Originally Published on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 9:11pm the day after my oldest brother John F. Guerrero, Jr.’s Memorial Service.
John was my oldest brother, my father figure, and my partner in crime, especially in high school and through my years of living as a hippie and a protestor of the war in Viet Nam. I was the proverbial Love Child of the 60’s professing “Love, Not War”.
This is my homage to my dearly departed brother who proudly served as a SK-2 in the United States Navy. “Non sibi sed patriae” or, “Not for self, but for country.” May you RIP, John, your glory days are just beginning, for you are safe and secure in the arms of our Father and Lord! I will miss you! and I will love you forever!
I returned from the Memorial Service yesterday reflecting on my sister-in-law Lisa’s question as to why I did not speak at my brother’s memorial. Well, there is no easy answer, other than I enjoyed others’ memories as I struggled with my own. That, and the fear of reprisals and recriminations of others that I still carry with me even these many years later.
All I can say is that I allowed intimidation and manipulation move me into silence yet again! And for that I offer no excuses, just my sincere heartfelt apologies to my brother’s beloved family. I fell asleep last night praying for forgiveness in letting down John’s family, and for the first time in two weeks I was able to get a full night’s sleep. I woke up this morning bright and early with two distinct memories that I now share with my niece and my nephews and any other family members interested.
The most vivid memory that comes to mind reinforces my niece’s statement that John carried our father’s values throughout his life, which John and I expounded on at daddy’s funeral: 1) work hard to support your family and provide for them, 2) sacrifice self for your family, and 3) never give up in the face of adversity – just dig in your heels and hang on until you succeed! There is no room for failure! (Which sadly, I felt I did yesterday – I’m sorry, John!)
John had this beautiful turquoise bicycle with fenders on it that he rode everywhere; so one Saturday afternoon, maybe when I was about 9 years old, full of enthusiasm and anticipation, I asked John if he would show me how to ride his bike. Little did I know what I had just gotten myself into! At the time we lived in Anton, where at least once a year the county would come through and coat the roads with caliche, that nasty old white, powdery mix of nitrate-bearing gravel or rock that you inhale and that seems to coat your whole world in white until a good old rainstorm packs it all down.
At any rate, let’s just say that in a matter of a few hours (it seemed like an eternity to me) John showed me not only how to ride that damn old bike, but how to brake! I remember falling down several times, picking myself up with numerous cuts and scrapes, bleeding and bruised knees, scraped elbows, and many, many streaks of tears running through the white powder left on my face every time I “ate” the ground! But he would not let me give up! He would not let me quit and he kept forcing me on that bike amidst my tears and my protests and my own stubborn will pitted against his….well, you can guess which of one of us was the most stubborn that long ago afternoon, for I learned to ride that damn old bike of his that very afternoon and soon we were fighting over who was going to ride the bike. Yup, lost many times on that argument, too!
My next memory of John that I had forgotten about, but one that I will cherish forever, is his fond nickname for me, “Fulton”. Let me assure you, he had many other names he called me, but this soon became both our favorite! In fact, he brought it up when I moved back home in 2001 as he stood in front of me laughing! I was the one sister who was always tagging along with John and our cousin Reyes. Known as the tomboy amongst us three sisters, I was so much his shadow that when the day came they no longer wanted me around, I was crushed.
By following John around I learned many things, chief among them was how to get in trouble! But I also learned how to use tools, and that soon opened up a whole new chapter in my world. I seemed to have a knack for building just about anything out of practically nothing, but mainly out of all the junk parts around the property. He would sometimes laugh at some of my creations and came to fondly rename me “Fulton”, after Robert Fulton, credited with the first steamship ever built. (I later wrote an essay on Robert Fulton when I was in the fifth grade, thanks to John.) But there were also many, many times that he would step in and make a suggestion or an improvement on my latest creation and we would sit out in the back yard for hours building things together. I came to cherish not only our time together, but his affectionate nickname for me, as I felt this was John’s approval of my creativity, and I so adored my big brother and cherished his approval!
I hope these two memories of my big brother help answer my sister-in-law’s question to some degree and provide further closure for his family. I will miss him dearly, but I will cling to my memories!
I leave you with my beloved memories to reflect on….may God bless!
Fair Winds and Following Seas, John!
I love you much!
Your lil sis, Terry