Jose Angel Pequeño was my grandfather’s brother and that is the extent of my knowledge of him. He was a old man when I met him, so he was always perpetually old. Today, I saw the first photo of him from his youth, a young man forever trapped in a photo. This is a man I never knew. This is a man I never met before. The Jose Angel Pequeño that I knew was known as Poncho (PON-cho) and he had a wife who reminded me of a lizard. When my grandmother died in 1997, most of the connections with my mother’s side of the family went with her to the grave. In 1999, most of the connections with my family were completely cut off. We became phantoms, I suppose.
My cousin Jason was there. I grew up with him. In fact, he was much more a brother to me than my brothers were because we were closer to age (he’s about 3 years younger to me compared to my 10 and 6 year difference between my siblings). I see him about once a year and every time I see him, he’s different than I remember him. At least this time around, he looked like the kid I grew up with. After grandmother’s death, I saw less and less of him until he was virtually gone from my life. I went on and did my stuff and he went on and did his. Seeing him is like staring at a relic of my past. Something that has never fully finished growing up, yet we are both living what lives we have chosen. He’s still the troublemaker and I’m still the cautious; I have never driven a vehicle in my life and he’s managed to go through four cars (all total wrecks, on even life threatening).
Jason has more pressure on him than ever before. He’s the last scion, the final carrier of the last name and where the bloodline ends. Constant remarks were made during the last respects. I suppose the mortality of those living has now been realized and he is the last hope. Lucky me, I have my brothers, one of which has passed our bloodline to his two sons, and a cousin (amongst the others I don’t know and have never met).
I acted as one of the pall bearers, making this the first time I ever played the part. My uncle was always a heavy set man, since I’ve known him that is. The mortuary people did a bang up job on cutting his weight (I kid you not), but the old man was still heavy. Upon arrival to St. Joseph’s, we realized the door of the hearse didn’t close right. When we took him in, the priest started the ceremony at the end, rather than at the beginning. Catching his mistake, he apologized and started where he was supposed to all in English (my family members, at least those who still carry their faith, are all Spanish speaking people).
During mass, rolls of thunder started up outside, following a down pour that flooded Donna (Texas) streets. If you’re from Donna, or know the location, you know it doesn’t take long before a torrent of rain will flood the streets. Bad drainage due to bad politics and bad leadership over the years has left Donna a city with colonia appearances.
We waited until the rain let up before putting him into the hearse after the mass. We drove in silence, not like the first time, but some items of today will not be shared with you, fellow readers, because they are too personal for me to say out loud to strangers. As we placed Tío Poncho onto the base of what would be his final resting place. We heard the priest’s final words and the words and blessings of the funeral house director, we formed a line to place the first soil onto his coffin and watched him descend into that piece of land near his brother and sister in law.
Family who I haven’t seen in years felt more like strangers than people I knew. Words of comfort went only to his sister, the person who wanted to send her brother into his final resting place the same way the rest of her family was sent. Whether it was proper is up to your faith, but I sincerely think it was.
where is your heart? where is your heart gone to?
tear me apart
tear me apart from you
you laugh the light I cry the wound
in gray afternoons