I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my mom. Why not, right? She is THE Tortilla Lady! But the thing is, there were others who played a significant role in this whole “tortilla” business. Last night, I was asked, “where was your dad in all of this?”
My dad, Eduardo, was getting ready for work at the local Lake Arthur farm where he labored for years before retiring in 1998. When my mom and my sister, Rosy, showed him the tortilla that October morning in 1977, my dad’s response was, “estan locas!” But after taking a better look at the tortilla, he goes on to say, “Nos ha llegado por alguna razon. No estan bien las cosas.” Stuff wasn’t great in the Rubio household, but more on that much later.
Last night, as I sat in Denver talking with a friend, we sat wondering about how hard it is for sons/daughters to conceptualize our parents having a life before us. Not only that, but we struggle with understanding that our parents, despite their shortcomings and mishaps, were actually trying the best that they could under the circumstances. In terms of my parents, I think I came out ok.
I am just like my dad, for better or for worse. We’re both moody, we’re loud, we love to sing and we LOVE to tell stories (exaggerated or not). Furthermore, we both enjoy learning. We love our history, current events and catching up on politics with Jorge Ramos. As I grew up and people noticed my love of government, they’d wonder where I got it from. Fact is, I’d always wondered about that too. Where did I get it from?
For the first forty years of his life, my dad struggled with an alcohol addiction. During that time, no one knew or possibly understood who he truly was, what he was capable of and what he must have been dealing with. All they knew was a man who drank belligerently. When he finally stopped drinking in September of 1983, I was four years old, and immune to the worst of my dad. As I got older and now as a 35 year old adult, the dad that I know is wicked smart, funny and an amazing story teller.
Although my dad only made it to the third grade, he was always the person I sought out to help me with difficult math problems. What’s even more impressive was that despite his minimal “formal” education, my dad somehow taught me ways to get to an answer. For example, when I was in Junior High, I’d bring work home and I’d ask my him to help me with my assignments, and it was always in math. After a break from his favorite show, “Walker, Texas Ranger,” my dad would manage to figure out a formula with one of the problems.
Not “the” formula, a formula.
Regardless of how long it would take to get the answer, my dad would look at the answers in the back of the book, stare at the problem at hand and then would take the necessary steps to work it out. His ability to do advanced math (beyond the third grade) told me, as much then as it does now, that my dad is a problem solver. But no one would know this about him then, nor would they understand him now even after 31 years of sobriety.
I don’t know anything about how dad got started with his drinking, nor do I know how this addiction overwhelmed his life. But these are questions I plan to ask him eventually, I just need the right time. What I do know though, is that although he made mistakes, BIG mistakes, making life challenging for my mother, my four older sisters and older brother, he also overcame his own addiction. This problem he couldn’t have solved with a formula. He needed some divine intervention.
My mom was convinced of this in 1977 and she holds on to this belief even through today. Whether that’s the case or not, my dad survived it. Eduardo is not perfect (just ask my mom), but I know that he must struggle each and every day with this addiction and the decisions he made years ago…even after 31 years.
This story of the tortilla, although miraculous and beautiful to many, also exposes some of my family’s many flaws. I’m ok with that.