My grandfather, Apa

I spent my entire childhood with Ama and Apa, my maternal grandparents.  I was so blessed with having them as my grandparents and I love and miss them so very much.
I lost my beloved Ama at age 12 and when I was 21, Apa died and my life was never the same.  Nobody's was.

Ama was the sweetest, most generous and loving grandma ever.  I have not a single memory of her mad.  Not one.  She was a very hard worker and was always busy around the house.  Even with all the work she had with taking care of her very large family, she was always singing and cooking and smiling.  And she gave the best hugs ever, not to mention she made the best tortillas I have ever tasted!
I have very vivid memories of helping her with laundry.  She had one of those old wringer washers in the back porch when I was just a kid, and I'd help her wring the clothes and then hang them on the clothesline.  She made it fun.  She only spoke Spanish, so of course, this was my first language.  Even though she didn't speak English, I'm sure she understood it but never let on, because I grew up watching The Young and the Restless with her every single day before I started kindergarten. (:

Apa was also a very hard worker and a very smart, good man.  He had his temper, but it was never directed at me.  Ever.
I have a lot of compassion for him, and I'm sure you will too after hearing his story.

I decided to document it on my blog because it is important for me that future generations know Apa's story.
Apa spent the first 4 years of his life with his parents, Micaela and Pantaleon.  Apa had an older sister, Minga; and an older brother Emilio.  Apa was the youngest of the three.
I guess my great-grandpa, Pantaleon was very mean and physically abused my great-grandma Micaela.  A lot, from what I gather.  I guess Pantaleon stole Micaela, and back then, if that happened, the girl had to marry the man, no matter what.  Pantaleon was in his early 30s and Micaela was only 13 or 14 at the time.  Yeah.
So they married and had their three children.

One day, Apa's mother got her children and left her husband after one of many beatings and sought refuge with a family.
Apa's dad got very angry and found out where Micaela and the kids were hiding, so he showed up there, grabbed Apa and took off with him.  Never to be seen again.
Now, you have to remember that this was way back in the early 1910s when women didn't have any rights.  Micaela had no way of finding her son.
Apa's dad picked up women left and right, and Apa was left with whichever woman his dad had at the time while he worked.  These women abused Apa and he even confided in Ama years later, that some of these women would tie him up outside with nothing to eat or drink until Apa's dad came home from work.  Apparently, they did this so they wouldn't have to bother with a little boy that wasn't theirs.  Unbelievable.
Pantaleon told Apa from the time he kidnapped him that Apa's mother, Micaela was a whore and that she abandoned Apa to take off with her lover, and that her lover had killed her because he had caught Micaela with another man.  Apa, having heard this story for years from his father starting at the tender age of 4, he believed it.
So Apa suffered his whole childhood at the hands of his father's girlfriends and this of course meant that Apa was raised to hate women.  His father raised him to believe women were whores.

Years later, when Apa married Ama, Pantaleon would tell Apa that the only way to "keep a woman in line, was to beat her."  So I guess Apa was abusive to Ama at the beginning of their marriage.
I thank God that I wasn't alive to witness that.

Many years later, Apa was working with a man, and I'm not clear on how the conversation turned to Apa's family.  Apa mentioned his mother's name, Micaela, he mentioned his older sister Minga and his older brother Emilio to his co-worker and mentioned that Micaela had died many years before.  The man told Apa that he knew Micaela and her kids because he was from the same town in Texas, and that she was still alive!
Apa told Ama and the rest of the family that night.

My Tia Lupe, one of my mom's sisters, coincidentally, was planning a trip to that tiny town because her husband, my uncle, had family in that same town!  What are the chances of that happening??!
So my Tia Lupe, her husband and kids found my great-grandma, Micaela during their visit.  My Tia Lupe remembers how Micaela was kind of mean to her when she first found her.  Micaela was in disbelief, of course.  She had looked for her lost son (Apa) for many, many years and had suffered heartbreak after heartbreak.

When my Tia Lupe returned from her trip, she excitedly let everyone know that she had indeed found Apa's mother and that she was anxious to meet her son after all those years.

(I am actually choking up at writing this story because it is such an incredible story, by the way.)

Anyway, about a month later, we all piled into Apa's stationwagon and took off to Texas to finally meet Micaela, my great-grandmother.
Apa, Ama, my mom, me, my aunts and uncles all made the trip.  There were about 11 of us in that stationwagon!
You can imagine the emotions in my great-grandmother's house that day.  Here was Apa at age 65, meeting his mother, in her late 80s for the very first time in over 60 years.  Wow.
My great-grandmother had remarried a few years after Apa was kidnapped and she had about 10 more kids.  My great-grandmother was widowed when we made that trip.
Apa met his older brother and sister, along with all of his half-siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins.  How incredible, huh?  There were well over 100 people at this little house.  The streets were lined bumper-to-bumper with cars for many city blocks because his family was so large and of course, everyone wanted to meet Apa and his family.
I, unfortunately, don't have pictures of this incredible event, but you can bet I'm going to be asking all of my aunts and uncles!

So for a few glorious days, Apa and his mother got a little piece of their lives back that had been so selfishly stolen by Apa's father.  They did lots of catching up.  And for that, I am so grateful.

Apa kept in touch with his mother after that and she made the trip to Colorado for Ama's funeral.  As far as I know, this would be the last time Apa would ever see his mother again.

I do not know when Apa changed and became the man I knew, but again, I am very grateful that I never knew the bitter man he was as a young adult.  The Apa I knew my entire life was a good, hardworking and responsible family man.  I thank God that he had that opportunity to have met his mother and find out first-hand that she always loved him and that she looked high and low for her beloved son.  Apa didn't have to go to his grave hating his mother and thinking that she had abandoned him, like he'd thought his entire life.

I am very bitter at Apa's father's actions and hate the fact that Apa and his mother were robbed of a whole lifetime together.  I feel strongly about this because, of course, I am also a mother, and this selfish man never gave a thought to his son's feelings.

I will admit, I wanted to learn more about Apa's father, but not anymore.  I've heard enough.

So I will continue to honor Apa's memory and the great man he was.  Here is a picture of Apa and Ama when they were in their early 30s:

This is Apa and Ama with my Tio Marcos.  Tio Marcos' story deserves it's own post also.  I'll write that one soon.
This picture makes me smile because I never saw my Ama and Apa hug.  Never.  But I always knew they loved each other. (:

This is Ama and Apa with my Tia Minga.  She is their oldest daughter, and is named after Apa's oldest sister.

That is Apa's story, and it deserved to be documented somewhere, and I guess my little blog is as good a place as any.

May they rest in peace.


  1. I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
    Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?

  2. I helped my grandmother with lots and lots of laundry and I remember she made it fun. That is, until the day my arm got caught in the wringer (!) I remember being scared of it for a while after that. But not for long. And I don't remember ever ruining anything.
    Have a great day! (:


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