As the years of my life have passed and changed, there is one bright central point of light that has illuminated my path. Her name is Lupe. For all the things that have come to be in my life, she is the best part of all of it. She is the Love of my life. She is my Best Friend. She is my Partner. She is my Witness. She is the Mother of my children. Her magic perpetuated itself through our Grandchildren. Please let me share with you how she came into my life.
I graduated from Clovis High School in Clovis New Mexico in May of 1976. The Bicentennial year. I was picked to be one of the student speakers at my graduation. Being the Bicentennial year, I decided to try to compose a speech that emulated and marked the historic 200 years of our country’s struggle for its beginning. It was one of the most boring speeches in recorded Graduation History. I ended up creating a “Yawn-Fest”. I titled it “200 years, only the Beginning.” It was so predictable and mundane. “We shall Conquer our Future” was the core meaning of my speech. Geez, I hope there were not too many people falling asleep. I had one of my teacher advisors, suggest I do my speech in Spanish. “Spanish??” My Spanish would not be established for many years at that point. That’s a latter part of this story. Looking back with what I know now, and I have experienced, I wish I had a do-over on that speech. I would have poked a little fun with what I had experienced through my high school tenure. We even had a “Streaker” one of those years. Some dude ran through the halls with nothing on but a motorcycle helmet. “Oh to be 17 years old again…” I was just a clueless, inexperienced young man bumping into his future.
In January of 1976, my father accepted a transfer from the Civil Service position he was working in at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis New Mexico. The transfer was to Torrejon Air Force Base, just a few miles from Madrid Spain. 2 days after I graduated from Clovis High, I flew for the first time to spend my summer with my family in Spain. My Dad, my Mom, and my siblings Fernando, Andrew and Yolanda went to Spain for almost 4 years. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 college summer breaks and one Spring break with my family in Spain. My Parents were frugal and saved their money. They managed to take us to cities and places through many countries in Europe, Great Britain, and North Africa. I gave the eulogy for my Father. I thanked him for opening our horizons and taking us to so many special places in our young lives. It was a defining chapter of my life.
So, in the Fall of 1977, I had been to visit my family 3 times in Spain. I was at the beginning of my sophomore year at West Texas State University in Canyon Texas, just south of Amarillo. Drinking age in Texas in 1977 was 18 years old. Not a healthy thing for an 18 year old young man from Clovis New Mexico. My exploration of who I was and what I wanted was stretching its wings. The central conclusion for me at that time? I didn’t have one clue where I was going or what I wanted to do. I found some of my classes more interesting than others. History and the Humanities found niches in me. The Sciences like Chemistry, Biology and the numbers and symbols of Math had more trouble catching fire in me.
When my parents left for Spain in January of 1976, my best friend John from the 3rd grade and his Mom were kind enough to welcome me to stay with them until May when we graduated. I profoundly apologize to both of them for my clumsy invasion of their close, Mother / Son relationship. They were kind and accepting of me. I will always be grateful. 2 days after we graduated in May, I flew to be with my family in Spain for the first time since January of that year. I remember falling into their arms when they picked me up at the airport. I cried a river when I reunited with my family. I had not realized how much I had missed them.
That first summer in 1976 of traveling abroad and exploring with my family was exhilarating and founding for my life’s path. I started school at West Texas State that fall, and I was hungry to establish my signature on my independence. Too many late nights exploring places like “The Whiskey River” nightclub of Amarillo, muddled my direction. So in the Fall of 1977, I had been to Spain 3 times and my direction was still trying to find its course. My friend John was married in the Fall of 1977. I came to his wedding in Clovis and I was a witness to his beautiful union with Vanessa.
One week after John and Vanessa were married, they were on their way back to Clovis from their honeymoon in San Antonio. John shocked me when he knocked on my dorm room door that afternoon. “What are you doing here”? I asked. “Vanessa and I are on our way back to Clovis. We thought maybe you might want to go eat with us before we get going”. I started tying the strings of my sneakers and preparing to go eat with John and Vanessa. I had just a little while before I needed to start my evening shift at the local Mcdonald’s restaurant I worked in. Picture me tying my shoes, John waiting there in my doorway and looking at his watch. That was the moment my dorm room phone started ringing.
After a couple of rings, I picked up the phone. There was a gentle, nervous mysterious voice at the other end of the phone. Her English words were inflected with Spanish accent and pronunciation. I was mesmerized from the get-go. She said, “My name is Lupe Agundis. My best friend Belinda is dating your roommate Urban. She told me that when she visited Urban at your dorm, she noticed your posters and artwork from Spain”? I responded, “Yes, I remember Belinda. She asked me about my travels to Spain.” Lupe tentatively went on and said, “Belinda said you might be able to tell me about Spain and your experiences there?”
As I bent down tying my shoes and tried to cradle the phone on my shoulder, I noticed John getting a little more impatient and again glancing at his wristwatch. They were in a hurry to get back to Clovis. “Lupe, I would be happy to talk to you about my experience in Spain. The trouble is my friend John, and his new wife are passing through Canyon on their way back home from their honeymoon. They stopped here unexpectedly to ask me to go eat lunch with them. Then they need to get going back home to Clovis right after that. I’m gonna have to get to work right after I eat with them. I can’t talk to you right now, but if you give me your telephone number, I can call you tomorrow afternoon after I get out of class??” I could feel trepidation palpably rise through the telephone receiver. Her words had been nervous and planned out when she explained who she was. Now she was hesitating to give me her number. The seconds passed uncomfortably. I didn’t know what to say next. “Will that be okay Lupe?” I asked.
