My dad had this crazy ability to make people laugh, just with his laugh. He smiled a lot and could talk with anyone around him. I’m glad he passed that trait onto me.
Most of my childhood he worked at my grandparents restaurant, Margarita-Ville. For the longest time it was the only Mexican restaurant in Kingman. It was family owned and ran. It had amazing food and a welcoming atmosphere. For many it was a gathering spot to meet up with friends and have a good time. I have so many amazing memories about that place. One of my favorites is when I decided I wanted to be the dishwasher. Now, I feel like I need to give a little background information about the restaurant so you can see the gravity of that desire.
1. Only Mexican restaurant in town.
2. On Friday and Saturday there was a line that went clear outside with people waiting for a table.
3. Full bar
4. Live Music
5. Everyone knew and loved the Mathews/Tapia family.
At first I was doing great and even scoffed at those who were questioning my stamina and ability to keep up. I must be freaking awesome! because I have kept my sinks clear of dishes with no problem! They obviously don’t know how fast and strong I am.
Then dinner time came around… because the dishes I was keeping up on was for lunch. Big difference.
I busted my butt all night trying to keep up with the dishes so that I would make my dad proud. Seeing my dad proud was so gratifying. He worked hard himself and made the most delicious food. I didn’t get behind as bad as I should have and I kept going until closing time. My dad would come back and tell me how good I was doing with such a huge grin on his face. He would laugh at my great determination to keep up and then call me some swear word in Spanish (in an endearing way) and go back to what he was best at. That made me want to work as hard as I could. Working side by side with him that night is a very cherished memory. Sadly due to Jimmy Buffet, I am not even kidding, my grandparents closed the restaurant. Okay it wasn’t totally Jimmy’s fault but he didn’t help.
He was loving and kind but tormented by past traumas. He drank to escape the pain he had from childhood. He didn’t want to face something he didn’t know how to handle. If he couldn’t fix it he didn’t want to deal with it. He suppressed it and then when it got to much for him to hold in he would explode. As an adult I now know he needed to talk with someone about it. He did his best with what he had.
He was as stubborn as they come. You couldn’t convince him the sky was blue if you were an astronomer, standing outside with a color chart pointing at the sky telling him it’s blue. But that stubbornness paid off towards the end of his life. When he was diagnosed with cirrhosis to the liver and hepatitis C he didn’t let that slow him down. He was one of the hardest workers I have ever known. He would be in pain and still out work anyone on the job site.
He fought a lot of demons in his life, often alone. He was a little prideful and with pride, comes isolation. He didn’t want anyone to know what he was struggling with. He tried covering his pain with drugs and alcohol. It would sometimes turn him into someone I didn’t even recognize. The smily, laughing dad that I once knew was gone. I know he didn’t want to be that person. He once told me that, he was too far in and couldn’t get himself out.
Instead of judging my dad, I just loved him. I had a lot of anger towards him for a long time. I was jipped of a childhood and had to grow up pretty fast. I watched him suffer with addiction and sickness and instead of getting mad I started to feel bad for him. I would never want that challenge in my life. I would never want to feel like something could grip me so tight that I could lose my kids, husband, job, home, freedom, friends, or my life. He made one poor choice that took over his whole life. A lot of us get through the one poor choice and move on, but when it comes to drugs, that one choice, is one time too many for some.
Getting the phone call that he had died in a fire was utter shock. He was sick with multiple diseases and he died in a fire? How in the heck did that happen? I was so confused and couldn’t wrap my head around it. He was gone and that was it. I would not be seeing him here on this earth ever again. Anyone who has lost someone they love knows how hard that permanent reality is to deal with. It is permanent and there is nothing I can do to change it.
But if he were here, this is what I would tell him.
I hope you know how much I love you.
Happy Birthday. Till we meet again. I love you