After our disappointing trip to Olivet, we headed over to Holy Cross Cemetery to visit my uncles and a girlfriend of one of them. I had forgotten the plot info at home, but Cindy was awesome and remembered from a previous trip with my mom.
(Santos Sanchez and Juan Galvan)
My Uncle Santos died long before I was born, when my mom was just a kid. Interestingly enough, I was about her same age when my Uncle Johnny died. I remember his funeral at St. Rose Catholic Church here in Santa Rosa, and the long ride down to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. It was late November, and it was raining. I had kind of wanted to ride in the limousine with my grandparents and great-grandparents, but ended up driving with my parents. The funeral Mass had been depressing, as the Rosary had been the night before. My great-grandmother was so overcome with emotion that she had passed out during Mass, causing a bit of a ruckus. I had been sitting farther back, so I didn’t get to see what actually happened.
Background: both uncles were alcoholics, and (basically) died from their disease. Santos was my grandmother’s only surviving brother. Johnny was actually the son of my grandmother’s youngest sister (Lorenza), the product of an affair she had while separated from her husband. When she got back with him (for a brief time before finally divorcing), she decided that she didn’t want this child. My great-grandmother took him in and raised him as her own son. Johnny didn’t know any different until he was a teenager when some a$$hole cousin told him, in a not-very-nice way. I can remember him telling me that my Tía Lencha was throwing him in the garbage when Nana caught her and rescued him. I always thought he was joking, and it wasn’t until later as an adult that I realized it was no joke, the scars ran deep and still hurt. But he loved my great-grandmother and she loved him fiercely. Due to his being close to my mother age-wise, and that she also spent a lot of time with her grandmother, he and she thought of themselves as siblings.
When Uncle Johnny was about 21, he got his teenage girlfriend, Mary Margaret Carlin, pregnant. Since this was 1962, it was an embarrassment, more to her family than mine. (Hah!) She was a nice Irish Catholic girl who went to Notre Dame HS and she had to be sent off to a Catholic home for unwed mothers so as not to contaminate her younger siblings. She gave birth to a boy in July 1963, four months before I was born. Unfortunately, she got sick while pregnant. Mary had had leukemia as a child, and had gone into remission, but it came back with a vengeance while she was pregnant. Because of her pregnancy, she could not receive treatment.
I think her parents had decided quickly that the baby would be put up for adoption. My family tried to intervene and get custody of the child, but this was 1963 and fathers didn’t have any rights. My great-grandmother was particularly upset and said (according to my mother or grandmother, I can’t remember which), that “we don’t give up our babies.” This still makes me sad every time I think about it. “We don’t give up our babies.”
(The baby was put up for adoption. I later tracked him down, he’d been adopted by a Mexican family, and raised in the East Bay. By the time I found him, he had already died a few years earlier, of an alcohol-related event. It would seem he inherited that gene.)
Mary Margaret Carlin died in December 1963, and my uncle was heartbroken. I don’t think he ever recovered. His life certainly went even further downhill, and he died of an accidental overdose in November 1971. I hope he has found the peace, love and solace he never had while alive.
Coming up next: The Carlin family hates me.