It was June 8, 1963. He rolled into town without a dime to his name. Stranded in a small Arizona town, yet he didn’t feel stranded. I don’t think stranded is a feeling he has ever felt.
He was determined. He was resourceful. He acted on instinct. He was young and on fire. He was made of the streets. He couldn’t be taken down by the small fact that he was flat broke in a western town on his way to the great state of California.
He made his way into the local bar. The Canyon Club. The neon lights lit up the night with promises of comrade-re and hope.
He shook hands and made friends quickly. People liked him, and they wanted to help. There were a few men who saw promise in this whipper snapper from Ohio. He was confident and cocky.
Haley Gonzales bought him a few beers and said he would help him find work. The next day he was working at a service station at the edge of this mile-long town. Fred Theroux taught him how to sell fan belts, and he sold more fan belts than this town had ever seen. This guy was a master salesman.
He wasn’t down on his luck for long. By the end of summer, he was hired by another gas station operator, Eddie Sandoval, who paid him $1 per hour and 50% commission on all sales, great money in those times.
A few years had passed when he met his bride-to-be. She was young and barely out of high school when she served him breakfast at the best cafe in town, Old Smokey’s.
She was the daughter of a construction worker and his homemaker wife. They traveled all over the southwest as he worked building highways. They never spent too much time in one town or the next…a rough life for a young girl who ended up going to 27 different grade schools. She was shy and beautiful. She was artistic and crafty. She craved stability and attention. It’s hard to be noticed much when you’ve never been in a school for more than a few months here and there.
She liked his confident style. He thought she was the cat’s meow. They were married on November 9, 1966. They purchased their first home shortly thereafter (pictured).
In 1967, he bought his first gas station, and they had their first child. And I was born in 1970.
They created a life in this small town where they both had been just sort of passing through. They owned gas stations, hotels, and restaurants.
And life was in full force.
Their life was up and down for sure and king alcohol played a key role in the demise of this little family just trying to survive.
They divorced in 1988. I will never forget because I was a senior in high school. The divorce was ugly, bitter and cold. They didn’t speak for years and had their own lives.
They would have been married for 51 years yesterday.
What a blessing these two have been in my life. I don’t know when it happened, but they slowly began to repair their relationship. My mom has been sober for more than 13 years. That may have something to do with the slow and gentle progress that has been made.
At some point they began to talk again. They will never be married again, but they are friends now. They are bonded by a past of love, hope, adventure, sorrow and loss. They have memories together.
And, today, my mom checks on my dad daily, just to make sure he’s okay. He isn’t sick but he’s getting older. She drives him to his doctor appointments and gets his prescriptions filled. She really cares for him. And he cares for her too.
My dad recently told me that all we have is each other, and that we must look out for the good of each of us. We have to help one another. And, he has helped both my mom and me.
Life is such a journey. A freaking roller coaster ride. I would have never guessed that my parents would speak again, much less spend the holidays together. Now, don’t get me wrong, my dad still drives my mom crazy, and he just goes along with whatever she says (he always winks at me and says he learned a long time ago to simply reply “yes Fonda”).
I love watching them take care of each other. Time mends wounds. Sobriety helps a lot too. I am thankful my mom is sober and has shown me the way. She is a great inspiration to me.
I love my little family. It’s been a long time coming, but healing is happening.