Ugh. I have a bit of a hangover today because I had too much fun last night. No rest for the wicked, though. It's wife kitteh's birthday and she requested brisket for dinner, so this bad boy was trimmed at 0600, seasoned at 0630 and put on the smoker at 0645.
|Boom shaka laka.|
I promised you a story last night, so let's get on with it now.
Jose* was my parents' gardener. Maria, unrelated to Jose, was their housekeeper. My folks never had help until they grew too old to keep up with their place, about 20 years ago. Jose and Maria worked for them for the last 15 years at least.
Jose became my dad's best friend. Up until he died at 92, he would still do his best to work with Jose on the property, which was a little more than 3 acres in size. My father was a West Point graduate with a Harvard MBA and Jose was a Mexican immigrant and a single father. When I would visit and see them out back, I couldn't help but smile at the love between them. Their background cultures were nothing but flavoring in their friendship.
Similarly, until she became a near-invalid, my mother did the housekeeping alongside Maria. It would have been rude not to do so. Maria wasn't the hired help, she was a friend who made it possible to continue to live in their house. My mom was an officer's wife from an era when you wore white gloves and hosted parties with canapes and Maria was a Mexican immigrant who tried to support various family members.
When my mom was on her deathbed, Jose and Maria separately brought their families over to visit her and pay their respects. In fact, by chance, Jose's mother was visiting from Mexico at the time and she came along. The love and devotion was clear to see. Fortunately, my mom rallied both times and managed 5-10 minutes of coherence to properly greet them from her bed.
My parents wrote both Jose and Maria into their will. I finally managed to swim my way through the legal swamp of estate management and so yesterday, I brought Jose and Maria a partial payment of their inheritances.
The checks were mid-5-figure sums and only a quarter of what they will eventually get.
Jose lives with two of his children in a small apartment in a poor part of town. His kids sleep in the bedrooms and Jose sleeps on the floor in the family room. It didn't surprise me to find that out at all. That modest selflessness was one reason why my father loved him so. Jose's youngest daughter is a sweet girl with a learning disability. It's almost like Down's, but not quite. I'd guess her IQ at 80 or so. She was there when I visited.
When I gave him his check, he didn't even look at it. That would have been disrespectful. He rolled it up and chatted with me instead. He showed me one of my dad's old army field shirts that he had given to Jose. It still had my father's rank insignia on it. Jose loved my dad so much that he still wore it with pride.
Finally, dying to see his reaction, I asked him to take a look at the check. It was like he had been hit with a cattle prod. He was speechless. His eyes filled with tears. With our house sold, Jose no longer had a job and no savings, either. The stress on him must have been horrendous. That check dissolved it all, but more important was the love it showed.
Jose was unable to speak without crying and he was too much of a man to do that. I gave him a hug and told him what a beautiful person he was, how much my father loved him and how he deserved it. When he could finally speak, he choked out in that formal, respectful way he has, "Thank you, Mr. KT**." Jose was so blown away that I couldn't tell him there was a lot more coming. It would have ruined the moment by turning it into an accounting session. This was love in the form of money, not money itself.
When I left, I started crying as I got in my car. It was as beautiful as I had hoped.
I drove to where Maria was cleaning someone's house. She met me outside the place with her usual warm smile and we hugged. After we asked each other how things were going, I gave her the check. She looked at it and gasped. She asked, "What is this?" referring to the amount, unable to believe it. I told her. She replied, "No, no, no! This is too much!" Her eyes filled with tears.
I wanted to say, "If you think that's too much, just wait until you see what's coming!", but I didn't. Again, it wasn't the money, it was the love. Instead, I laughed with the joy of the moment and told her that my parents had worked hard and saved money all their lives so they could do this for someone like her. I told her how much my mom had loved her and how wonderful she was.
I cried when I left Maria, too.
Last night when we prayed before dinner, wife kitteh and I thanked God for the gift of my parents who made it possible to experience moments like this. After I die, I want my kids to experience them, too.
* - Jose and Maria aren't their real names, as you might have guessed.
** - Also not my real name. :-)