Friday, October 20, 2006

Que vayas con Dios

I remember Billy when he was a 10-year old blond haired little boy with a great deal of energy, eagerness and inquisitiveness about him and at the same time a shy and gentle little guy. Bill and his two sisters, Cathy and Aimee were the cutest, sweetest and most adventuresome kids I had ever met and so-well mannered and thoughtful. They came into my life when I was in my late 20’s and had finally escaped the Fresno, CA scene to make a life in San Francisco. I was working with my husband, John (Jackie Babe) Ortega, at the time and hadn’t yet found a place to live. Pat and Ute who traveled to Montana during the summer, or maybe Germany, Mexico or Ireland, offered me their home. It was beautiful, nestled in Mill Valley across from the Golden Gate Bridge. They’re the kindest, most generous people I have ever met and so passionate about life. Nothing ever stops them from living life it to its fullest. It’s no wonder that Bill grew into the gregarious, intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive man that he was. He was the son of Pat and Ute.

I remember one of their visits when we lived on the Mexican border back in the 70’s. Pat, Ute and the kids arrived and presented me with a beautiful tumbleweed that they had found as they drove through the desert. I’d never thought of tumbleweed as beautiful until then. Ute was on her way to the tip of Baja California in search of the mission trail and wanted to know if I’d go with her and act as a translator. It would just be her and the kids and Pat was to join us later. I jumped at the chance as I had never been to Mexico, my country of origin, and Ute and Pat were offering to pay all the expenses, including the flight back and all I had to do was help Ute with Spanish. It was a dream come true and I’ll be forever be grateful to them for giving me this opportunity.

At 8 years of age Billy, with an enthusiastic look on his face, told his Mother he wanted to learn to speak Spanish, already showing his love of being able to communicate with everyone and not missing out on anything. So, we took off, two women, four kids, luggage, and Ute’s paint brushes and sketch board to capture the local scenery, artist that she is. What a country, Mexico. Every time we came to an Aduana (Customs) checkpoint, Ute pulled out the mandatory written permission that the father had given to the mother allowing her permission to travel with her own kids, Machismo at it finest. After reaching the southern demarcation line of Baja California we got to experience the natural features of the area and drove through forests of huge Saguaro cactus, elephant trees and along miles and miles of white sanded beaches of blue green water that seemed to go on forever until we came upon an oasis in the middle of the desert, a small town called Mulege. To me it was like coming upon a jungle and imagined alligators in the water, like something out of all those western movies I love to watch that were filmed in Mexico. We drove into a town with no phones, a plaza with a church built in the 1700’s that was still being used by local residents, the plaza canopied by a large tree that provided shade on the old wrought iron and wood benches where people sat and freshly peeled purple-red cactus pears all neatly packed in a wooden crate ready to eat. We stayed there for the night and it was heaven. All of this because of Pat & Ute’s generosity.

This was part of Bill’s childhood and what a wonderful one it was. I won’t say good-bye as Bill’s spirit lives on in his family in the words he wrote. I feel so very lucky to have known him and to still be able to share memories of Bill’s life with his family and friends.

You’ll forever remain in my heart, Bill. I close with a beautiful poem I found when I heard about your death that symbolizes for me the beauty of who you were. Que vayas con Dios, Billy.

Maria Rodriguez & Jackie Babe


Three times I’ve seen the
Egret—no, four times
if I count that once
when, turning past rocks
hot and bare in May,
I saw one in the
burned-off field—stark
white against ash black.

But three times (at least)
I’ve seen him/her not
two miles from my dry
suburban home. I’ve
seen him/her glide hot
air above golden weeds on the freeway
offramp, glide past oaks

centuries old, past
poppies that would die
in July’s heat, past
concrete rivers that
will outlast them all.
Three times I’ve seen the
egret wing—white, calm,
silent memory.

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