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I realized very recently that I am an addict, and that my husband, Clifford, is co-dependent. Though our inadequacy doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs, the affliction can still be debilitating, even after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. Our problem is a mutual desire for one another, and the consequent acting out that ends with a grin, and a short nap.
I’d thought we were fairly normal, until Clifford quoted from an editorial piece by one of his favored writers, Hugh Hefner. Paraphrasing statistics as laid out by the Viagra King, most Americans profess to engaging in sexual activity approximately two times per month—or, once every other week. That fits roughly 65% of adults surveyed. Another twenty-odd percent “do it” once each week, and the horniest, or the top two percentile, are at it every other day.
So, I asked him, where does this place us? We’re in the one-quarter-percentile who avail themselves of sex in a quiet, empty house, or, when necessity dictates, and the roomies are home, we’ve learned how not to make any noise. We are perfectly willing to drive 350 miles for private sex in a dilapidated mobile home atop a Simmons mattress embedded in a squeaky Ikea frame. Go ahead, baby, squeak that bed, because face it—there isn’t anyone willing to drive 350 miles to disturb our island of action (uh-oh, I can just see my adult children now, rolling their eyes).
But, with the approach of Valentine’s Day 2013, my hat is off to my husband’s parents, Felicidad and Domingo. Not for frequency, because—well, just look at my husband’s statistics. The acorn likely didn’t fall very far from the oak trees.
I am celebrating Felicidad and Domingo for over sixty years of true love, which weathered separation during the family’s relocation from the Philippines to California in 1959. It’s a love that grew while raising five children in the South Bay, through the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s, and managing to instill a deep sense of familial loyalty and duty, along with cultural imperative.
I’m bowing to a marriage that clings to honor and sweetness, through the past five years of my mother-in-law’s battle with colon cancer. My father-in-law is historically a man of few words, and yet, his face speaks volumes as he watches the slow slipping away of the woman he describes as his life. Those are his words, “She is my life.”
My parents-in-law also inspired characters in an unpublished manuscript, Blood Fruit (© 2008/09), fictional elders, who came to fruition in my novel, Road Apples (Musa Publishing—December 2011), which had been intended as a sequel to Blood Fruit.
The characters, Feliz and Enida Benités, are not too different from Domingo and Felicidad Samoranos, in the essence of who they are, and what they represent. Here, at the end of Blood Fruit, Feliz and Enida are aptly described by their granddaughter, Madeline Benités. Keep in mind that names have been changed, but the core of the fictional grandparents in Blood Fruit are derived from real life:
Last year, when she’d been cleaning up one of the bedrooms in her Sunnyvale home, my Grandma Enida came across a photograph she had thought she’d lost. Because our family is afflicted with Pack Ratterism, we keep everything and forsake nothing, so the photograph, buried but not forgotten, had a high likelihood of turning up somewhere down the line.
Grandma Enida, a very enterprising person, had managed to supplement Grandpa Feliz’s income by working the Libby’s cannery, and later standing swing-shift at Fairchild Semiconductor, and then Teledyne, working on the assembly-line. Grandma inevitably chose the swing-shift, so that there would always be an adult home with the boys.
On the side, she made extra cash by selling the likes of Avon, Tupperware and Sarah Coventry jewelry, and this particular bedroom, utilized for storage, was cluttered with the by-product of her lengthy association with door-to-door sales, forty-five years of it.
All in all, she ignored Grandpa Feliz’s rant about wasting money, and made quite sure that her family was raised in a safe neighborhood, and that they all had what they needed, a college education or a new car, or a down-payment on a house.
This life in the United States was made possible, because Grandma Enida brought my father and three of his four siblings to California in 1959, traveling by ship to meet up with Grandpa Feliz, who at that time had lived in the States for almost two years, estranged from his wife and children. My father, who’d been born in Narvacan six months after Grandpa departed for the States, was the only one who didn’t know his own father. Even the next eldest, Matthew, had vague memories of Grandpa Feliz, and accepted him readily once the family was reunited, and moved in together. Mitchell, however, fought by using the stubborn rule, to prevent Grandpa Feliz from administering love or discipline, and it took, as I observe it, a good fifty years to disprove their alienation.
Grandma was distressed that she’d lost the picture, so when she rediscovered it, she was so ecstatic, that she asked my father to copy it, and to give a printed photo to every one of our family members. Dad scanned the little 3×5 inch photo, and produced stunning 8x10s of the revealing scene, taken by Grandpa inside of their first abode, which was a converted garage on the property of a Japanese-American-owned flower nursery in Mountain View, where Grandpa worked. The date inscribed at the time the photo was developed, and included in the scan by Dad, shows June 1959, though Dad said the picture had been taken in April, less than a week after their arrival at the Port of San Francisco.
The photo is a bit grainy, but clearly shows an old chrome and formica dining table, and the open room of the garage, with a kitchen counter block and a bare water heater, and frying pans hanging from the wall. Grandma is seated at the head of the table, with two children on either side. On the far left is Michael, the eldest, then Miles, my Grandma, my father, then Matthew. Grandma is drinking from a cup, and most eyes are fixed upon Grandpa and the camera, except for Matthew, who is in a trance, and for my father, who is reaching toward a carton of milk with one hand, as though thirsting for more. There aren’t enough chairs, just four, so Uncle Miles is pulled up on a tricycle, and you can see the front wheel under the table.
This photograph symbolizes a lot of things to me; it records, obviously, a moment in time that is probably very similar to many immigrant families, both then and now.
There’s more: Grandma Enida’s great courage in bringing her children to America, her patience and strength in caring for four very boisterous male children on board a ship, where the passage lasted in excess of three weeks.
And I am reminded of their deprivation, however temporary, that Enida and Feliz were apart for nearly two years while my grandfather established a job and a home in California, sending for the family when all was settled. My Uncle Mark was conceived in May of 1959, even in that densely populated garage, a one-room arrangement, a study in family socialism. That my grandparents were making love while their restless sons slept, is a testament to endurance.
But the fact that my Grandma took all risks by embracing a faith in God to better the lives of her children is the exemplification of love. There is nothing else but love.
And I have been so equally blessed; I am the by-product of their tree, the traditions and habits and quirks of the Benités family, connected by our hearts. My grandparents, my parents, they’ve all gifted me the strength and honesty to make the most of my life, on my own and in due season, because I have been given the tools of culture. The elders sowed the seeds, so that I could reap the sweet harvest of their blood fruit.
* * * *
It’s sometimes easy to forget that our parents lived and loved as young people. I see the young man in my husband, the one I first met and fell head over heels for, fused with the older man he is today. Like a rare vintage, Clifford has aged extraordinarily well.
I see that love in Felicidad and Domingo, a love that endures, and never fades. I can’t imagine what they’re going through, a precipitous parting of ways, their unique place in time, which everyone must come to grips with eventually—the body ages, while the heart remains forever young.
Web Site: http://www.saraville.com/
Photo By: Domingo Cabarloc Samoranos, June, 1959, Mountain View, California.