Monthly Archives: February 2022

48 Viewmont Avenue

Sitting on my big brother’s car on Viewmont Avenue – circa 1971

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 2: 48 Viewmont Avenue

The first 27 years of my life were marked and influenced by events in and around my parents’ modest house on 48 Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose. The neighborhood was a classic working-class community of small houses on small lots with neatly mowed lawns and little flower gardens. The development of houses was on the edge of the east side of town that once thrived with orchards. Just a short walk a few blocks away was the Alum Rock Village, a row of mom and pop markets, a liquor store, bakery, hair salon, barbershop, and assorted small businesses that included a feed and fuel that served the remnants of a bygone agricultural community. 

Like our family, our neighbors were also in pursuit of the American Dream. Breadwinners provided for their families by working as electricians, landscapers, construction workers, and machine shop operators. The women worked mostly at the canneries and supplemented the family’s income by cleaning houses, providing child care, or caring for seniors. The neighborhood around Viewmont Avenue was like a small town on the fringes of a growing city. For me, it had everything I needed and wanted. I felt happy, safe, and comfortable there. It was home.

My oldest sister Barbara said later in life that “we had an idyllic upbringing on Viewmont Avenue. Mom and dad created a cocoon that protected us from all of the bad things in the world.” My parents made sure that school was a priority and provided me and my siblings with the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. The girls participated in swimming, cheerleading, color guard, and Girl Scouts. It was Little League, Boy Scouts, and Pop Warner football for the boys. That was the life of the 1950s and 1960s television genre that dad yearned for after listening to the stories about growing up American from his friends in the navy.

The protective shell my parents built kept the bad influences out by keeping us away from people or situations that could be harmful. When they hosted family parties, a long night of hard-drinking could lead to tense conditions that had the potential to end up in a fight. Mom quietly ushered us away from the party to our bedrooms to keep us sheltered from the unfolding drama. They also worked to protect us from the evils of the outside world. When I was in elementary school, I walked home past some older cool-looking kids hanging out under the trees at the back fence of campus. Sometimes they waved me over to join them. My parents warned that under no circumstance should I ever venture out to the fence. As I got older, I realized that the boys were sniffing glue and paint to get high. Many of those kids didn’t get through high school. A few of them joined gangs and either died violently or found a permanent home in prison.  

At 48 Viewmont Avenue, we had a clear code of conduct and value system from which we were expected to manage our lives. Dad was no nonsense and no frills. He taught us, through counsel and by way of example, to work hard, play by the rules, and have respect for ourselves and others. There was no variation from this formula. Any lack of respect and decorum, especially in public, would immediately lead to a non-verbal response. Dad stared at us with a stern look and furrowed brow followed by pursed lips, closed eyes, and a slow shake of the head in disapproval.

To be continued…

Baby García # 5

Baby García # 5

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 1: Baby García # 5 

The sky was clear and the weather was in the low 50s, a typical crisp November night in San Jose, California. That night and early the next morning wouldn’t be ordinary at all for my mom and dad. They raced through the night in their two-toned orange and white 1955 Mercury on northbound U.S. Highway 101. Not saying a word to each other, both wondered how they were going to make ends meet now that another mouth to feed would soon be added to the family. 

Mom and Dad  grew up in poor single-mother households. Now with a family of their own, they were just getting by. They lived check to check on dad’s postal worker salary and mom’s odd jobs cleaning houses and working in the canneries. The little creature in her belly causing her so much pain and discomfort would be their fifth child. The proud parents-to-be were excited and happy as the Mercury pulled into the hospital parking lot. 

Dad jumped out of the car to walk mom into the emergency room. Wearing a camel colored coat and carrying a small overnight bag, she waddled up the steps to the hospital and breathlessly slumped herself onto a waiting wheelchair. As was the custom in that era, nurses rushed my mom into the maternity room to await the doctor who would deliver the baby and told my dad to wait outside. Hospital volunteers showed him the way to the waiting room to join other nervous, expectant fathers who were smoking up a storm as they paced the floor.

