NeverTrumpers… BEWARE!

Initially, this blog was to express the memories that I had of my childhood, my father and how I view fatherhood in light of being one now.  This is still the case but today I would like to address an issue that one day may affect my children and our nation; plus this is my blog so I can have my cake too.

I would like to start by stating my allegiances in the order of submission that I proclaim.  I am first and foremost a Christian, a Christian that to the best of my understanding, I will try to filter the topics and issues of our day through the faithful and unfailable word of God.  Second, I am an American, my words cannot justify how proud I am to be a citizen of the country where I was born, a country that I was raised to appreciate and a country that with all its growing pains, I still stand in allegiance for. Third, I am a TEXAN! “I would rather be a fencepost in Texas, than a king in Tennessee.”-Chris Wall.  This quote basically sums up my allegiance and love for the state that in which my father (a Mexican-born Immigrant) said, “I want all my kids to be born in Texas.”  Fourth, I am a Hispanic, meaning I am born to a Mexican and American parents.  Of course, this distinction is up for debate but who cares, we are Americans for crying out loud and Mexico has given us nothing to be extremely proud of.

Since, about the age of 20, I began to follow politics as a bleeding heart liberal.  I once proudly proclaimed that William B. Clinton was the best president we as a nation ever elected! But once I began to hear voices outside of the mainstream morning shows and late night comedy monologues, those alternative voices sounded more like the views I was taught and held.  I was the perfect democrat as well; I was young, compassionate, a minority, a tad above the poverty line, misinformed and I was deep in the heart of the RGV.  The strategic force that the Democratic Party has in the Rio Grande Valley should be studied by the national party because of the local parties’ ability to prowl on such demographics and yet they have a faithful following that will turn a blind eye to their own representative’s blatant deception.  So, for the span of about 14 years, I have been an outspoken conservative to this group of liberals.

Today, we has a nation are facing (yes, it is said every four years) probably the most important presidential election of our time.  Why?  Not because, we have a nominee that is one of the most deceptive and calculated escape artist of our time or because we have a nominee that his biggest disqualification is having a mouth that will not be accepted in the corridors of most prestigious black tie events.  But we have a faction of the conservative party that has been deceived, hook line and sinker, by our opponents and this same faction believes with every fiber of their being that “in GOOD conscience” they cannot vote for our party’s nominee—Donald J. Trump.

Webster defines conscience as such:

-the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong

-a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong

Now, let’s face the reality that a huge portion of the conservative Republicans for the most part, hold to Christian beliefs and values, which mold the ideologies they hold today.  So, as a disclaimer, my write up is pointed to the conservative “Christians” that have basically made the “NeverTrump” a mantra filled with conscience.  The reason I am speaking towards this faction, is because they as conservative “Christians” have shown that they are not not voting for DJT based on conscience but based on hypocrisy.

As a Christian, we believe that once we are saved, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), therefore we become like Christ in His allegiance and submission to God.  Also, as Christians, we believe that all other forms of religions and false teaching against the person and works of Jesus Christ are false and should be avoided (Matthew 7:15-16, Titus 1:9-16).  So, what does this have to do with politics?  Well for one, the bible NEVER says, “you Christians must establish sanctified and justified Christians that proclaim Christ as savior, as your leaders!”  The bible says in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayer, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior.”  Furthermore, Romans 13:1 says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority expect that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  These verses, establish God as sovereign and that God alone has the last word on whom He wishes to establish (Psalms 115:3).  (Yes, I believe free will is a factor in the sovereignty of God in relation to voting but that is for another discussion; which I love to speak on by the way.)  The reason we as a Christian culture have been fixated on us “reigning in our destiny”, “establishing godly leaders” and “doing God’s will in politics” is because of a false teaching that comes directly from the Word of Faith movement and Apostolic Reformation Movement (Please look these up and you will see that they are not sound doctrine).  These movements believe that they can thwart the evil ones and do God’s will by “helping” God bring in the salvation of the nations’ through the shining light on a hill; which is America!  This doctrine feeds on nationalism and pride, which as Christians we should not try to reign and rule through laws but through the word of God.  This movement has convinced the majority of Christians that it’s ok to pass laws that make someone follow biblical principles, yet when laws are passed in direct attack to those biblical principles, its PERSECUTION! I personally would argue that it is persecution to pass laws to get someone to realize Christ, yet we are called to just knock on their door and share Christ with them.  So, what does this have to do with the “NeverTrumpers”?

As I mentioned before, many have said that in “good conscience” they cannot vote for DJT. Yet, in “good conscience” these saved, proclaimed and outspoken conservative “Christians” voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle.  They not only voted for him, they campaigned for him, they spoke to his character, his intellect, they donated money to his cause, they stood with pride and conviction, that Mitt Romney is our nominee and we must support him!  The problem is that in “good conscience” these voters stood in the gap for a true MORMON!  Mormonism which is a direct contradiction to the faith of Christians (Galatians 1:8)! Yes, there are some Mormons that are great people and have been compassionate to many across the globe, but the bible reminds in Romans 8: 5-8; that those who do not submit to God are hostile to God.  So, no matter how good Mormons are in a pragmatic humanistic way, they are still hostile to the very God you praise, teach, proclaim and have set as a standard by which you set your “good conscience”.  Where in “good conscience” is your justification in voting for Romney?  This faction has cemented the fact that their only political obligation to their fellow man, is to vote for a person who on the outside has a cup worthy of praise, but on the inside is vile and filled with deception.  Mitt Romney’s pose and political posture is exactly the pedigree the establishment class wants, they do not care for his character in the confines of his home, but only care what marketable attributes their nominee has to make their cup look righteous.  Both current candidates have kept their religious views out of the limelight but as recent as July 2016, it was claimed that Trump was led to Christ by Dobson, now I am not the authenticator of his faith and that is not the reason I have decided to support him either.  But to say your conscience had anything to do with your current and past decisions on voting, has been voided and of no standing in the realm of political maturity.

