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)