Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Road Dragon

      The Road Dragon is a truck...a 1978 Chevy Silverado and she's parked in my driveway. She is more than a truck to me. She belonged to my uncle....Well he wasn't actually my uncle. My father had 5 brothers Conrad, Robert, Rudy, Tommy and Danny. His brother Robert was married to Rosa.  But this post isn't  about him, its about a wonderful man that Rosa married after her and Robert divorced. His name was John Juarez. I remember meeting him when they were dating. John was not a gorgeous man. But he had this laugh that made you smile....even if the joke wasn't funny. It was infectious and goofy just like the man himself. John loved fishing and the Raiders and more than anything he loved his family. When they decided to get married my dad was the best man. It always seemed strange that he would stand next to the man who had replaced his own brother. But to know John you'd know it was an honor to stand with him.

    When I was a teenager, time and life passed and I missed alot of the details. John had cancer and I never knew it. When I had gotten older and went to their house John told me about it. For some reason the weight of that information never hit home. It was like he told me he had the flu and was fine now. John loved giving me advice. John was the kind of uncle you want your children to have. The guy who would steer your kid in the direction you had already tried. Somehow it worked for him though. Then the man that I so loved broke. His daughter was killed in car accident on Christmas. She lost control of her vehicle on her way home from college. I went to seem him after and he talked about her for hours. I let him, I didn't know her...but I wanted to. I wished I had so that I could know for him, so that I could feel that loss for him.

    A few months later my Tia Rosa's father passed away. I was asked to sing at his funeral. After the ceremony there was a reception. When you have a family like ours...everyone related to your family, becomes YOUR family. I grew up with my cousin Lily, Rosa and Roberts daughter, and her cousins. My favorite was Rosita...she was spunky and always smiling. It was always fun when she was around. She was with her mom, Alice, and they sat down with me at the reception. They both told me what a beautiful voice I had and how much they enjoyed my singing. Then Rosita said something that has haunted me for so many years..."When I die I want you to sing at my funeral" I immediately said "Don't say things like that" But her mom chimed in and said "Me too, you need to sing at my funeral" The three of us laughed, but it felt creepy...

     Some weeks later they were in a terrible car accident. Both Alice and Rosita died that day. And just like they said they had wanted,  I sang at their was May.

    I moved to Lake Tahoe after that and lived in my own bubble...I missed what was happening with my family.I was young and foolish and angry at John, for a reason that I no longer remember. It didn't occur to me that John wouldn't be there when I was ready to stop pouting. I never went home for very long so I hadn't gone to visit. It was snowing in Tahoe the day my mom called me to tell me that John had died.  I came home and sang at his funeral. To this day I can't listen to Tears in Heaven. To think of it now fills my eyes and brings on a feeling of trembling pain. I don't know how my amazing Tia survived that painful year. She is by far one of the most courageous, strong women I have ever known.

    John loved his truck....The Road Dragon. My dad loved the man, so he bought the truck from my Tia, who couldn't keep it. When I married my husband my dad gave us the Road Dragon as a present. I have memories of John heading out to fish, stopping by, waving from the driver seat. There is a lot of love attached to this truck.

    Recently, my Tia contacted me and told me that John's oldest grandson wanted to buy the Dragon from me. For the first years of his life John was like a father for Juanito. John loved that boy more than the stars. I know that he would want him to have it. He is a good kid as my Tia has told me and he himself has as well. But it know that it will be gone. Like the last part of John will be gone. It is still at least a year away. But I find myself staring at the Dragon...sad at the thought. I know when Juanito finally drives off , John will be smiling where ever he is. And he'd say "You did the right thing kid". He always called me kid. He was the best uncle a girl could ask for and yet there was no blood holding him to me. He was family in my heart and when his truck is no longer in my driveway, I'll still have it and him there too. And the memory of him laughing in the driver seat as the Road Dragon roared away.