Besides, the important issues of consciousness that face the conservative party, there is the issue of our opponents.  The main reason I became a conservative republican is because over the years, I began to realize the true, systematic deception of the liberal Democratic Party.  They have successfully indoctrinated many, I mean many, young voters into consciously believing that they are the party of tolerance, equality and of the minority cause.  By experience, research and deep “soul searching” as it is called, I have broken through the noise and discovered that at the core the DNC is deeply deceptive and intolerant towards views contrary to theirs. The retrograding of the DNC started when they began to publically acknowledge the shift into the party of progressivism.  The Progressive faction of the DNC is the most intolerant and hateful mindset in American politics.  This faction claims to fight for women’s rights yet they have openly and tactically attacked women who are either conservative or who speak out against any DNC agenda.  Progressives claim to be tolerant, yet any minority who is conservative is called an uncle tom, coconut (which I have been called numerous times) and a trader to their race.  On May 10, 2016 a liberal New York Times Op-Ed Writer wrote a column, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance”, which proves my point of the progressive agenda and their intolerance of opposing views. Now, HRC has claimed to be a progressive and voting for Hillary Rodman Clinton is a vote in approval for the type of silencing of opponents by using political power to oppress decent and the shameful  bias coverage of anyone with a (D) beside their name—which has been heavily documented and factually proven.  Again, how does this relate to the “NeverTrumpers”?  Well, politics is almost like a sport, there are winners and losers and “the people” is the object.  We are tossed, turned, deceived, told white lies, given excuses, heavily taxed, smoke-mirrored and used as a trophy when either side wins…. Or loses.  Politics is a messy game and no one plays it better than the media and the Democratic Party.  The most important lesson to come from this election isn’t how DJT or HRC got here, who are easily the most un-liked nominees in the history of politics; it’s the relationship between the Democratic Party and the mainstream media.  This couple, and they are a couple, have hand-in-hand created a narrative that is sheered in the minds of almost half of the American populous; Republicans are RACIST!  Together the DNC and media is the most influential marketing firm of all time and they are given carte blanche when it comes to accuracy and truthfulness.  So, the “NeverTrumpers” have fallen for the cunning, crafty bait that they need to destroy the enemy from within.  Believe me, just look at the Trump rallies and all of the mainstream media coverage of the attacks on conservatism; we are the enemies of the DNC and the mainstream media.  And the “NeverTrumpers” are only pawns in this game for them.  The NT’s have gain so much face time and notoriety based on Trump, talk about job creation! Most NT’s would’ve not been in the light if it were not for Trump, so Trump winning is going to solidify NT’s careers and if HRC wins, say goodbye to the 15 minutes of fame.  They have given the NT movement a soapbox to express their disgust towards DJT yet, where was this opportunity when it was Romney?  Your right, the opportunity was nowhere to be found because Romney was not a threat to the establishment; he was the establishment.   The DNC and the media will throw the NT’s to the curb if HRC wins, because their job is done; they have successfully used their opponents own weapons against them.  DJT is a threat to the NT’s because he has had a successful campaign without the help from the establishment, which proves that you do not need them, therefore their services are no longer required to win the highest office in the land.  Hence, if DJT wins, all the NT’s have worked for is non-existent and will only be useful as a democrat pundit.  So, “NeverTrumpers” beware, you will be dust in the wind, you will be seen as a piece of meat and you will be tattooed as a person only loyal to political pedigree, not political change.

Ambassadors

Growing up with two older brothers was fun, especially with the ones I had, and the memories during my childhood of our adventures together are great. From David and I being grounded for two weeks for swimming at a friend’s house against my mom’s orders, to washing neighborhood cars with Daniel so we can buy baseball cards, those years were definitely filled with memorable times. Even during times of distress, we as siblings managed to suppress our sadness and understood that this was our plight. Over the years, I would hear parents, friends and relatives comment to my dad on how well we as brothers got along. I was once told by a close friend, “I am jealous of the relationship you and your brothers have, because I do not have one like that with my brother”, he said. As a result of this observation, my father carried a sense of pride and he didn’t boast about it—nor did we— but it was something that definitely set us apart and it brought him joy. Most of the times at gatherings, I was usually by my father’s side and this position gave me an ear to conservation not privy to the others. Of course, the conversation was about work and other grown up stuff, but when the conversation turned to children; it was his time to shine. “Your boys are so well-behaved, David”, one would say, or “my kids need to hang out with yours”, another would say. At that point, dad would show that he was not that great at receiving compliments; so he would just smile and respond by saying, “Asi son mis hijos” (that’s the way my sons are). It was almost as if they wanted dad to tell them the secret to raising boys. Yet, what some may have not known, was during his conversations dad was able to preserve a dialogue while keeping his eyes on us. He constantly knew where we were and if he didn’t, he would find out. As far as our behavior, we rarely were out of line and to my knowledge; I never threw a tantrum in public. I may have cried, because I was left out for being the youngest but never had a full-blown meltdown. We were polite, quite and obeyed him when he spoke to us, especially around company. I could not even imagine the trouble we would put ourselves into if we misbehaved or disobeyed in public, if we did – Game Over. He didn’t rule with an iron rod, but his voice sure sounded like one striking the ground. Likewise, his discipline style made us self-examine our actions to fit his standards, even when he was not around; we knew our parameters and we always stayed within our boundaries. Yes, the “boys will be boys” saying rang true with us, but he definitely spared the rod more times than he should have—trust me. However, through his discipline, he always managed to get us to say,” Sorry”, and opened an invitation for us to sit on his lap while we hugged it out. He would say, “mijo, pappa doesn’t want to spank you but”… fill in the blank. Furthermore, I believe he had a good balance of love and discipline, which was evident on how much we favored him as a parent. If he held a vote, he had four supporters ready to follow his lead. He had this way of showing love during his course of correction and I still have much to learn on this issue. Also, I truly miss the radiance of pride he emitted of being a father of three boys— let’s not forget one girl as well. Nonetheless, when I think of him, his correction is the last thing on my mind—which is a testament of his grace with us.

