Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day - Amando

On this Father's Day, I want to stop to honor the man who took care of me, raised me and showed me the value of being a good man. Today, I realize I have let him down many times and I apologize for that. Still, I hope that in some way I have made him proud of me through the years. Today I want to honor my step father Amando Saenz (pictured above waving and in his Army uniform). I want to tell him simply, "I love you Amando, dad."

My biological father died in a car accident when I was nine, just a few days short of my 10th birthday. It was as hard a blow as a boy that age could take. Two years later, Amando became my step father as he married my mom, Maria.

I remember Amando visiting the family to watch on TV Gillette Friday Night Fights with my father. They would sit in the living room, drinking beer and munching on snacks and talking about everything from the weather to high school football and their experiences in World War II.

Amando was a bachelor. One day my father asked him when he was going to be married. Amando responded quickly, "Manuel, I'm not going to get married until I find a woman like your wife, Maria."

He was serious and my dad didn't take too kindly to the words. I still remember his reaction. He was, well, aghast. There were other words exchanged and shortly after, Amando left.

But, he had made it known. He liked my mother. Such is life.

After my dad's horrific death, Amando started coming by asking how he could help. Soon, he started courting my mother and shortly thereafter they were married.
Amando became my step father, but he really just became my father, I know that now. I remember the first birthday present he gave me - an entire box of TOPPS baseball cards. Wow! I looked for a Mickey Mantle card. Of course, there wasn't one of the famous New York Yankees star and swith-hitting slugger who was my idol. I still have all those cards, which I hope some day my sons will cherish and perhaps pass on to their children, especially my grandson Aidan (pictured here with a baseball cap when he was maybe 9 months old) who seems to love baseball at the early age of 2.

Amando was always there for me. He was kind, understanding, and loving.

I remember some of the older folks in town who used to gather in front of the Post Office to chat and watch the traffic go by and see who was arrested and going to jail across the street. One day when I was going to get the mail, one of the old men, my neighbor, Don Lupe (who rode with Pancho Villa) asked me how my family was doing. I said fine. Another old men asked me for Amando, in particular. Don Lupe interrupted and said that Amando was a true caballero and wonderful person. Then, he said that Amando had a perfect name. "Amando esta siempre amando," he said, explaining that Amando was loving and caring and a good person who liked everything in the world and had a positive attitude, always. "Siempre nos saluda a mi a mi esposa Estefanita con una sonrisa y siempre esta allĂ­ para ayudarnos (He always greets me and my wife Estefanita with a smile and he is always ready to help us). Si, su nombre esta perfecto. Amando esta siempre amando (Yes, his name is perfect. Amando is a loving person).

Of course, after a lifetime having him as my step father, my dad, I agree.

On this important American holiday, I can't help but reflect on how he made a big difference in my life. I was so lucky and blessed. I could have gotten a mean old man for my step dad, like many young people do. Instead, I got the most loving and caring man in the world to guide me through my rough teen years, college experience and life, in general. I owe much to him and I in no way can repay him for the kindness and guidance he gave me.

I'm sure he doesn't know how proud I was of him when I was growing up. He was a stellar example of a father. He had gone to Laredo Junior College. Few Mexican American man could claim that. That example, and others, helped pave my life. I at times likened him to St. Joseph, who helped raise Jesus and must have made a difference in his life. Not that I am anything close to being holy, (ha), but Amando's loving ways impacted who I was, whom I became and who I am now. Growing up, I often said a prayer of thanks at night or at church for being blessed with such a wonderful step father, dad.

I know I've let him down, like all children do at times to their parents, but every thing I do I do thinking of what he would say. And, that is a proper way for a man to show the love for his father. That is what God and Jesus expect us to do, as well.

And, about his love for my mother, there was no question. I remember that conversation he had with my dad very distinctly. I knew then he loved my mom, even then. They became a wonderful and adoring couple. I was happy for mom and for Amando and, I guess, for myself and my sisters, Lynda and Judy.

So, Happy Father's Day Amando, dad. May you have many more and please forgive me if I disappointed you somewhere along the way. I love you Amando, dad. Please take care. Happy Father's Day to the most loving person I know. As Don Lupe said, "Amando esta siempre amando." Today we give you some love back. You deserve that and much more. Enjoy!


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