another one...

Last night my uncle Mike, Miguel Estrada joined my mother, his big sister, in the afterlife.
At 3:30 in the morning he had a third and final heart attack.
This is all my father told me over the phone earlier today.
He also told me there would be no services.

A month after my mom passed two years ago this August, my tio Chayo and month later my tia Rosa both on my father's side passed.
My dad had a rough year in '09.

I barely knew Chayo and Rosa, but I grew up going to Mike's house in the hills of El Sereno. Up there I rode my bike with my cousins Micheal and Francis as their sisters Linda and Lulu played inside. I don't have their numbers to give them my condolences. We are not a close family.
I haven't seen them in years. Their mom, Mike's wife, passed three years ago after a long hard battle with diabetes.

Readers here know I try to make sense of my life in writing about these things of life.

I looked up to my uncle Mike as I look up to my other uncle Kiko, both on my mom's side.
I also look up to my uncles on my dad's side, in particular Chelo, Manuel, Adolfo and Abelardo. Even though I know Adolfo and Abelardo less, the few times I have met them and the stories my dad tells me, for better or worse, have left an impression.

Miguel was the second to youngest of four. My mom, Kiko, Miguel and Leli, grew up in the Loma of Elysian Park/Chavez Ravine. They were displaced from the house their father had built, over the proposed building of public housing that never came to be. I grew up hearing them speak about their animals, trees, friends, games they would play, and the ghosts in those hills.

My earliest memory of Mike was his big BMW motorcycle that looked like a cop bike. My mom said they never had problems in their south central neighborhood, where I grew up, because of that bike. He also had a cool dark blue MG. He worked for Lockheed in the Valley. He was married to my aunt Kitty, don't know if that is her real name. I grew up knowing her as Kitty. Lulu, Linda and Micheal were older than me, but his youngest Francis was born one day after me. We were tight as kids.

Mike grew up in an LA where you had to hide your Mexicaness to get ahead. Even though they were all born here, their accents and burritos in their lunch pails announced they were not "American." Both Mike and Kiko served in the Korean War. Kiko actually went to Korea. In an issue of Stars and Stripes, there is a picture of Kiko standing next to a chalk drawing he did on a large stone of La Virgen de Guadalupe. I didn't know he was artistic. Mike got to serve in a local desert working on radios and other communication devices for the military. I didn't know he was techy like that.

Mike was good man. Loyal. Family man. He took care of his wife til her last days going up and down the long flight of stone stairs that lead from the street down to his hillside home. I loved that house.

He was always interested in what I was doing and learning. The last few times we talked we debated his newly found right wing politics that he picked up via AM radio. I was supposed to go to his house and bring him books and such that he could read and see my point of view. He said I worked at that radical hippy campus. LOL. I was going to take him a copy of "Addicted To War." I would always tell him "Just follow the money. Who benefits from the fear, the wars, the criminalization of people with no power?" It would make him think and he wanted to know more, but then he would get back to repeating the sound bites he heard on the radio. He was cool. I will miss his big hand shakes. His nose that looks like mine. The way he just was. He was my uncle.

I hope my mom, grandma and grandpa are showing him around the spirit world. Maybe he can find some time to stop by and visit me. Check out my books. I will leave some out for him. I hope I get to see my cousins and just tell them he will always be there, just remember and feel.