“Mis hijos” (my sons), was a phrase that made me feel important. For some reason, these words empowered me; they filled voids and gave me a position within our family. We were representatives of him and our careful actions and words carried his approval. These two words meant his vouching and ownership of us. Once, while dealing with the issues of dad’s business, I met someone who knew my dad. I simply said, “I am the youngest of David Contreras son’s”, and without hesitation, I was given full trust and authority as if dad was there himself. People trusted dad, he was just one of those men who you knew would not deceive you, he always protected your interest, and as a son I carried his privilege. Overtime, I understood the importance of those two words (mis hijos), because they defined who he was and what he strived for. It definitely made me proud to be a son, but also made me determined not to fail as one.

Recently, during a conversation at work the subject of fathers came to the surface. Of course, I do not freely speak of my experience, or of this blog, but it was inevitable for me to be asked my opinion on the matter. So, I was eventually asked, “If you had one last moment with your dad, what would you do”? Of course, I could’ve given an answer to deflect what was in my hearts emotion but I felt an honest response to this question needed some context. Obviously, this person had no clue what I had experienced but my response would not be a simple one. Nonetheless, I didn’t answer the question directly, but out of panic I just said, “Well I wrote a blog about my father”. After the conversation, I also realized that I have never been posed this question before. Almost six years have passed and no one person has put me on the spot; with reference to my dad. Even though, seeing my father again, has a high percentage of not occurring in this present time. As a natural human tendency, I pondered about the question through the rest of the day. As I have written before, the last couple of years of my father’s life, I had this rally of affection towards him. I embraced him more as a father, and I felt these moments meant more because I was older and I understood the meaning of my affection. I wasn’t a little boy reaching for his comfort; I was expressing my love and respect for him. I know the majority of teens go through this, “anti-expression” phase but during my young adulthood, I tried to love and appreciated him more. So, as I dissected this question, I came to a conclusion; I honestly saw no reason for me to see my father again. Yes, even to this present day, I have wept many times over his absence in my life. In the confines of my home, Morgan has been a witness to the agony that I carry and a comforter during my mourning. Furthermore, during those moments of grief, I can honestly only wish for one thing to come to past.

So, if I had a window of opportunity to hug my father or if I was given a glimpse of time to see my father—I wouldn’t take it. Why? Since my father’s passing, I have learned that I was given a certain lot in life and in that time a portion was included for me to see what I needed to see in my father. I saw the strength and weakness of a man bestowed to me. I had my time to embrace, to appreciate and to enjoy the existence of my father, which I am forever grateful. So if I didn’t want to see him, then what would I do? Well I would proceed in what I was taught to do as a son; I would act in the best interest of my dad. I would use that moment in time to send him the fruit of his labors, the reward of his toils, and the joy of his sacrifices. I would send him the carriers of his name. Once he would see them, he would know who sent them and whom they represent. I would send him the orators of my love, the ambassadors of my heart, the testimony of who I have become. I would send him—my sons.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

As cliché as it sounds; the year 2014 is defined as “what a year” for the Contreras household. Our family roster is still filled with two rambunctious boys (Elijah and Ethan), one highly energetic Aussie (Mac), one shitzu (Chloe) who is living up to the first four letters of her name by placing it on the rug—ugh annoying, a nameless kitty (which Elijah help care for since birth) and two exhausted parents who sleepwalk through the minefield of toys, pee, bugs, pacifiers and dirt. Yes, as we walked through the valley of shadow of our unlit house, we stumbled through an obstacle of surprises that shock our minds and our feet. Of course, many who have come over to our house would not dare see the trenches full of displaced animals and collected fur from our blue-eyed canine. So, unbeknownst to them the cleaning drill commenced 15 minutes before they arrived and the battlefield was cleared for a friendly invasion up until their fingers hit the doorbell, then smiles and a clean house welcomed their company.

At times, yes our house feels like a fort, with two little soldiers running amok; but one of those boys brings joy to our house like no other. Our youngest Ethan was born on September 23, 2013, and for the first couple of months, joy was the last thing I thought he would be able to contribute. As with most newborns, Ethan came out crying, and he didn’t stop. He would cry when we picked him up, when we laid him down and when we tried to feed him. Compared to Elijah’s seldom crying spells at that age, Ethan’s crying was grueling. Confusion and anxiety began to amplify because Elijah was such a calm baby and he set the standard so high. Finally, we figured out that the car seat was our best option of calming him down; it became our third set of hands during this short-lived stage. So, as most parents would, we used that car seat for every penny its worth. We put him in that car seat; when we ate, when we showered, when we cooked and even when we slept. Yes, even when we slept— I would have never imagined that but sleep deprivation was setting in and we needed our siesta. Nothing is more nerve wracking and stressful then a crying baby. I cannot compare the noise of an infant in need—its just stressful and trying unorthodox methods at this point definitely had my endorsement. Subsequently, while trying to meet Ethan’s needs (which he cannot express with words), our minds begin to wonder. We wonder if he is sick, we wonder if he has an underlying deadly disease or we think, “What I am doing wrong? Of course, Morgan kept telling me he was okay (as an experienced RN would). Morgan told me, “If he cries for more than one hour and is inconsolable with no obvious issues, then we should take him in for medical attention”. This advice was great—till it was put to the test.

