This sounds like quite an all-encompassing title, but it’s not. At 76 I don’t dream of playing first base for the Dodgers or being a Grand Ole Opry star. It’s too late to be the father to my kids that I wasn’t or an enduring husband to my past wives. I am where I am and with whom God has provided as wife, children, and true friends. So what do I want out of life?
My primary goal is to assure the health and future of my wife and daughter. But isn’t that the aim of any responsible man? Yes. But the younger man’s idea is to climb the corporate ladder (or its occupational equivalent), accumulate wealth and perks, and excel in all competition to attain and obtain. That’s not where I’m at.
I’ve been blessed with a life that Margarita would never be able to understand. Little of what I’ve had and done has any meaning to a country girl in El Salvador. I have no more mountains to climb American style. I don’t have to try to be the best at any of the things I’ve done for fun or for a living. I want to make her happiness my first obligation and joy. She’s got more now with what little we have than she could have ever dreamed of. But it’s not just the furniture, the appliances, and a house in town. It’s the attention I pay her, the time we spend together whether it’s doing things or just relaxing. I would do anything for her and she knows it. She also know that I love her kids and want the best for them as well. They’ve been spoiled too much by their single mother and are still in the process of being weaned at 10 and 8. But it’s a love process not a dictatorial one.
I also want to encourage them in their spiritual lives. That’s not a hard task because they’ve been raised in the light of the Lamb. I do not know a more godly woman than Margarita. She has been a beacon to me, our family, the church we’ve belonged to, and even to strangers. She is humble but firm in her belief. Neither poverty nor bad health has diminished her faith. I want to support that. As we look for a church that practices what Jesus preached, we use the kids as a pH meter to determine if the church is too liberal, too ridiculously conservative, or to where Paul would write a wonderful epistle.
For myself, I just want the basics of peace, joy and love. OK, so my peace is disturbed by Duke barking out the door at kids running after their soccer ball, motorcycles without mufflers, and the ubiquitous door-to-door sales people chanting their wares. It’s also contested by motorized businesses with loudspeakers overpowering my sensitive ears to tell me they’ll buy my junk or sell me cell phones, bananas, or vegetables. but they’re as much a part of the ambience as the adobe bricks and corn tortillas. The ultimate insult to tranquility comes in the form of music. It could be popular music or praise and worship music. What disturbs my peace is the volume. I don’t know if it’s the nature of short people with little claim to distinguish themselves individually or nationally, but the Napoleonic Complex insists that El Refugianos play their music loudly. It can come from your neighbor’s radio or DVD player, passers-by in their ancient vehicles with stereos, or the churches themselves. There is no regard for anyone’s desire to listen to their own music, have quiet conversation with family or friends, or sleep. Time of day or night is inconsequential. Play it and play it so it can be heard in Guatemala! Fortunately, there is mostly the peace and quiet of a residential neighborhood.
Joy comes from Margarita’s songs as she washes clothes, prepares meals, does housework, or cares for the chickens. Adriana and she work together and it’s a joy watching our daughter imitate the biblical qualities of her mother. Margarita still has time to flirt with her husband and tease in both sexual and non-sexual ways, traits that for better or for worse daughters readily pick up as easily as learning how to make tortillas. Adriana likes to tap me from behind and I’ll pretend it was Duke the Wonder Dog. She’ll make a game out of something I said, perhaps using an incorrect word or word form, and we’ll both laugh at my expense. Her too rare hugs are priceless. When she surprises me with some English, I tear up. When she’ll sit with me to watch basketball, the game becomes secondary to being able to share something that’s part of my life with her. When she hugs or pets Duke, comes out of the shower telling me that she’s clean and I’m dirty, gathers eggs and tells me which hen laid them, or gladly answers my request to fetch me something from another room, she is a great source of joy.
Love for me is expressed in so many ways by both Margarita and Adriana. Margarita has the servant’s heart of Christ. I see it developing in Adriana due to their closeness. If I chose not to lift a finger (which I don’t), I would be waited on hand and foot. Not out of obligation because I’m the financial source in the family, but out of the love that Jesus taught and the family relationships of which Paul preached. They are amazing ladies.
Margarita is a cuddler like me. To hug and be hugged while feeling the love of the other is part of peace and joy as well. Adriana is still learning to share with me as her father the relationship she’s only had with her mother. But it’s growing. Margarita tells me how Adriana wants to be sure I’m awakened from a nap to catch the tip-off in the basketball game. She’ll let me know in advance when we need more Mexican tortillas for the quesadillas and burritos she’s learned to enjoy with me. She’s been making her bed and keeping her room in order since I lectured her and Luís about not expecting maid service from her mother anymore or aggravating her with their hi-jinx when they’re supposed to be getting ready for school. That’s part of love as well. They’re coming to understand that we don’t live like redneck or ghetto trash and why. I think they’re taking a little pride in their budding new attitudes towards themselves and their family.
So what can I complain about? The rain? The sporadic loss of water, electricity, and Internet connection? The childish and ignorant bleating of Fox News’, Glen Beck’s, and Rush Limbaugh’s sheep in the anti-Obama Emails I receive? The daily dump of cow manure on the street in front of my house as Don Fabio leads his herd to pasture each morning? The microbuses exhaust piped into my front door along with their horns, bells, and whistles that announce their approach…as if we couldn’t distinguish their unmufflered motors from the ice cream cart with its tinkle bells or the bread vendors with their Harpo Marx squeeze horns? Nah! I can’t control any of these things. They’re all a part of life in El Refugio. A different sort of place. What I have is what I want. It’s more than enough for me.