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Remembering and missing Pilár Elisa Castro Estrada
Apple Pie and SalsaSeptember 12, 2012 | 2,233 views | Post a comment
Henry and I are really starting to miss her now. At first, it was as if it wasn’t true. Now it’s really sinking in. I miss her every Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church. So does the rest of the choir, especially Pauline, who sat right next to her. I miss her telephone calls. She had more time on her hands, I thought, even when babysitting, than I did. But I always made time when she called. And she was good for an hour, at least. She had a way of jumping from one subject to another so that she covered a lot in that one hour.
I’m talking about Henry’s sister, who left us so suddenly just a little over three months ago. We knew she was sick, but we were all praying for her recovery. Henry and I had visited her in the hospital just four days before. She was very optimistic and said she believed she could beat this disease. But at the same time she said that if the Lord wanted to take her, she was ready. She proved that by choosing the dress they should put on her for the viewing, and by giving her children other “orders.”
To her husband, Joe, she was “Alicia” from the moment he started courting her. To her classmates in school and to just about everyone else, she was “Alice.” But to her parents, her siblings, and other close relatives, she was Pilár -- pronounced Pélar. Her baptismal name was Pilár Elisa, after her paternal grandmother and her own mother, in that order.
Alice took after her aunt “Mila,” the aunt who raised Henry, when it came to talking on the telephone. They could talk for hours.
I’m going to backtrack here. I remember when I first met Alice. It was the summer after my graduation from grammar school. My friend and classmate, Katie, came by my house and invited me to go for a bike ride. I never owned a bicycle and never learned to ride one. So I climbed on behind Katie. There was a narrow seat above the back wheel behind the driver’s seat. I held on to that seat with both hands and away we went. We ended up at the home of my future in-laws, Frank and Elisa Castro. Katie knew Alice because their parents were compadres. It would take a couple more years until Alice and I got to know each other better, when she entered high school. Then she felt she knew me well enough to give me a nickname, “Mo.” She teased me about a boy named Modesto. (And no! I was not interested in him.) She continued to call me that after I started going steady with Henry and even after we married. Even in recent years once in a while she would call me that -- and laugh.
Like I said, Alice and Mila could talk for hours on end. And if you ask Henry, he’ll tell you that I was guilty of that too. Anyway, on the phone Mila was “Mi” for short, Alice was “Pi” for Pilár. And me -- as far as Alice was concerned, I was still Mo.
At her rosary service, her daughter, Theresa, and niece, Vanessa, paid tribute to Alice by touching on her many virtues and her giving heart. Vanessa recalled the many hours Alice spent transporting the many nieces in the family to dance classes in San Antonio, one of them being our Lia. They talked of the many children she helped bring up by taking care of them while the parents worked, sometimes from the time they were just days old. At the wake, except for the wedding picture of her and Joe on July 20, 1958, and the one of their golden wedding anniversary in July 2008, there were no family pictures. Only those of all the children she nurtured through the years. They had their own name for her -- Mama Alice. She was still babysitting a week before she went to the hospital.
The obituary in the Wilson County News was brief and didn’t say much about her life. So I wanted to share some of my personal stories about her.
While we were Pi and Mo to each other, one name we did not call each other was comadre. We could have because she and Joe were our son Marshall’s padrinos -- his baptismal sponsors. And I almost forgot. They were my sponsors when I was baptized as an adult in the Catholic Church on Aug. 10, 1956. They were not married yet.
I have said before that while Henry was gone to the Army, Alice tried to teach me to make tortillas. And once, when I sprained an ankle and was on crutches, it was Alice who came to our home to help with the little ones and with the housework.
For the years that Theresa and Joey attended Sacred Heart School, Alice was almost a fixture there. She was always ready to do whatever she needed to help. Mostly she loved to drive the kids to different events.
Something else Alice did unselfishly was care for her parents. First she took care of her dad at home. Then when he had to go to a nursing facility, she visited him every day, sometimes walking from her home to the Floresville Nursing Home -- a good walk. After he passed away, she continued to go see her mom every day, who still lived at their family home. When Momó could no longer care for herself, Alice took her into her home. She practically single-handedly (and with Joe’s help) took her to doctors’ appointments and saw to her every need. She did this for about 10 years until Momó passed away at the age of 92.
Norma, the youngest sister, says her favorite memory of Pilár is seeing her holding a rosary in her hand every time she visited her. She was always praying the rosary. And Bertha, the oldest sister, says she misses Alice’s occasional visits and talking to her on the phone, because Alice always kept her up to date on the happenings in Floresville. Alice knew everything.
So, no matter by what name she was called, she is being very much missed. We will continue to do so for a very long time. But none more than her children, who miss her in so many ways.
Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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