One night Ethan was crying to the point that the car seat was of no use, he was going at it and Morgan tried to console him. She was trying for a couple of minutes, then Elijah began to ask for her, so we switched and the timer began. When I got Ethan, I was aware of the time; so for almost thirty minutes Ethan was crying. No matter what I did, he kept weeping and showed no signs of comfort. “Morgan there is something wrong with Ethan”, I said. “Has he been crying for more than an hour”? She said. “No”, I responded angrily. “Well if he goes for more than an hour, then we will take him,” she said. As stone cold as it sounds, she was right! Ethan stopped just before the forty-minute mark. But one moment comes to mind when I reminisce about this event; it has to do with what I said to Ethan.

During his crying spell, while I tried to console him to the best that I could and even changed my breathing pattern to stay calm, hoping that he would feed off of it. I told him, “Son I am going to love you more because of what I am going through with you”. Of course, I love my sons the same, but Ethan does have a special place in my heart because of the stress and maturity I gained during his infant phase. Ethan is our smiling, hugging-barefoot bandit, who loves bananas, he eats all the time (not kidding), he loves baths and he hates getting his diaper changed. His smile is a gift; it’s a delight and I have tears in my eyes just writing about it now. He brings so much joy to our family—especially while taking photos. He is so special to us because during his first year, he showed us the value of sacrifice. I learned that dying to myself wasn’t a command or law, but an act birth out of love, a love that will surpass any materialistic reward that I could ever achieve.

As for Elijah, he is our comedian. Of course, the fact that he can speak his imagination into existence; gives him a platform to claim he is actually a puppy and he is able to use new words like, “frustrated” in a sentence. This gives him the clear advantage of being “so funny”, as I say to him. However, all Elijah wanted for Christmas this year was a sheep, a goat, a horse, a piggy and a cow. He definitely has a love for animals; I suspect this is from the Johnson side (which I don’t even think he has a Contreras side), but his three pets at home love him for that. Also, this year Elijah started pre-school and since the first day, he was eager to be in school. He was so anxious to get to class, that when we arrived a little early on the first day, he asked me, “pappa why are the doors closed”? At times when the doors open, he runs to the class room and on numerous occasions his teacher, Ms. Emily, has said, “Hi Elijah, you’re the first one here”—by the looks of it, its no surprise to her. He definitely loves school, but his love for animals surpasses his natural yearn for higher learning. In his classroom they have a barn and farm animal set exactly as he has at home. No surprise, why he loves school! As, Elijah gets to learn new things and meet new friends; he also gets to keep a close eye on his barnyard buddies. Yet, there is still one buddy that Elijah keeps in close proximity, no one could see; not even his parents, it’s his sidekick and he is called “baby penguin”.

This little penguin is anywhere and everywhere. Apparently, he can fit in between the two car seats while traveling, he fits in Elijah’s hands when he exits the vehicle and baby penguin can be the prime suspect of a pile of mess on a department store floor while we are shopping. Baby penguin is a covert buddy and he even travels in Elijah’s pockets. While driving one day, randomly I asked Elijah, “is baby penguin here”? He said, “Yes he is right here”, pointing to his thigh. The mind of a preschooler is fun, especially when they are able to have this type of imagination. Its reveals this quirkiness about them and it reminds us that we were once like them; even though we had less to work with, nonetheless our imagination was vast and just as eccentric.

Elijah has adjusted very well to his younger brother. I would say about 90% of the time; Elijah is behaving in a loving manner towards Ethan. He hugs, kisses and gently tackles Ethan and bathing both of them together is not a difficult task at all. Now, the other 10% of the time (which seems to be on the rise lately), Elijah is smacking the pacifier out of Ethan’s mouth (which should be out anyway), taking ownership of toys that he never intended to play with in the first place and hitting Ethan for no reason (which I am glad Ethan is willing to refund the hit). Even so, they definitely love more than they fight—now I’d say that’s a healthy relationship.

Certainly, through the crying, fighting, hugging, kissing, angry fits and awe moments these boys have apprehended our hearts for sure—they have given us a purpose within a purpose. The Lord audibly declared that “our children are a blessing”, and He told us to “be fruitful and to multiply”. So, why did the Lord ask us to “produce good or helpful results and increase or cause to increase greatly in number or quantity” of those blessings? Simply, I feel it was for His glory. As a parent, I have begun to realize the purpose of our children was not only for our inheritance and to obey a decree, but as a form of destruction as well. Currently, the worldview is that people exist for personal satisfaction and enjoyment. Additionally, our culture indoctrinates the view of “self”, and all that matters at the end of the day is “you do whatever makes you happy”! This message of “self” feels good, it vindicates our egocentric decisions and it feeds the natural hunger for “me”. However, this message gives us an inaccurate view of sacrifice and it angers us towards the view of “a broken and contrite spirit”, that the Lord desires. We feel entitled to satisfaction; yet we were never guaranteed it, on the contrary, we are warned of those inclined to itchy ears. Also, children are sometimes viewed as a hindrance towards personal gain, not as a blessing in life. Hence, I feel that children in their reliance and lack of provision have the ability to eradicate the pillar of selfishness we have built, which now I believe is the reason for “us to multiply”—the more you have, the less you can afford, the more we become content with our designated lot. Currently, having been given two blessings so far, I have grasped the motive of their existence. Apart from being a godsend, they were also given to me for the purpose of sacrifice, not to sacrifice them, but that they may be used as a tool to annihilate the ideology of “self” and stimulate my heart towards servanthood.

