Unspoken Goodbyes

Describe the last difficult “goodbye” you said.

It’s 2018 and I am lying on the living room couch listening to my son and nephew playing on the Xbox in my bedroom. It’s a hot South Texas day in August and my only thoughts are getting as much rest as possible after the tumultuous Summer Reading Program we had at the public library. It was the first program I ran as acting-supervisor of the department, as the children’s supervisor had left before summer began. There were some hopes that I’d take the title before Autumn Programming began, though I know there was a slim chance I’d even be their second or third choice for the position. Maybe their fourth? Possibly their fifth. 

A black moth lands on the front screen door. Memory makes it the size palm of my hand, but it might have been much smaller, though still bigger than most moths that flutter around during the day. 

I call out to the boys to come see the moth while snapping a picture with my phone for my Instagram. “The invasion starts tonight,” I typed and hit post. It is August 9, 2018.

Continue reading “Unspoken Goodbyes”
Stream of Consciousness

An Atheist Christmas Special 2022

He spends too much time watching TV. Staring at the screen of his cell phone. Sometimes, he does both at the same time. Wasting hours that he’ll never get back watching media he won’t remember the next day. 

Remember that one TikTok video you watched while taking a shit? You sat there for at least five videos before you wiped and got back to whatever you were doing before nature called. Five videos worth of time after your final push. You sat on that toilet for five more videos breathing in shit particles exhumed from your shitty ass. And you saw that one video—not a thirst trap, but you do tend to like those as soon as they start—and it made you laugh? 

Of course, you don’t. Nobody remembers what they watched.

Continue reading “An Atheist Christmas Special 2022”

Dear Moisés,

You once told me about the cactus you kept in the bed of your truck. How’d you drive, parading it through the city. You told me people would give you looks. Maybe even a quizzical lift of the brow. 

I wish I saved those emails so that I can paint a better picture – the one who painted with your words. Because all I imagine is a bed of sand with your cactus planted in the middle. I don’t imagine the nopal, but the saguaro as it is the most referenced in popular culture. 

I feel that this logo is off center. Maybe I’ll leave it that way.

I can’t remember the color of your truck, or if you ever told me the model and brand. But I think of an old red pickup, the sort abuelos drive. 

We reconnected when I was in college. You found a review I made on Amazon and that led you down the rabbit hole to whatever social network I was using back then. Probably MySpace. We emailed each other, old friends catching up. You were always pushing me to share my work, find my voice. 

And I eventually did, though I’m sad you never got to see me recite one of my poems on stage. Never heard me voice my characters.

I still wear the rings you gave me. These biker rings that appeared on Facebook. Rings that became the bane of my former employer’s existence. Rings I wore to push the limits one October and never took off until my weight got away from me. 

And the moment my fingers allowed me to put them back on, it brought me so much peace. I can’t explain to you how exposed I felt without them. Every time I forget to wear them, a part of me is missing. And I’m sure you’d have loved to know that. 

In some small way, I always felt that I carry you with me when I wear them. When I thought of buying new ones, I second guessed because these rings were from you. 

Among other gifts you sent me, a Harley Quinn tee shirt, copies of your sister’s books, a book I never read, and several inappropriate birthday cards. How I loved those inappropriate cards. 

I’m sorry that I stopped making that effort. Sorry I never held my word in writing those things for you. It’s easy to say that life gets in the way. That I was raising a child when I still didn’t feel like much of an adult. Sorry for never writing or reaching out when that illness began to take you. You were a better friend than I ever deserved. 

It’s just that I scare easily, and I make it a habit to keep people I love at an arm’s length. I always think this will make the pain easier to take, but all it does is leave room for regret.

And there is a lot I regret these days.

As you know, I don’t have much faith on what lies beyond this life. Whether we simply stop existing or go into a higher plane of existence – be it Heaven or whatever. But I do hope that I see you again. 

You once sent me this song and told me that you were the pretty girl. You didn’t care if I was Dr. Dre or Eminem.


“if i could see your face once more”

You learn something when your estranged father passes. It’s like losing sight of something from your peripheral – you understand that something is missing in your field of vision, but you can’t place just what it is. And the more you look around, the more you realize its absence. The more you begin to comprehend that this random item in your life meant more to you than you were willing to admit.

I think about my father more these days than in the years before his death. He remained in the edges of my life – estranged, always there, but never present. In those days, there was an option to reach out and grow a relationship. Though, there is little regret in the way I handled our relationship – it was a two-way street after all.

