Birthdays were always a big deal for Papá Chepe and late July meant celebrating in some way. There were the big parties just for him complete with the tamborazo. But he wasn’t above sharing the occasion and neither were we, his nietos and bisnietos.
At my quinceañera in 1995 we celebrated his 75th birthday with a cake and a song. I actually stole his birthday, so it was only fitting. In 2014, At Xavi’s first birthday we had a cake and piñata for Papá Chepe. It was extra special that year as we were happy to have him survive the stroke and be recovering well at home. I wasn’t there for the 95th and 96th. I sang Las Mañanitas over the phone and sent gifts. Last year it was a polo with the university logo. My dad sent me a picture of Papá Chepe at the small gathering/party family they had planned wearing it. He looked nice. I didn’t know that would be my last chance.
Yesterday, July 29th, would’ve been his 97th birthday.
I spent most of the day amidst boxes as we are moving again (locally). But there were moments I spent outside under the trees and enjoyed the breeze on the steps of our new building. It reminded me of how much Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni enjoyed afternoons under la mora – the mulberry tree – in our front yard. The breeze and shade felt best there. If you were lucky you’d get to relax in the hammock and get a paleta when the paletero came by. He also would’ve smiled with amusement watching Xavi ride his Thomas train down the walkway. He definitely would’ve laughed when Xavi took the slight curve too fast and fell into the grass (he was okay).
I really wish my celebration included some of Papá Chepe’s favorites: la Marcha de Zacatecas, his omnipresent Tejana, a 40 oz bottle of Miller Lite High Life, and birria. But that can come later. For now, I’ll just recall all the amazing birthdays I got to celebrate with him. There were a lot. And for that I can only be grateful.
¡Feliz cumpleaños, Papá Chepe!