Fall 2014

Fall 2014

Unobtainable Gift

As a child we request much from our parents, maybe a little too much: the toys, clothing, gadgets and activities are on forefront of our minds. Each New Year brings about a new item to covet, an item better than the one before or one that no one had—the list is endless. But one thing is for sure that children are relentless, their goal is for their request to be fulfilled and the cost seems to have no room in the realm of their reality—they want it and they want it now! The desire to reward or just to even have some peace and quite can overwhelm us like a beggar pounding the gates. As children cycle through crying, tantrums, the pulling of shirts and the tears, our patience is pounded and at times even guilt begins to plague our hearts.   We as parents try to have the best reaction but we know that’s not always the case, every situation is different and every child is unique. Of course speaking from experience on both ends and now being able to reflect on this matter, it seemed like the request I made, as a child was almost a daily occurrence. The basin always needed attention or at least I thought it did in my own world. My father’s reaction to most of my request was definitely not main-stream and it may even have seemed unfair but the lessons turned out to be more valuable than any gift. One specific lesson has stayed in my memory since it was learned and has helped me understand the importance of appreciation. The lesson involved a gold ring with the initial “D” engraved on it, which represented the initial of our first names. This gift was only authorized by his orders, it was a gift that cemented the name we carried and it was given to all his children. We anticipated the ring but were never given an announcement or given a date. There was no ceremony involved, no photos taken, it just happened or at least this is what I witnessed. It was a gift that I desired for so long—yet as the third born and the baby of the boys, I was the only one to never receive it.

Surprisingly for those who do not know, yes my real name starts with a “D” and Steven is my real middle name. Even my parents name starts with a “D”, but up until the third grade I thought I was the only one out of four children not given a “D” name. Now that day was one for the memory box for sure, it happened so causally and the subject only came up because I brought up my lone wolf status to my mom. It could not have matched my mother’s character any better; she had this nonchalant reaction about it and even though to me this was life-changing news, she merely responded by asking me to take a seat. So before the news (more like an update) I approached my mom and said, “Mom why does everyone else have a name that starts with a “D” and mine starts with an “S”? And why am I the darkest one in the family? Of course these questions were also brought up by curious minds who knew our family and every now and then, whether they admit it or not, these were questions also brought up by my loving brothers—which sounded more like accusations of adoption —but I digress. So as I took a seat, it almost felt like I was about to be interrogated for asking something that was top-secret or about to be asked who put me up to this inquiry? Then my mom preceded by putting a white sheet of paper on the table and writing this foreign word that I was sure I could not even pronounce—my eyes were glued to that sheet of paper!

I could not understand it nor could I recognize it, it was not a common word and I was pretty sure I could not even find it in a dictionary. Then my mom turns the paper toward me and tells me, “mijo this is your real name”. At that moment it was as if I was born into the witness protection program and I was just told that I have another family and another life! “Oh my goodness, now I was going to be the labeled as a dork”, I thought. How could this be, I said? My emotions were mixed, it made me happy because now I could relate with everyone else in sharing this coveted letter but also why the secrecy? No hugs of comfort were given, no remarks like, “oh mijo I am sorry you never knew”, it was just bam here you go and have a good day! Later my mom explained to me that she really liked the name Steven and thought my real name would be hard to pronounce. Hence, I would be made fun of by not so polite classmates, so my middle name was used till I was of legal age to vote and then my true identity was assumed.

Now during my junior high years, my brothers and I worked at a firework stand for the Christmas break. The job was pretty fun for a young kid; we worked, played video games, I got to hang out with the older crowd and I made money in the process. Also, during this time I was getting hints from my brothers that the ring I had not yet received was a potential Christmas gift for that year. My mom was also at home during this time and she also had given me a hint about the ring. Things were going great; I was working, I was hanging out with friends and I was finally going to get the ring! Nothing could have gone wrong… except for one thing—I was still a child and acted like a child. I kept asking questions about the ring. I would call home from work to ask my mom questions about it, I would call my dad and ask him random questions and I just nagged him about it. I was good at pounding the gates, or so I thought. Finally, it was Christmas Eve and through all the searching and questions I concluded that the gift I thought was already in the bag had not even been purchased. So, my only reaction to this assumption was to revert to my nature as a child and throw a tantrum. I began to cry, act ornery, disobey orders to clean the house and finally I threw myself on the floor and began to pout. After my fit I fell asleep on the floor and little did I know my dad was already informed of my tantrum. So, not only was I already in trouble for my schnanhgains but me being on the floor when my dad arrived home definitely made the situation worse. After my father woke me up he let me have it. He gave me a pretty stern talk about my actions and how ungrateful I acted. He was extremely disappointed in my actions and how could I relate this gift on the same level as the provisions he provides. How could I not appreciate what he had done so far for me? After the whole ordeal, I found out that my father already had plans to purchase the ring, but once he found out about my actions he put it on hold.

The financial situation in my family was below middle class, my father owned a ceramic tile laying business and living with one provider proved to be stressful for him while trying to provide for four young children. His foremost obligation was to provide a roof over our heads, which he always did, and then in solid second was to feed our hungry bellies and he definitely did well in this area. Lastly, all the other things came into play, like clothes, sports equipment and video games.

