Sunday, February 8, 2015

Everything's still great, but it's been a hard day.

Warning-this might be a bit of a bummer, I'll try to salvage it by the end, but I can't make any promises.

Let me start by saying that everything is still great, but February 8th is always a hard day for me. It's the day my dad died. Usually I manage to pretend February 8th isn't happening; maybe I might be a little more irritable than usual, but I get through it. This year I couldn't run from February 8th. Today it's officially been 10 years since my dad died from prostate cancer at the absurdly young age of 57.
Side note: my husband says he has no memory of me looking like this.
This is me (obviously) with my dad and my daughter on the steps of the tiny house Dad was born in, in the Colonia barrio of Oxnard, Ca. He was the baby of the family and, as a toddler, would sit under the shade of an overturned orange crate while his parents worked in the farm fields that still surround Oxnard. The farm workers were constantly sprayed with harmful chemicals meant to protect the crops. When this photo was taken, Dad had already outlived the doctors' prognosis by 18 months. I remember walking along what had been his street and hearing how virtually every family that lived there during his youth had been touched by cancer.

I miss him so much and am still surprised at how angry I am to have lost him. Every now and then my son, who is five and looks exactly like my dad, will do something so adorable and I'll think, "Wait til Dad sees this!" Then I remember he's gone and never got a chance to meet either of his grandsons. 
Dad's the little guy in the foreground.
I have no regrets about leaving anything unsaid, we were very close. I also know that Todd and I both did everything we could possibly do to help my dad and my mom. When I think back on those awful last days and the 2 years of hell that followed his death, I'm still not sure how we did it. 

I do have some regret when I think about the whole experience, though. I was so much younger and so naive about health in general in those days. Also, we simply did not have the access to information that we have today. If I knew then what I know now about wellness and nutrition, I could have done so much more for Dad. Maybe he wouldn't have lived any longer, but he might have enjoyed that time so much more than he got to. He might not have suffered as much as he had. 

And if I had had access to blogging and the wonderful network of friends that I've made through social media? It would have been so much easier to bear.

I know I really can't allow myself to go down that road and I know we did more than our best. All I can do now is my very best to keep my own kids from ever having the same experience. Then maybe try and help others and their kids, too.

So now that it's been 10 years, naturally I'm re-evaluating everything. Trying to work out how I might do the most good with what I know and what I've experienced. It's going to a take a while to figure out, I think. 

I started pondering it this morning as I went on a walk to Balboa Park. When I was a kid my dad used to take me there on the days he was "in charge" of me. We'd get sandwiches from the deli across the street and eat them in the park. After lunch, he'd chase me around the lawn and push me on the swings.

Balboa Park was beautiful this morning. 
I could really feel like my dad was with me as I walked alongside the towering eucalyptus trees. I silently asked my dad to prove he was there by showing me a flowering cactus. I don't know what made me pick that. There are TONS of cacti, all varieties, around here, but they don't usually bloom til mid-April. I saw scores of unadorned cactus on my walk. 

When I got to the playground I swung on the swingset for a while til I became frightened of how high I was swinging.  I jumped off the swing, sticking a perfect Marylou Retton landing, and suddenly realized that I would never have fit in that swing a few years ago, much less have been able to leap from it.

That cheered me up. 

I gave up on my cactus hunt and decided to walk home via 5th Avenue, which is mostly commercial with no gardens. Then I spotted this in the parking lot of a dentist's office.

As I got closer I could see this.

And this.

And yes, I stood there on 5th Avenue, right in front of the dentist's office, with tears and snot running down my face for about 5 minutes. Hell, it was before 8am on a Sunday and no one gets their teeth worked on then. I wouldn't have lost it so if it hadn't been for the fact that this particular cactus is a nopal. My dad's parents always grew nopales in their backyard. My grandfather would can them and my grandmother would cook with them.  All that plus the fact that I love to eat them, means nopales are very special to me.

I'm not sure what it means, but I'm sure it means something. Whatever it means, I'm grateful.

(If you're reading this anywhere but on, then this content has been STOLEN. What kind of a jerk would steal a personal post like this?)

Wishing you ALL love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama


Toledo Lefty said...

I'm sure your dad is proud of you. 💗

Toledo Lefty said...

That was supposed to be a heart -- love to you!

Denise said...

So happy you receiv d that sign from your dad! Xoxo

Anonymous said...

oh Margo I can relate to this so much. My dad died on May 23rd (2000) and I miss him every single day. It sounds like your dad was an amazing, wonderful father. I'll be crying on May 23 (if not sooner). holding your hand in comfort. oxoxo

Debra said...


I'm really a bit envious. My father died in March of 2003. I know the year because my last car was purchased that year. Any other year? I wouldn't even be able to tell to the year. I can't tell you the day.

You who had close and meaningful relationships with your parents are an animal I do not comprehend.


Carla Birnberg said...



Margo Porras said...

THANK YOU so much, my dear friends. Yes, at the end of the day I am very, very lucky to have had the relationship I did with my father. I know that's something not everyone gets in this life. Having you all here now means more to me than you can know. XOXO!

TexasCajunKathy said...

Hi Margo!
I can also relate to this. My Dad passed away in 1989 of cancer. He was a farmer in Texas and also used all the fertilizer and pesticides that we now know are harmful. I am also pulled to share what I have learned from losing him and my dear Aunt Alice just three years ago. I just love that you "heard" from him through the cactus flower. Take care, God bless....Kathy

Margo Porras said...

Thank you so much, Kathy! It does make me wonder just how many farming families are touched by this. Maybe by sharing we can help others. Thank you for your sweet words. XO-Margo