Sunday, September 5, 2010


Bacho and me. Father's Day 1988

I never go to cemeteries. I prefer to rely on my memories and silently pay tribute to the life that is no longer here by allowing my spirit to blend with the ghost's and rise to a higher realm. This cannot be called grief, unless grief naturally transforms into celebration.

I never paid much attention to Labor Day, except that it symbolized the end of summer and it provided a three day weekend. But six years ago father-in-law died on Labor Day. This was appropriate, because he was such a hard worker. Now it's a very different holiday for me.

When he was born it was apparently customary to bestow a biblical name on one's child, so he got stuck with the name Gervasio. I have no idea why, but his nickname was Bacho. I always thought both names were a little odd and funny, but they fit him perfectly well because he was an odd and funny guy.

He was born to a large and very poor family in Puerto Rico. They didn't use the term "third world" then, but that's what it was and daily life was primarily about fulfilling one's basic needs. I don't know too much about those times in his life but I'm sure Bacho was observing life, learning to navigate through it and yearning to improve it. He developed an intelligence and cunning skill that far exceeded his 6th grade education. And perhaps it was poverty that inculcated in him a firm desire to succeed at business and make money. He manifested part of his dream, he had many businesses in his lifetime. But financial success in that arena eluded him.

Mother-in-law's memories are filled with resentments towards a man who, somewhat typical of his generation in that cultural setting, could only be described as a MACHO. He was king of his impoverished castle and made all decisions alone. It was not unusual for him to sell the house and announce that they were moving without ever consulting his wife. When they were first married, as one of his business experiments, he took one part of their little house and converted it into a "bodega" (a grocery store). On the weekends, he rearranged the furniture and opened up the house to hold dances, during which he sold booze and food.

My husband recalls that ethics was not a major consideration in his father's business transactions. He sold booze during prohibition. (It's interesting that he was neve a drinker himself.) He passed himself off as some kind of doctor and made and sold "medicine" to folks in the more remote parts of the island, who were even poorer than himself. He would often laugh when he reminisced about this and exclaim, "Hey, you wouldn't believe it but many people actually felt better after taking my sugary remedy." I'm sure. Healing comes from within and is often guided by suggestion. I can hope that after all, he did no harm.

After moving to New York, still searching for that carrot, he worked in a factory for a week. But, taking orders from a boss was not his style and, of course, he quit and decided to pursue his dream. The bumps on that business seeking roller coaster were steep and hard. But, he managed to own and sell many bodegas in the Bronx and Brooklyn, he owned a gypsy cab, he sold clothes, candy, food, whatever seemed lucrative at the time. Like a gambler, sometimes he made money but most often he lost, for in spite of his strong desire and his cunning style, he seemed to make poor decisions that often led to what many would consider failure. When he was older he very reluctantly caved in to his wife's pleas. He gave up business ventures and accepted a job as a maintenance man in a nursery school in the Bronx. He made the best of it.

Retirement was spent in New Mexico, a place he had never even heard of until my husband and I moved here. He lived modestly but considered himself a rich man. He found religion and became an admired leader in his church community.

I've only given you details, but he was more than the sum of these facts. He had an inner joy that was infectious. The day before he died he kidded with his hospice nurse. His grandchildren loved his silliness, adults loved his presence - so full of joy. He loved being a comedian. It seems that laughter nourished his soul.

I had a great relationship with Bacho. I became the daughter he never had and he became my surrogate father.

My husband has been talking about him a lot lately. Bacho's memory has been haunting him too. Someday my husband may write a book about him. I left so much out and there's so much more to tell.

If I had to describe him in one word it would be... paradoxical - loving, kind, at the end religious and moral even, yet he had a red hot temper, was determined as a bull and his morality seemed to often take second place to his innate and instinctive impulse to try and get one over on the other guy. He was fully human.

I love you Bacho.

Bacho playing Dominoes, Puerto Rico's national passtime. About a year before he died.


  1. Wonderful story, Myrna, thank you for sharing it. Bacho sounds like a marvellous and interesting man, with a very rich history. This post has got me hooked, I'd love to know more about his life, so I hope your husband does write a book about him.

    I love your description of him as "fully human". Because we are all paradoxical really, we all have our flaws and strengths, our vices and virtues.

    It's sad that he's no longer with you, but it's great that you can look back on his fascinating life with fondness and love.

  2. Dear Myrna
    You have written a beautiful tribute to your father in law. You shared a beautiful bond and I sensed a strong fondness you had of him. It is amazing the life that generation lived and how they became self made men with so much wealth (wisdom and their experiences) to offer.
    Love and light forever my dear Myrna

  3. how loving of you to write about your dear father in law.
    fabulous post!

  4. An interesting and loving tribute. What a connection. Beautiful post.

  5. Beautiful tribute Myrna. As you may know from my posts, we've recently lost my father in law too, and I miss him like crazy. Sometimes I feel his presence and totally get the chills when a smell or a phrase brings him back so vividly... just to confirm and realize he is no longer here. I agree with Sam: we want to read more! He was quite a character. Have a great Labor day!

  6. A lovely tribute to an amazing man. You know the beauty of life always manifests when something is lost. I am sure Bacho would not have seemed so appealing while he was alive. But then after his passing on, one realises how much a difference he made by following his heart. I would have loved to meet him! He sounds like a fun man.

    God bless you for this post and the glowing tribute to your dear Bacho.

    Joy always,

  7. this is a wonderful tribute...he does sound like quite the interesting man...we play dominos quite often as well...i hope he does write the tale...and thank you for such warm comments today...42 years...very nice...

  8. Hi Myrna! What a lovely tribute to your father-in-law. Not everybody has the connection that you have with your father-in-law. What a blessing to have wonderful in-laws. He's surely smiling at you from wherever he is. :)

  9. Hi Myrna, thanks for the nice message you left on my blog. Thanks for following.

    Blessings, Mary O

  10. Made me cry. Wasn't expecting to have a tear with my coffee. I think of him so often and feel that he is really with me a lot of the time.
    Thanks for writing this, mom.

  11. Myrna,

    I am sorry to put this here in your comments, but I was unable to find an email for you.

    You and your blog have been nominated by Olga of Casta Zero for consideration as a Blogger of Note (BON) at Words of Wisdom (WOW). Words of Wisdom is a place for bloggers (women and men) who enjoy reading and writing great content to find each other. Olga feels that you represent just this type of "blogger of substance". If you would like to be highlighted as a BON at WOW, please submit links to three of your favorite/best posts to for consideration.

    To learn more, please visit Words of Wisdom ( and click on the What is WOW and Blogger of Note links.

    Thank you,

    Pam and Sandy
    WOW Founders