He definitely had his priorities in order and for this I am grateful. After this situation, I learned the meaning of the level of appreciation that he wanted us to attain. It was simply to be grateful for all his provisions, even in the moments where a gift was all but ours to lose. Of course I knew better but that day I pulled at his patience too much and shed too many tears for a gift that was not at the foundation of his love.

That day did not turn out the way I expected, it was what I can remember as the most childish act I committed. The lesson was to shatter any inch of misplaced appreciation towards my dad’s decisions and timing of his blessings—I definitely learned my lesson. As I mentioned, I did not receive the ring, but it doesn’t bother me nor does it make me feel any less of a son. Instead I was given something better, not something to boast about but a gift to have ownership of for the rest of time.

My father passed on the early hours of a Friday morning but a couple of days before he passed; Morgan and I went to visit him. We spoke to the doctor about my father’s situation, we updated him about the wedding and he said, “do not delay the wedding because of me, when you return from Hawaii, I will be out of the hospital and we will have a big party for you and Morgan”. So before I left I told him that I loved him and he did the same. After this visit, no one else in my family spoke to him because he later fell into a coma.

 

Through the final 2-3 years of his life I had this tug on my heart to be even more expressive with my father then I had been before. My father definitely did not have an issue with expressing his love with us, but this tug moved me to hug him more, kiss his cheeks more and say I love you more often. These rallies of affection towards my father are actions I cherish the most with my father and it feels good just to reminisce about it. Furthermore, when some people lose a loved one they may cry in agony and they may beg and wish that they could just have one more moment with their loved one. They may wish they could just say and hear the words “I love you”, just one more time! Well not me. Yes, I never received the ring but the gift I received was inscribed into time long before we were a thought, it was authorized by the same voice that brought forth light and breathe life into all mankind. I was given a gift that no one, I mean no one can obtain. I the third born, the last son, was given a moment in time to call my own. I, Damacio, was the one chosen to hear my father’s voice one final time and in that I received a gift that to the rest is unobtainable.

Dancing with the Queen

Playing Monday morning quarterback for various sports is a hobby many of us (mainly men) take as a serious gig. It’s easy to do, we don’t play the game, we are fairly free to make an analysis without criticism, our jobs are not on the line and the weight of adrenaline and pressure of the game are obsolete in the confines of our couch. So what gives us the urge to critique professionals playing games the majority of us have only played under the Friday night-lights or under the age of 18? Statically, a small percentage of fans have played college sports and even smaller amount have been signed to play professionally but yet knowing our roles of being merely a fan, we still cannot resist shouting the key words of the moment, by saying what they should have done. To some extent I feel that the position of Monday morning quarterback is played in almost every part of our daily interactions. Work, school, child-bearing, religion, finances, etc. are parts of life that have a myriad of so-called experts but its something we have come accustom too and we shrug our shoulders in annoyance at times. So with the relationship between my parents I was able to witness the Monday morning quarterback of marriage. It was tough for me to see, many would give their analysis of my father’s situation and give a solution to alleviate his problems.  Of course as a child I sometimes agreed with some of the advice given, but I was a child and later I realized that they were always missing one key issue. Again and again, words of counsel and advice flowed my father’s way but one thing I never saw my father do, which I am confident he did not do when I was not around either, he did not ask for advice on his situation. He did not freely speak of his life, he either went to work or did duties as our father. My father had a goal in life, his eyes were set on it, he would not stray from this goal even in the most treacherous of moments and as I mentioned before he was determined to give his children a two parent home.  As I realized later, there was more to that determination, he had a greater reason, a reason that was stored as tinder in his heart and a reason his children saw as both devastating and healing in due time.

In the span of over 16 years, I cannot count the times my mom left and returned home. I personally didn’t want to keep count; it was just something that became a part of our lives. I detested the sick feeling I got in my stomach during every argument my parents had, it was a nasty feeling and it blunted my emotions to the point that sleep was its only medicine. This feeling replicated itself even when my mom would return home; the cycle of her departure was at times a two-week stretch and we could sense the tension and build up before the next argument came. I would sometimes pray about my family’s situation but I honestly only cared about saving my father’s heart from further infliction.  So what prayer could I have said that could accomplish saving my father’s heart without asking the Lord to allow an outcome He hates?

Once during our time living in downtown Edinburg, my father came home from work and made an announcement. He said, “kids I am going to make pollitos (chicken) today”! He made BBQ chicken a certain way that became a delight for our close family and friends but to us this was the best thing he cooked.  We hoped for it all week, if he cooked it we would trample over each other to get to it, the first batch was so hot we would burn our mouths trying to consume it and we loved to eat it because it was made by our dad.  So after that brief moment of excitement he still had one more announcement to make.  He then said, “oh and clean up and get ready because the Queen of the house is coming”! Once he said that, the excitement of the BBQ could not stop the dreadful feeling as it made its return to my stomach and the atmosphere was filled with dread.  During this time my mom was gone for a couple of months and my father wanted to make sure her return was met with a clean house, four happy children and have it topped off with a celebratory feast. My fathers attitude was not of excitement or relief for my mom’s return; it was more of a confident demeanor like if he was telling himself, “I knew she would come back”. So we began cleaning and preparing without hesitation as my father asked, but during the process we also began to dwell in the pains of reliving a moment that we were sure would come again in two weeks. After our task was complete and dinner was ready, what seemed almost timed perfectly my dad said, “your mom is on her way, let’s go to the front of the house”. I waited by a window in the front bedroom of the house and I see a taxi pull up. My stomach began to drop and the feeling got worse, knots, nerves and queasiness consumed me like a spell. Dad was getting everyone together and preparing an audience. Mom gets out of the taxi like royalty exiting a chariot returning to her palace after a long voyage but I could see through the window, her old smile was leaden with guilt. Mom didn’t have many belongings with her but as she made it to the front door, my dad announced her path like a herald in the courts’.  With open arms he said, “kids come say hi to your mom, she is here”! We did as he said, but later that night we discussed amongst ourselves about how long she would last, and sure enough almost to the day, two weeks later she would exit our lives again.