There isn’t a doubt in mind that my life might have taken a different path had my father just tried a little harder. Or if I had in my adult years. However, it’s a life I cannot envision. Javier may have not been the best father figure in my childhood, but I will no longer dwell on that. Why mourn what I never had instead of being grateful for the days I did?

Poetry Break

“Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World” by Sherman Alexie

After he passed away, I wrote my father a letter. In all the years we spent estranged, I never once bothered to write him anything. There were things I wrote about him, but they were never meant to be dedicated to him. Every so often, I write him another letter. It feels like life after my father is much life during his time on this planet. There are times when it slips my memory that he’s gone, because he was always gone. It’s just it was never this permanent.

Continue reading ““Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World” by Sherman Alexie”

One Year Later

A little over a year ago, I made my father smile. It’s the first smile I’ve seen on his face in a long time. He lay in a hospital bed, recovering from an amputation. At least trying to recover from an amputation. The doctors, try as they might, cannot get his heart to climb up to a normal rate.

He didn’t have a good heart before the surgery. I recalled the scar that ran up his sternum from when he lounged around shirtless in the house.

“Javier, mira quien vino a visitarte,” my mother told him as we entered. Her voice soft, sweet. It was moments ago when she told me that it was only a matter of time.

His face, weak, scrunched up in confusion. How long had it been since we last saw each other?

“Hey Dad,” I said because nothing better came to mind.

“Es Willie. No lo reconoces?”

And there. At that moment, a smile. It started with his eyes. Life being brought back to them. His thin lips stretched. He smiled. And though I’m sure my eyes betrayed my emotions, I smiled back.

My father was scheduled to enter a rehab center after recovering in ICU. Because of his heart rate, those plans were changed. Instead, he was admitted to Amara Hospice – a stone’s throw from Bert Ogden dealership where my father worked for most of my life.

(Side note: The year previous, I visited Jeanna in that ICU after the car accident. The rehab my father was to attend was the same Jeanna spent her the last months of her recovery. The same facility her mother, who lost her life in the accident, worked.)

I visited my father on July 8th at the hospice. His weak voice managed, “They lied to me.” He was told he’d learn how to walk again; instead, he was moved to a hospice. And understood what all that meant.

“Visiting dad,” texted Jeanna. “He knows what’s happening.”

I sat on the couch and just tried to talk to him. I wanted him to know me in his last days, but I couldn’t muster up the words or courage. Instead, we watched TV.

With each passing day, his voice grew to a whisper. Until he said nothing at all. I bought him Ensure because he wasn’t taking in any foods. I split my attention between work and him until he dominated my thoughts.

On July 14th, I was given an opportunity to say my goodbyes.

“I could have made an effort just as much as you could have. But we’re just so goddamn stubborn, I guess. Just don’t think for a second that I didn’t love you. That I didn’t want you there, because I did. And I’m sorry you never met Shaun before all this. That’s on me and I’ll have to live with that. But look, I’m not mad anymore. I forgive you for going when you did; I don’t think I’d be the man I am now if you hadn’t. And I won’t contemplate if I’d be a better one or a worse one because all that doesn’t matter, you know? What matters is now. If you have to go, it’s okay. I understand. I’ll be okay. Mom will be okay. Jay and Martin will be okay. We’ll be okay. I just needed you to know that I’m not angry anymore, and I forgive you, and I love you. And you can leave if you have to. We’ll all be okay.”

I intended on visiting him the next morning, but drained from emotions and work, I opted to stay instead. I had a 4-hr shift that day, so visiting him after work was probably for the best. While Mom and the girls signed in at the front desk, I walked to my father’s room to say hello.

You won’t understand silence until you notice how loud it can be. The breathing machine that pumped oxygen into my father’s lungs for the last days of his life had become commonplace. Part of the background. Ignored but noticeable when missing.


I stood by the door understanding what my mind didn’t want to process. As my mother approached, I turned to her and said, “His breathing machine. Why would they turn off his breathing machine?”

My father died an hour before we arrived to the hospice. I settled down in the visitor’s kitchen and made an attempt to eat my burger. There were phone calls that needed to happen. We called my older brother who had power of attorney. I called my aunt, my father’s sister.

I wasn’t angry at myself for missing my last moment with my father. I made my peace the night before. And my being there may have just prolonged his pain. Maybe he would’ve continued to fight as to not let any of us see him slip into that good night.

Before they took him away, I returned to his room and told him one final farewell.

“Thank you and goodbye.”