father was proud of the fact that he had gotten her pregnant.
However, there was never any doubt the he was my father’s son because when Joseph was older, many people thought he and I were twins. The resemblance was that strong. So how did he come to be named Joseph Luis? Well, he was born in August of 1968, months after our Uncle Joseph, my father’s much younger brother, died in Viet Nam. I remember when my Uncle Placido called to say he had to visit us to tell us something very important. He came after my brothers and I were already in bed, so I knew he had something important to say. I listened from my bedroom, which was right next to the kitchen where they sat. I heard my Uncle Placido say that my Uncle Joseph had died in Viet Nam. I could hear both my mother and father crying. I cried, too, in my bedroom. So my mother named my brother Joseph in his memory. That was actually a very good reason not to follow the D rule in naming us.
Our Uncle Joseph was everyone’s favorite uncle. He loved playing with all his nephews and nieces. Everyone cried when he died. It was the longest funeral procession I had ever seen–and I lived by a funeral home so I saw a lot of funeral processions! My father was one of his pall bearers. The day after the funeral, my father couldn’t get up out of bed. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Whether his paralysis was physical or psychosomatic was never determined, not even by the doctor who came to our house to treat my father. After about a week, my father just got up out of bed and started walking again. He wanted to go to work again.