This one event that occurred when I was in my early teens paved the way to further understand and appreciate the vows my father said the day my parents became one. I always thought of this event as a shocking one and I asked myself for years, “How could my father refer to her like that”? It made no sense to me!  My own understanding only went so far, as a child I thought as one and now as a husband and a father, my heart aches thinking of that day. My mom’s heart is restored and her smile is that of the redeemed but to relive that moment brings about different feelings then I had that day.  Now I feel compassion and a sense of desperation to awaken my mom in that moment and to bring her to reality.  I realize now that the only way I could have understood the actions my father took that day is to be in his shoes playing the game and not on the couch criticizing his moves or screaming like an unqualified spectator.  That afternoon, his adrenaline was high, the pressure was heavy, his plan was working, his goal was at arms reach and his family was on the line.  On that day there was no law forbidding my father from executing his secret play, a play no one advised and no one predicted.  His plan was simple, it involved a promise he stood on and had flawless execution.  I saw him play it out many times and he did it with confidence.  His plan all along was to impart grace, love and forgiveness to his Queen.

The Prodigal Mother

As sort of a disclaimer, I would like to fast forward to present day. To most, a guaranteed pillar in the current house hold today is the person that gave you life. She cared for you when your acts of neighborhood dares caused an occasional boo boo and had to convince you that your injury did not require an emergency room visit. Most of us were given a set of tender hands, soft kisses and cautious words that got us back on the playing field with time to spare before sundown. The all famous Mother. As graceful and clumsy as some of them may come, they always knew how to settle the dispute, make an unfair game against the youngest not so fun for the oldest and provided ice cold refreshments on long summer days. At a very young age, I too experienced what most consider an almost guarantee in their lives but somewhere along the way we as a family lost her to the wide path most taken.

When that day came, my father with all his authority, all his might and a shattered heart embedded in his soul, gave his 4 children their orders. We were to above all always love our mother and hoped that if she returned, to forgive her and pick up where we left off. The love my father had for my mother in some peoples eyes, was a waste of a good heart, and at some moments as a child I too felt the same way. But through my fathers consistent words and unimaginable forgiving moments, I am proud to say that his toil was not in vain.

The Prodigal Mother has returned and the power of forgiveness lead her to the amazing throne of grace. So why share this blog? Why open old wounds? Why re-live someones mistakes?

I believe the actions and commitment my father endured are without question, the basics of fatherhood. Unfortunately, many who knew him and the details of his life, thought of him as an anomaly, a unique dad, even a coveted husband but to me I knew no different. His story, although not surprising to me, can hopefully help someone that has lost faith in the idea of a loving and faithful father and restore hope in the gift of fatherhood.

Groundhogs Day!

To your local weather man, Groundhogs day is an excuse to put their superstition to the test, a day when the seasons are determined by a shadow, and the day Bill Murray put Punxsutawney Phil on the map.  However, to the anointed few, this is the day when our faith was authored and when we became citizens of a new nation.  I am the 3rd born of 4 children, which my parents were actually hoping for a girl to complete their family, but I came with 21 reasons to try one more time for a baby princess. Also, as weird as it sounds, our culture uses many names of endearment that are flung out as a substitute for our actual names.  In my case, my father coined me as ” el morenito”.  Of course we know it’s an unorthodox practice, but I admit I do it to my sons as well and it’s definitely hijacked our DNA for generations.  The good thing for me is my glaring olive skin made my name match my looks, unlike the unlucky few that have to endure some not so flattering names.

To most parents, our children are a precious and fragile gift, and they grow so fast that we are continually reminded to appreciate their presence and grasp the little time we share with them.   So I am hopeful that all children get to experience the celebration of “your day” and the anticipation of gifts by their friends and family. For which, I strongly believe will help children be reaffirmed they are cared for and loved.  However, the years before my father passed I honestly cannot remember any gifts that were given to me by others on my birthday; not because I did not receive any, I just do not remember what I received.  It would have been nice to remember some of the gifts, but how could my earthly presents stand against a memory that has the ability to numb the excitement of ownership of these perishable materials.  So, before the celebration, before the blowing out of candles, and even before any songs were sung in my honor, my anticipation of gifts and celebration had already been fulfilled that morning.  At every dawn of my new year, the one gift I received from my father was a non-perishable memory and is one I use to fulfill the brief heartache of the mornings I can no longer re-live.

As with all of my siblings, the morning of our birthdays started the same and our father did not veer from this routine.  He made it his priority to make sure we understood this was our day and painted a picture of our birth as funny and as clear like Diego Rivera.  Since I was about 4 years old, except the 2 birthdays I lived out of the valley, the morning of Groundhogs day started with a jump!

