By Steve Flores
We buried Mr. Mesa, my 91-year-old father-in-law, Wednesday.Mr. Mesa lived with my family for the past 17 years. God blessed us with Mr. Mesa after the sudden passing of his wife, Lilly. They had been married 48 years.
And although other living options existed for Mr. Mesa, none were clearer for my wife, Susie, and me than to have him come live in our home with our children Nikki, Brenna, Sean, Aaron and son-in-law Carlos.
"Come live with us" extends to my very large family of brothers, sisters, in-laws, nephews, nieces and friends who came to adopt Mr. Mesa as their own. Over the past 17 years, I can think of very few times Mr. Mesa wasn't with Susie and my children at family gatherings, trips or "just because" events at one of my sibling's homes.
I often joked with Mr. Mesa that when I said "I do" to Susie, I didn't realize I was saying "I do" to him as well. He lived with us almost half our marriage.
Mr. Mesa went by many names. When he was in trouble with his daughter Susie, which was pretty often, he was Bonifacio. He was Boni to his PG&E co-workers; he was Bones to his close friends; he was Grandpa Mesa to my many nieces and nephews; and he was Grandpa Kahuna to all our Wavehogs.
The Wavehogs are a group of between 50 to 100 family and friends who go camping once a year to San Clemente Beach. He loved the attention he received from all the Wavehogs. The children would greet him each morning with a kiss on the cheek and a "Good Morning Grandpa Mesa."
And all the Wavehog elders tended to Grandpa Kahuna's daily nutritional needs at the beach. But even more importantly, the Wavehogs provided the emotional need of belonging to a large and loving family.
I wrote about Mr. Mesa in one of my first columns. I described that when he first came to live with us, he was almost a recluse and stayed to himself. He rarely socialized, wasn't remotely interested in sports and lost his spiritual energy to go to church.
My children changed him. They refused to allow Grandpa Mesa to withdraw to his emotional island. My children peppered him with questions during our meals. They were relentless. He gradually became more open and began to share stories.
Most importantly, he gradually became an integral part of our daily life.
Soon, he began to attend church again and go to his weekly PG&E retirees breakfast. He would call old friends just to say hello.
Thanks to Nikki, Brenna, Sean, Aaron and Carlos, he became a social butterfly who couldn't wait for the next family event.
There are many gifts Boni has left for my family. Not one of those gifts cost a penny.
When we would prepare dinner in our home, we would play big band music. The former recluse who would rarely come out of his room was now asking Nikki, Brenna or Susie to dance with him. I can still hear Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" playing as they twirled and dipped in our living room. The significance and meaning of those dances are priceless and will never leave me.
Our grandson Ariyon took his very first step, not to me, not his grandma, nor his mom, Yvonne, or dad, Sean, but to the outreached arms of his great grandpa.
When I wrote one of my first columns about Mr. Mesa coming to live with us, I wasn't sure how he would react. I remember him sitting at the end of our kitchen counter reading the column for the first time. After he was done, he lowered his reading glasses and called me over to him. He said, "OK. The next one I want you to write about is how I used to swim naked in the canal on California Avenue with the Munoz brothers. And the next one ..."
Well, Mr. Mesa, you finally got your next column.
With all our love, we will celebrate you and your life lessons in patience, forgiveness and compassion.
We will miss you, Mr. Mesa.
Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.