From Francisco and Soledad Vasquez was born a family rich in culture, passionate in life, and rooted in love. Four generations later, we continue to celebrate this awesome legacy.
Our grandfather was born in Juchipila, Zacatecas, Mexico. My grandmother in Parall, Chihuahua, Mexico. Francisco Vasquez came to the states searching for work and after a short time in Colorado, he settled in Wichita, Kansas. He then brought my grandmother to the states to begin their life. They brought into this world Delfina, Rebecca, Frank, Ishmael, Martha, Albert and Cecilia. From this second generation came 22 children. The third generation continues the legacy with more than 30 (plus one on the way) and the fourth generation is growing.
My grandfather and grandmother have long passed, their lives filled with the hard work and the desperation of building a life in the U.S. Abuela died in 1950 from tuberculosis. She spent her last days in the Wichita Tuberculosis hospital, quarantined from her husband and children. Abuelo died much later, but still too soon. My mother and sister lived with him a few of his last years and my favorite picture of Francisco Vasquez is him standing on the front porch holding the tiny hand of my sister. His face is etched with the difficulties of his life, but his eyes are strong, ancient, always reminding me of a great chief. I see those same eyes in his sons and grandsons.
One week ago, we brought these generations together. It was a weekend of family gatherings, a golf outing for the guys, and a whole lot of hugs, smiles, laughter, conversation and photos. We exchanged phone numbers, emails and Facebook page information, caught up on the latest changes in our lives, attempted to remember the names of the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And while we reminisced, we created new memories, fresh memories. We recalled when we were young and so close, before life set us on our individual paths, and we rekindled friendships and strengthened bonds made years and years ago.
Our grandfather’s brother, Albert, had a daughter, Amália, whom we lovingly nicknamed “our Rose Kennedy.” Amália and her daughters, Estela and Norma, are as close within the family as if they were extended sisters to their cousins, something our family has continued through the years. Within our generations, we have eradicated the second-third cousin descriptor. We are family, extensions from one family to the other, bridges from sister to brother and brother to sister. Estela and Norma continued the bridgework with five of their own children and many grandchildren.
Unfortunately, two brothers were missing from the festivities, one due to health and the other due to stubbornness. In a family this large, there is always a certain amount of tension, a little misunderstanding. No family is perfect. We truly missed them.
As well, we were greatly missing Uncle Johnny, who would’ve showed the little kids how to bait a hook, our “Rose Kennedy,” Amália, and Norma who would’ve celebrated her birthday on that Sunday. After every snapshot, I could almost hear Norma’s sweet voice saying her famous phrase, “Isn’t our family good looking?’
Of our cousins, we truly missed John-John, Jerry, and Andrea. We felt each of them there with us, watching and laughing, but oh, how wonderful it would’ve been to hug them all just one more time.
And we especially missed our cousin Jeff, who due to health reasons was not able to attend. I often pictured him throughout the day, wearing a Cheap Trick or WSU t-shirt and sipping a cold, beer and instructing the young kids on how to light firecrackers.
For three days, we were together, spending our first evening at Becky and Matt’s home, the second day Aunt Cecilia and Uncle Danny opened their doors (and garage) and on Sunday we spent the entire day at The Red Barn. It was memorable, and not just for losing power shortly after breakfast, and the water pressure to the toilets so that Matt had to rescue us with the RV, or the typical Kansas storm that rolled in mid-afternoon after the power finally came on. It was made memorable by the fact we were together. By the time Monday rolled around, we were exhausted but content. I likened the day following our reunion to the day after Christmas, so melancholy and empty. The gifts were gone, the excitement diminished, and our homes were quiet. Too quiet.
It truly was a labor of love and something I wish we’d done fifteen years ago and had continued every five years. It isn’t too late. I have learned there is one constant in life, family. Sure, family can drive you crazy, make demands, even make you angry, but when the dust settles the people you can always count on are the ones who share your blood, your history, and your legacy.
I am merely a branch of this Vasquez family tree. It is together we truly bloom.