“Dad!! I am asleep”!,  I said. These are the only words I could hurl after dad jumped on me where I was sleeping.  Then before I could utter another word, my dad would dig his wire-brushed mustache in my neck and act like he was biting me.  He would get right in between the bottom of my jaw and my collar-bone and rubbed against it till I screamed, “dad stop that hurts” in a laughing tone.  He would then search for my eyes and when we made eye contact, he would smile and hug me as if I had just emerged from the womb.  I felt in those moments, as if I was his only child and as if that was the last moment for me to be his baby boy. After a few more kisses and adjusting to make sure we both would fit on the bed, he would say, “Happy Birthday Mijo, you’re getting so old”.  “How old are you now”?, he would say.  Of course he knew but he always said that, which makes me smile just to remember that question and moment.  I would then say my age at the time and he would say, “man oh my goodness, I remember when you were still a baby, but hey I can still kick your butt”, then he would playfully jab me on the chin.  Then he would take a deep breath, lay on his back and begin his walk down memory lane. “Mijo the morning you were born was just like any another day, I was waking up at 4am to go to work and then your mom grabbed my arm”, he said. “David, do not go to work today, I am having this kid today”, mom said.  “So here we all go to the hospital”, dad said.  I was born in Houston, Texas in the morning time, which is fitting for my eternal clock to this day but as far as I know, my father was not in the delivery room.  “So I was sitting with your brothers in a hallway at the hospital, then your doctor came out and said, well Mr. Contreras, its looks like a boy again”.  “So I took your brothers home and returned for you and mom later”, he said.  Also, he would talk to me about how he got my name Damacio, how it was the name of an uncle of his, but how also mom really liked the name Steven. I know it’s a confusing story but I will leave that for conversation.  At the end, my father finished the story by saying, “I will never forget the day you were born mijo, I had so much joy that you were mine”. Finally, came the best question of the day, “so do you want pancakes for breakfast”?  Oh how much we loved my fathers pancakes!  He would get up from the bed and start the assembly line to feed the herd.  One by one, my siblings and I filed into the kitchen and my dad would ask us, “how many eggs and how many pancakes do you want”?  The way we ate our pancakes is with over easy eggs in between the layers of pancakes, which I believe its the best way.  Without hesitation my dad would say, “Steven 3 eggs and 3 pancakes”?  My nod confirmed his prediction.  After getting birthday greetings from my siblings, it was family time at the table, talking about various things and making plans for the day.  If it was the weekend, my dad would take me to the pulga (flea market) and hang out with me practically all day.  If we had a party for my birthday, we attended that, but mainly all I wanted was to hang out with a man who I saw everyday.  Also, we as his children knew that our birthdays were also about him and his joy of being our father, so we made it a point to not hinder his time with us on that day.  So year after year as we celebrated another notch on the belt, we as his children gave him his canvass to paint a picture.  As for me, its a picture that I will always see the morning of February 2nd until I return to the house he is helping to build.

 

 

The strongest of them all

Mijo, you have a great memory! My father once stated while discussing some of the memories I had of my childhood. Of course, he was surprised that I could visualize those memories and saddened to hear that I indeed remember those moments so well. As a parent, we experience many feelings with our children but one can almost bring my wife to tears with just the thought of it, it’s a child’s innocence.  There is a pureness and innocence in a child’s character that create obvious heart ache in my wife, just to imagine that one day our boys will experience the evil that exist.  Our world is so complicated and the instincts of a parent is to shield their children from as much evil as possible.  But I believe that a heavy shelter will lead to destruction and an unbearable weight of reality.  So, the reality my father accepted that day was, that the hope he carried of my mind being spared by those tragic moments in my childhood. That hope was crushed. The good thing is he prepared me for that too, by his reaction to this truth.  His reaction was comfort and love.  Not one of insensitive damage control.  One memory in particular stands out, it was one that my father hoped out of all the memories I had, that this one had no home. No, I do not harp on it nor does it replay daily, but its made its home and to access it bears no weight on my life.

As I open my eyes, everything is mute and all I feel is slow motion.  To my right is David, my oldest brother, he is looking out of the right back passenger window. Tears are in his eyes and his face has the countenance of betrayal and disappointment.  To my left is Daniel, my 2nd oldest brother, he is looking out of the left back passenger window and with tears in his eyes as well.  But his countenance is one of disgust and anger.  In the middle seat, in the back of the car where I sat, I look between my legs and there sits a soda can of Sunkist.  I have no clue how it got there but it ended up being a good collection drum for my tears as well.  As soon as my eyes fixed on my father driving the car we sat in, it was as if someone plugged in the mic and pressed play.  Its was chaos!  Screaming, crying, my dad yelling out the passenger window, my brothers saying “mom, mom come back, please don’t leave”!  My dad driving at a walking speed, with his left hand on the wheel and his body leaning across the arm rest. He was pleading with my mom, who was walking along the road, to get inside the car.  “Diana, please understand that these children need you, I need you, please understand”, he said. I had heard words echoed with desperation from my dad before, but this time, it felt like he knew he was losing.  It was, for lack of better words, the most agonizing Spanish I had ever heard.  More crying, yelling and now my mom began to argue with my dad.  “Leave me alone David, get out of here”, mom said. ” Just leave me in peace”, she kept saying. I could barely hear her voice, it was faint, I couldn’t see her to well because the dusk of the sun was making me squint.  In a desperate attempt to follow the chorus, I too said, “mom please come back, please don’t leave”!  If my lungs were more mature, I could have sounded like a roaring lion, but my 5-year-old pipes barely broke the sound barrier of the chaos that day.  I knew a night of tears and sadness awaited us back home but what came next had strengthen  and cemented this memory as the strongest of them all.  “Diana, please I beg you, these kids need you, do not make this more difficult”, dad said. At that point, I could tell in my father’s voice that he was willing to live his life in turmoil to provide his children with a two parent home, a life he always yearned.  “Diana please”, he said once more. Then the most unforgettable words I ever heard my bearer speak, “David, leave me in peace, I don’t need you and I don’t need them”!