Tag Archives: Day of the Dead

Hill Street Blues, Peachy Pancakes, and a Blue Camero Remembered …

3 Nov

Most people tell stories on birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. Sometimes a story springs up when there’s a flashback moment on a random Tuesday and that sends you back in time to relive the laughter or joy you had with family. These are all good ways to connect with family or friends that have passed away.

In our family we have one more additional day that’s set aside every year in order to remember the life stories and unfinished journeys of those who passed away. My Dad, my Uncle Erick, and my Grandma Julia … I celebrate their lives on Dia de los Muertos. For most people, it’s a two-day celebration with music, art, altars, prayers, and stories used to remember family and friends. We had our private moments at home and at the cemetery on Day 1, and then celebrated at the festival on Day 2.


Stories about My Dad’s hardworking-dreamer mentality, love of Guatemalan coffee, and all things of a Hill Street Blues-The Shield-and-The-Wire nature were told. Memories of My Uncle Erick focusing on the importance of education, his blue Camero in the 1980’s that used to take me to the beach, his big-brother persona toward my sister and I, and his enjoyment of family gatherings on three-day weekends flooded back into my present day. My Grandma Julia’s resilience and strength, her sense of humor in her 90’s, her relationship with my Dad, and her love of my Saturday morning peach pancakes with Log Cabin syrup was remembered.




I shared my thoughts and tried to keep them alive through conversations with my kids. Each them had something to do with how I grew up. They impacted my journey on the yellow-brick road, and I wanted them to still matter to someone other than me.

So, on Dia de los Muertos it’s especially important to share these memories and celebrate their lives. So we took to the cemetery with decorations, flowers and prayers. I took time to think about the positives given to me by my Dad and Uncle Erick, and how grateful I was and am to them. Thought about how they’d probably be enjoying a cup of coffee together and chatting away with my Grandma. I thought about them and sent them light, love, and hugs.

The sad part was that before passing away, all three of them had conversations with me about death and not wanting to die. It’s gut-punching-deep-in-my-heart hurt when I think about it. So it’s hard on anniversaries of their death or on birthdays to feel like celebrating, but Dia de los Muertos spins perspective around and folklore helps change the narrative from death to life.

And so … I celebrated my Dad’s love of laughter and dream-chasing-you-can-do-it encouragement, my Uncle Erick’s perseverance and love of family conversations and of the dance floor even though he wasn’t a Solid Gold kind of dancer, and of my Grandma Julia’s faith, love for her family and ability to still joke around in her late 90’s.

The festival brought about a collective love for family and the importance of celebrations strengthening my faith. With everyone sending out positive vibes for their own loved ones it made me feel better to be part of a community who not only mourned their loved ones passing, but encouraged life and celebrating their spirit at the same time.

Hoping for celebrations of life to you all.

Buen Camino, my friends!


Celebration of Life

3 Nov

It was another reminder, not that I needed one to remember him, I think about him everyday. But this reminder called for the celebration of his life.

The fact that he was gone wasn’t something worth celebrating, it was painful and the first time I’d ever felt sorrow. I’d had loss before, plenty of it, depression hitting the core kind of it, but nothing like this loss. It stayed and was felt. Just felt it, gut-wrenching sorrow that sat with me. And even though this sorrow stays with me, in that piece of my heart, settling in that far right corner, I still find happiness in talking about him, in celebrating his life.

I think about him everyday, about his crisp clean white shirts he wore to work, his musky aftershave that lingered every morning long after he’d gone, his briefcase sitting against the hallway, his well-loved dark gray Nissan pickup truck that was on its last wheels, his smile when I’d tell a joke, his love for Haagen Dazs ice cream bars, the ones with the almonds, his passion for movies and HBO shows, his interest in Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino movies, his messy organization skills where he knew where everything was in that tornado of paper, and his marathon way of tying his shoes in the morning the kind of way that only a Dad would embark upon.

I think about that, but these past two days I’ve been even more present about his life, trying to celebrate it and keep that spiritual connection during Dia de Los Muertos.

The fact that he’s passed away isn’t something that’s easy, it’s never been easy. It’s just a wound I’ve learned to carry, that’s become part of me, but when I think of the adventures we’ve had … that’s when I celebrate the fact that I knew him, that he was part of my life, that part of the way I define myself is by saying … yeah … I’m Julio’s Daughter. That’s me, with all the pitfalls and flaws of manic depression and a dysfunctional childhood that came from that … yeah that’s me.

I celebrate it.

I celebrate his heart, because he had a big one, and I try to pass it on to my son and daughter. So in honor of some of the face artwork I saw, we got inspired to create some to create some art of our own in hopes of sending him light, love, adventure, and prayers.

Black with Two Sugars, and Guatemalan Water Slides

1 Nov

Thinking about coffee and water slides all day today. Not so much because I drank some Starbucks and went slipping and sliding down a watery adventure. More so because of Dia de los Muertos  … Day of the Dead. A day where you remember family or friends that passed away.

Every Latino family celebrates differently. They build altars, with marigolds and sugar skulls. Skeleton decorations and massive amounts of food. Me? Thinking about my dad. Thinking about coffee and water slides.

My dad was a big fan of coffee. Coffee in the morning. Coffee in the afternoon. Coffee at night. Black with two sugars. No lattes or frappuccinos. Although he tried cappuccinos every now and then, when he tried to get fancy. But most days it was simple and classic: black with two sugars.

My Dad’s cup.

Most people can’t drink coffee before bedtime. They stay up all night. My dad stayed up too. Not so much because of the coffee. It was HBO, FX and my presence. The coffee was just a savory, cozy after dinner drink. My dad had no problem falling asleep when I wasn’t hanging around. Two cups and then off to bed. No problem. Probably dreaming of more coffee. But when I was there hanging out watching The Shield, The Sopranos, or Deadwood, there was his blue Deadwood coffee cup filled to the brim with the freshly grounded coffee. From? Guatemala of course.

I never drank coffee. I’m probably one of the few people on Earth that doesn’t, but I’d often kid around with him when one of us was ever feeling down.

“Hey, Dad … you finish your coffee already.”


“That’s too bad. I was going to invite you to go out … have a cup of coffee … talk about life.”

“Life. Hmph. That takes two cups.”

We’d both crack up. Our little ritual.

But coffee wasn’t the only thing on my mind today. Slides. Water slides. I’d seen my dad laugh before, plenty of times. But there were few where he laughed so much that he cried. These were pretty amazing. One of those instances happened to be on a water slide. And no it wasn’t a fancy Raging Waters slide down here in California. It was in Guatemala. Of all places, right?

We were in a water park by one of the black sandy beaches and it was on one of those large family inter tube slides. We didn’t know what to expect as we walked up all those flights of wooden stairs. We knew it would be fun, but didn’t realize how much.

As soon as we swooshed down the slide, I saw that smile creep up and then as we picked up speed, twirled around through the twists and turns… the laughter. Not the hearty ha-ha-ha-ha either. It was the I-can’t-breathe-this-is-so-funny laughter. And it was contagious. It was the excitement of the slide. The excitement of having fun. The excitement of my dad’s laughter. The excitement of family joining us. The excitement of a happiness moment with my dad I wish I could’ve bottled and stored. Something that could be opened up any time. But I didn’t have it. So I had to settle for the memories in my head.

All day today coffee and water slides.