In the delivery room all was going well. When the baby was finally born, the doctor gently gave the newborn the obligatory slap on the backside and waited for the familiar wails of a new life catching its breath for the first time. The doctor cut the umbilical cord and the nurses wiped the baby clean before swaddling it and allowing my tired, but happy, mom to cuddle her baby for the first time. As the doctor completed one last check of vital signs, the baby slipped out of his arms and banged its face against the metal railing of the bed. A nurse broke the baby’s fall and prevented a disastrous accident. The baby screamed in pain as the nurses and doctors worked to stop the bleeding that had emerged from the baby’s face. Luckily, that scary incident only resulted in a small scar at the tip of the newborn’s nose.

That baby with the cut on his nose was me, born on November 6, 1963, at 5:25 AM at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California. I was the third García boy, 19 inches long, 7.2 pounds, with dark brown eyes, and lots of thick dark hair. My parents were excited and relieved, especially after the brief scare in the delivery room. That little scar at the tip of my nose would forever find a special place in my mom’s heart.

At home, my brothers and sisters, David 12, Barbara 11, Patty 10, and Steve 9, were still asleep unaware of what happened earlier that morning. When dad burst through the front door of his modest house on 48 Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose, his four older children suddenly woke up and rushed to meet him to hear the good news.  

He stood at the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room and excitedly told his kids about “Eddie’s” chubby cheeks and thick black hair, and how he slipped, and cut his nose. After a few minutes of taking questions, my dad turned to the heavy black phone sitting on the counter and started dialing to call everyone he knew.

To be continued…


With Mom on her front porch – circa 2000

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Part 1: Faith – November 6, 1963 ~ June 6, 2010 

When I was a kid, mom taught us to say, “thank you God, and thank you mom” after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Of course, I understood why I was thanking mom. She cooked the meals. The reason for thanking God never really dawned on me. I thought it was a ritual like everything else about church: sitting and standing at the appropriate times, praying the “Our Father,” taking Communion, and reciting responses after the priest gave a blessing. For mom, the words had deep meaning. Through the course of any given day, you could hear her say, “si Dios quiere” (God willing), “gracias a Dios” (thank God), and “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). These expressions of devotion were part of every discussion she had with someone. They weren’t mere clichés to her. She was patient, understanding, and thoughtful no matter the situation, good or bad. Mom was a woman who put herself in God’s hands. 

As I grew older and more financially secure, I started to notice the beautiful simplicity of her life. I found time to visit her in the morning on the way to work almost every Friday. I loved to see her eyes brighten and her smile broaden when she opened the door. A warm hug greeted me before she escorted me to the kitchen to fix a plate of papas (fried potatoes), two over-easy eggs, a cup of coffee, and warm tortillas. Mom loved to hear about my week and shared news about my brothers and sisters. Her children and grandchildren were her prized “possessions.” When my siblings and I bought “nice” homes and filled them with “nice things” (her words), she beamed with pride. When she passed away, she had the same round kitchen table, simple living room furniture, basic dinette, and plain bedroom set that I remember as a boy. She appreciated every bit of it. I never heard her yearn for more or complain about what she didn’t have. 

Mom genuinely believed that to live a happy and fulfilling life, one has to be truly thankful for all that God has provided. My guess is that she had a happy and fulfilling life. The struggles of living and the heartbreak of losing loved ones didn’t deter her from being grateful. She didn’t know her father. She grieved when she lost my grandma, dad, and older sister. She wasn’t surrounded with “nice things.” She never visited the places she dreamed about. Nevertheless, she was truly thankful for what she had and appreciated every day of life God gave to her. 

Faith is a powerful ride-or-die partner to have by your side, especially while riding the roller coaster we call life. I’ve been on quite a ride myself, most of it without the guardrails of faith and gratitude. The highs and lows and twists and turns of my story resemble a wild ride on the Giant Dipper, a whitewashed wooden 1920s era roller coaster with bright red tracks that dominates the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. When I was a kid, we used to simply call it “The Roller Coaster.” Getting on The Roller Coaster was my all-time favorite thing to do every time my family went to Santa Cruz, which is about a 45-minute drive from where I grew up.

On June 7, 2010, Sandra and I were approaching our 20th wedding anniversary, our two daughters were healthy and happy, and I had achieved success in my career. It felt like being on top of the world. Like the Giant Dipper’s next move after reaching its climactic peak, my life would soon make an abrupt and furious downward turn and plummet toward its lowest depths.  That summer, I embarked on a quest to understand faith the way my mom understood it.