Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three Red Gowns, Three Black Gowns, and Three White Dresses

I was reminded of a lasting lesson the other day by my daughter. My mother-in-law, bless her heart (as we say in Texas), has a knack for posing one-sided arguments with the best of 'em. Sometimes her arguments are validated by an underlying purpose, but many other times, she just wants to be, well, right.

Grandma had been complaining about her ex-husband, my wife's dad, and my daughter reminded her promptly, "Without buelito Carlos, we wouldn't be here." Grandma, of course, immediately retaliated saying, "Yes you would, but you would look different."

Think about that for a minute. Would it be just a physical difference? Hardly. Nothing would be the same.

One of the things I value the most in life is loyalty. At times mine is tried in the world of sports due to the situation at hand, i.e., cheering on the Steelers in February, knowing full well they would out-do the Cowboys for Lombardy trophies. And, they are the current AFC kings, where the Cowboys are NFC royalty. So, why do it then? Because my loyalty to a special uncle in Nebraska outranked my relative loyalty to the sports situation at hand. A vivacious Steelers fan since the Bradshaw era, his enthusiasm for the men of steel encouraged me and about 20 others to defend his cause at the Super Bowl.

Loyalty, though, goes much further than sports.

When speaking of life, my loyalty is deeply rooted in family.

On May 16, 2009, a very interesting completion occurred. It was the evening, about 8 p.m., on a windy, breezy day in El Paso. One of the most formidable journeys was completed. My sister -- younger and only -- walked across the stage to receive her degree from The University of Texas at El Paso. With that, clad in the typical black gown of an undergraduate, she completed a very special chapter in our corner of the Najera family. The preamble to this occasion was the day before, at 15:00 hours, where she walked the floor of that small church in far east El Paso, in a white gown.

Truly the journey began one April in 1972, when mom and dad tied the knot for good. A year later, I was born in February. Four and a half years later, my brother was born in September, and thirteen years later, my sister was born in August to complete the set of three.

Three red gowns.

We had the distinct pleasure of attending and graduating from Socorro High School. All three of us wore that red gown, and on different May evenings, completed twelve formative years of education.

Three black gowns.

All three of us chose different fields, but completed a college education. Though not always sure what we should do, or how we could do it, we didn't give up. Again, on different days and seasons, we walked the stage to receive various degrees.

Three white dresses.

All three of us are now married. Though my brother and I did not wear a white dress -- at least not to the wedding -- , we did have three fantastic weddings. Each in the summer. Each well attended (probably a cumulative total of 1,200 people at our weddings). And, at those weddings, there were three white dresses.

The entire journey took three decades and seven years. There's no true way of measuring all the work, persistence, motivation, fear, et al, it would take to get it done.

Yes, I'm tooting my own horn. Though totally exhausted upon my return from my sister's wedding and graduation ceremony, I stand proud when reflecting about this.

I guess this is a good reason why I can't understand people who give up so easily on marriage, family. I just can't.

Maybe mom and dad should have quit when we lost two aunts -- one after the other -- suddenly and tragically. Maybe we should have quit when dad got laid off from a job, right after signing off on a new mortgage. It would be about 3 years before he saw a real check from the new business he started with family. Maybe when said business went bust, and they were faced -- again -- with figuring out what to do , mid-life. Maybe when a son left far away and joined a radical religion. Maybe the countless nights mom spent nursing a daughter, when multiple chronic things kept her sick. Maybe at the news of another son, when he was diagnosed with congenital heart problems. Those are just some of the highlights.


Guess what?

They didn't.

We didn't.


Never have, never will.

If there is a lasting lesson from the last 37 years, it is this: All's Well That Ends Well. It's Shakespeare, but for us, it's been a lasting creed.

Not that it's ended. At least we hope we have many more journeys to live, complete.

Cheers to all of you who continue to fight. To survive. I hope you're able to visualize the possibilities!