Lupe was halting in her words. She said, “Maybe this isn’t a good idea. I know you don’t know me. Belinda kept telling me that you had been to Spain… but maybe this isn’t a good idea.” I was hooked then… “Who is this calling me?” I was thinking. “Who is she?” I waited a few more nervous seconds. Now I couldn’t help myself. I was hoping she would give me her number. She finally relented, “I don’t get out of class until 3 tomorrow.” She came back. “That would be perfect for me. That’s when I get out of class too” I said. A few more seconds ticked off and then she hesitantly gave me her number. I scrambled for the pen on my desk. I wrote her number in my left palm. I told her I would call her tomorrow afternoon. When I hung up the phone, John asked me, “Who was that?” “I don’t know. She wants to ask me about Spain.” I shrugged my shoulders and went back to tying my shoes. I thought to myself, “I wonder if she’s pretty?”
I went to eat with John and Vanessa and catch up with them. They were giddy and over the moon, in love and affection for one another. They regaled me with their wedding and honeymoon experiences. I was happy for them. I was happy for them, but I was intrigued by this woman who had called me. It was difficult for me to stay focused on our conversation. I kept glancing at the telephone number I had written in ink on my left palm. “Who is this that called me?” I thought. “I wonder if she’s pretty. She sounds pretty.” The short lunch melted into time to part ways. I hugged both John and Vanessa and wished them the very best on their new life together. I waited and watched their car disappear into the horizon. Another chapter of my life was ending.
I went to work right after that. I was attentive to making sure my workstation and area was clean, pristine, and ready to help make more Burgers. I was in my brown and gold Mcdonald’s Uniform and my crispy cadet looking cap. I was in the 1970’s requisite company accoutrement, pledging my allegiance to the corporate directive. I was a good employee, but my mind was elsewhere. I ran my fingers over her telephone number when no one was looking. It was my secret. It was mine. My fellow employees found me more quiet than usual that night. I washed my hands constantly through the shift, but I was careful not to rub off too much of the telephone number. I finished the shift and made my way back to my dorm. I went to sleep after I had transferred her telephone number to a piece of paper lying on the top of my desk. I think I already had it memorized.
The next day went slowly. I tried to keep my attention aimed on what my professors were trying to share with us, but my mind was elsewhere. The hours of the afternoon ticked by and finally the last Professor of the day let us go. I bee lined my way back to my dorm. I was glad that my roommate was still in class and would be until late that day. When I entered my dorm room, I caught my breath, trying to steady the butterflies coming up over me. I sat on my bed and looked over the crumpled piece of paper with her telephone number on it. Already smudged up from being in my pocket all day and being opened and closed often. I picked up the receiver and ran the rotary dial through the numbers and before it rang, I hung it up. I centered myself again on my bed, breathed in and out a couple of times and started the dial through the clicking circles one more time. This time it started ringing. It rang once, it rang twice, it rang a third time. I was starting to think she wasn’t there. But she was. She picked up the phone and said “Hello.” I said “Lupe?” She said “Yes.” We spent the next 3 hours learning about one another and sharing our stories. The moments I spent with her on that telephone that afternoon, were some of the happiest of my life.
I laid on my bed looking up at the ceiling, twisting the cord through my fingers, and shared who I was with Lupe. She shared her story with me as well. She explained to me that she was from a place called Delicias, located in the northern state of Chihuahua Mexico. When she was 12 years old, she had come to live in the arid West Texas plains close to Muleshoe Texas. Her father Malaquias was the foreman for a large farm there. Her accent and cadence with her pronunciation of her words, were beautiful. I was interacting with a young woman on the phone from a place I knew nothing about. She told me about her interest in everything “Spanish”. Books, Movies, Television shows. Lupe was keenly aware of the history of her ancestors. Hernan Cortez the Conquistador from Spain, had come to Vera Cruz on the western side of the Gulf Coast, in the early 1500’s. He scuttled his ships and told his men they were going to conquer the Aztecs, or they were going to die trying. They took the first horses ever to arrive from Europe and marched them to the island city of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. The ruins of Tenochtitlan are in the heart of what is Mexico City today. The melding of the blood of those Spaniards and the Aztecs, the Mayans and other native tribes are who Mexicans are today.
Lupe explained to me that she was proud of her heritage. She told me about sitting in the only theatre located in her hometown of Delicias Mexico. She remembered sitting in the darkened theatre all alone and watching the stories from Spain come alive. The Spanish culture, the language, the elegant poise, and accents on their pronunciation mesmerized Lupe. Spain felt like a world just a little too far, an elegant place just out of her reach. A place she wanted to know more about. A place that had forcefully and resolutely changed the history lines of the Aztecs and other native people. After a few minutes of Lupe and I conversing in English she asked me a question. “Pues porque no hablas en espanol con migo?” “Well, why don’t you speak in Spanish with me.” She shocked me when she asked me her question. It was embarrassing for me. I understood what she had asked me, but I found it difficult to respond in Spanish.
My parents were both born in New Mexico. My Father was born in the village of Corona, north of Capitan and Carrizozo. My Mom was born in San Ignacio, another village southwest of Santa Rosa, just a few miles south of Route 66 on the way up to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Both of my parents spoke Spanish as their primary language when they were children. They met each other in Roswell, where their parents had relocated both of their families. Spanish was the tongue both conversed in when they met each other. Their English was having to develop as well. My parents experienced the Civil Rights melee that had imbued American life with strife and separation.