I was just 4 years old, my sister Octavia was 2 and my sister Constantina was 1 month old when my father left us to come to the USA looking for the opportunity of a better life for everyone.
He never went back again with us and after a while he stopped supporting my mother financially.
My mother got so sick that she almost died, after she got a little bit better I got sick and I almost died too.
My mother used to tell me that I got sick because I miss my father that much and so did she.
I remember seeing my mother crying so many times when I was just a little boy, I didn’t understood why at that time, but as I grew up I began to understand little more.
There are certain things that got stuck in my head forever at that early age and seeing my mother suffer so much for us and feeling so impotent about it is one of those horrible things that I still remember 40 years later.
We were suffering as a family way to much, my mother told me years later that she felt like she was going to go crazy, because she didn’t know what to do.
See back in Mexico we don’t have all the safety nets that we have in this country, that so many times get abused by people that become so dependent on them as a lifestyle, but that on the other hand also have helped a lot of people get back on their feet.
It was in this particular time that my mother’s father Mr. Atenogenes Benitez my Grandfather came to our house and picked us up after he found out about our horrible situation and took us with him to his house to protect us where I lived with him until I was 17 years old.
Because that’s when I left home to come to the USA looking for my father. (This is another story for another day)
During these 13 years of my life I was raised by my mother and my Grandfather as a father figure in my life.
He has been one of the few persons that has impacted my life in the positive way forever.
He was a community leader, a gatekeeper and a well respected man.
He gave me some of the most important lessons in my life just by being who he was.
He passed away on 8/12/1994 after struggling for 5 years with a horrible sickness that took his life.
One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t tell him how much his examples of honesty, humility, hard working ethics, faith, family values and the simplicity with he conducted himself meant to me.
Looking back I still remember so many examples of kindness that he did for his neighbors.
He was a Catholic man, very religious person, not only in words but in deeds.
He would give corn to the elderly and poor, in harvest time.
He would let them picked up corn with us and take it with them, gave them food and water and a place to stay and spend the night.
He would share with anyone that would come to his house, a piece of bread (taco) and a glass of water without them asking for it.
Until this day when I think about all these little things that I saw him do, not to teach me a lesson, (purposely) but because that’s who he was on his daily life so authentic of his lifestyle.
He used to have cattle and from mid-August to the end of October we would milk the cows and on Sunday’s he would keep just the milk that we needed for our own use and all the rest he would give it to the poor people that didn’t have any.
And if anyone would come during the week asking for milk he would gave it to them without asking anything.
See, I didn’t understand completely all these things back then, for me that was the way I thought everyone was.
Not so, as I grew up and I started to know more people around the area I learned that not everyone was like my grandfather and I started feeling proud about him, and I started wanting to be like him.
He didn’t know but I would love to go with him to the farm and work with him from 6:00 a.m. until it got dark. My mother would be working with us too and my grandmother would take us food two times a day one time around 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and I learned how to be a farmer and a hard worker, because my grandfather took the time to teach me that too.
My grandfather would tell me so many good stories that I really liked to hear, he would talk to me a very young boy like if I was his friend just thinking about it my eyes get watery.
He used to tell me with a good sense of humor that the only thing that God would allow a man to steal from others was whatever didn’t bother inside his eye.
I used to tell him (Pa Teno) papa but even the smallest piece of dust hurts a lot inside the eye.
He would say that’s right, that’s why we shouldn’t be stealing anything from anyone.
I look back and try to find some good memories with my father and I don’t have any.
I look back and think about my hero, my grandfather and I find so many great memories, I often talk to my mother about him and all those years that we spent together because we both love him very much even after 22 years of his passing, my mother, my two sisters and I still so very grateful to my beloved grandfather.
Mr. Atenogenes Benitez. May you rest in peace papa. (Pa Teno) that’s how I used to call him.