Tag Archives: growing old in Mexico

Tio Felipe


So two weeks ago, Tio Felipe died.  He just missed reaching a century.  He went peacefully in his sleep.

I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about his life. He married Mama Sofia shortly after her husband Porfirio died from a burro kick. He too was a recent widower with 10 children at home. So she took her youngest daughter, just two years old, and moved in to care for his children. She left her 3 teenagers in the house that her husband had left her at his death. Her oldest daughter married soon after, although that marriage didn’t stick. Her oldest son also married and in short order, started the Flores clan of which I now belong. Her second son went off and nobody is quite sure where is lives at the moment.

However this post isn’t about Mama Sofia, but Tio Felipe. From all accounts, he was a bit of a scoundrel. Of course, I didn’t meet him until he was in his late 80s and his tomcatting ways were long gone, but there was still a bit of a rascal in him.

Although he was married to Mama Sofia more than 45 years, the Flores clan always differentiated their relationship with him. He was never Papa Felipe (grandpa) but Tio Felipe (Uncle) and when asked by someone outside the family if he was their grandfather, it was always vehemently denied with a look of fuchila (bad odor) on their faces.

There was reason for their disdain.  On several occasions when we went to visit, we found Mama Sofia in tears. Once it was over some of her flowers Tio Felipe had cut in spite after an argument. Other times she wouldn’t tell us why she was crying. There was a history of abuse. Mama Sofia’s children said that he would often beat her about the head and they blamed her loss of hearing on those beatings. Once he pushed her down the front steps which broke her nose and cracked her skull. When her children asked her to leave and live with them, she replied that Felipe was her cross to bear. For what sin, I never asked. Abandoning her children, marrying again, some other sin? Despite it all, she managed to outlive him, although I don’t expect it will be by much.

This past year Tio Felipe’s cataracts got the best of him. He stayed closer to home for the most part. We stopped to visit last Dia de Los Muertos to find out that he had asked someone to take him to the cemetery in Purandiro to visit his parents’ graves. I wondered who would lay flowers at his grave and asked about his children. In total, he had had 13 children with his first wife, not all of whom reached adulthood. He mentioned that one of his sons was currently in Cerano getting divorced, and there might be a daughter or two nearby, but as for the other 6 that he still believed to be alive, he didn’t know where they might be. They never visited.

Even though Mama Sofia and Felipe were married more than 45 years, he gave the title of the little bitty house and land they lived on to his son. Felipe wasn’t even cold in his grave, the novena had yet to finish, when that son came and padlocked the door, ousting Mama Sofia from her home. She stayed at a distant relative’s home until the novena ended and went with her daughter to Zamora to live out the few months or years remaining.

And so, we add yet another tomb to visit on El Dia de los Muertos. (See Visible Mourning, El Dia de Los Muertos)





Filed under Death and all its trappings

Growing old



Mama Sofia in front of her home.

Over the holidays, we were able to visit with Mama Sofia, my husband’s grandmother, and her husband, Tio Felipe. Mama Sofia holds a special place in my husband’s heart. When he was homeless at the age of 12, she took him in. The two times he was deported with nowhere else to go, she opened her home to him. How could he not love her? How could we not love her?

We try to get to Cerano every month or so, but sometimes daily life gets in the way and we aren’t able to visit as much as we would like.


Mama Sofia with 2 of her 4 children, Pepe and Caro.

We were delighted to see that Mama Sofia’s daughter, Caro, was also visiting from Zamora. She’s quite a lively lady, gets it from her mother I expect. The first time I met Mama Sofia, she was just arriving home with a 10 pound sack of planting soil slung over her shoulder. When my husband tried to take it from her, she got angry.

This time, we were sad to see the decline in Mama Sofia as old age takes its due. She is 97 (or 95 or 92 no one is quite sure least of all Mama Sofia herself) or so and life is hard after all.

Mama Sofia is not able to get around to do her shopping, attend mass, or visit with friends, most of who have long since died anyway. Her balance is precarious and she often falls and injures herself in her own home. Her great-grandniece looks in on her daily and brings her the tortillas that Mama Sofia can no longer make. Vendors know to stop by with geletina, gorditas or tacos de canasta. There is a little bitty market right across the street and the owner brings over cooking oil, rice, tuna and pasta. The priest walks over from the church after Sunday mass to give Mama Sofia communion. All these activities keep her mind from stagnating, but there are hours and hours of daylight left to occupy.

Mama Sofia is still able to straighten her rooms, make the beds, sweep the floors and heat some soup.  Her plants are lovely.  The fruit trees provide guayabas, granadas, limones and nisperos.  She doesn’t haul planting dirt anymore, nor does Tio Felipe plant corn.

Both Tio Felipe and Mama Sofia receive a dispensa (government welfare) box every few months for the tercer edad (senior citizen). It has cooking oil, rice, beans, pasta and soap. Picking it up, however, requires a trip to Yuriria, which is nearly too much for Mama Sofia these days. Doctor visits are also pretty much out of the question. The walk to the newly built clinic is long and full of uneven ground. The wait to see a doctor is interminable. When Mama Sofia is ill, the ladies of the family in Cerano take turns caring for her until it passes. Sometimes Caro is able to come and stay awhile. Sometimes she can’t. Life is hard in Zamora too.


Toasting peanuts on the comal.

The day of our visit was mild and we sat outside with Mama Sofia on the cemented step. She didn’t say much, just enjoyed the pleasure of having company. Tio Felipe made himself useful and toasted peanuts on the comal. My husband went and bought some chicken and we had a veritable feast.

Too soon, we had to say our goodbyes. The animals need attending to. The roads aren’t safe to drive after dark. There are things that need to be done before we retire for the night. We left, knowing that the days we will be able to visit with Mama Sofia are numbered and promise ourselves that next week, or the week after, we’ll make the time to visit again.




Filed under Cultural Challenges, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms