Archive for February 14, 2010

Very Important Texan

Posted in Social on February 14, 2010 by Johnny Gringo

Some times the most important Texans that ever lived never quite make it in the history books or the front pages of the newspapers. By some freak of nature these giants of character and staunch proponents of independence escape the notoriety that lesser men and women ride to celebrity.  These VIT’s (Very Important Texans) share the same quality DNA as any of the great leaders in the free world. Due to their obscurity, we benefit because they were allowed to walk among us. I had the honor and great privilege to know such a person, Georgette Becu. Georgette’s story begins as many great American Icons began. She was born in the depth of the Great Depression in 1932. Her father abandoned the family (before she had a chance to meet him), and her mother died from an automobile accident when she was only 8 years old.   She left school after the 8th grade and married an abusive husband. She divorced him by age 16 . If hardship and heartache had a poster child, Georgette’s picture would grace the cover.

But Georgette belongs to a historically elite breed of masterful decision makers. It is precisely because of people like her that the battle between nature and nurture rages on in the world of psychology. By all accounts she should have wound up a causality of humanity instead she found herself the victor standing tall on top of the mountain called adversity.  As Midas turned what he touched into gold,  Georgette took the lemons life handed her, and turned them into lemonade stands.

By the time I met her, she had fallen madly in love with a successful attorney, and gave birth to a child she desperately wanted. She took all the love she was denied as a child, and poured it unto this new life she created and adored. She was beautiful, vivacious and loved life. Her smile could rival any of Hollywood’s movie stars. The attorney showed her the world. He took her to New Orleans, California and Mexico. He bought her and their new born son a house in the suburbs. But life was not through handing her adversities.  It was the 1950’s, she was 22 years old, and a brand new single mom.

The attorney had a great sense of humor, but not such a great sense of responsibility. It seems he already had a wife and a son. He was very good at multitasking, but not very good at thinking ahead. He was a pillar in the community. The King of Spain deeded his family a plot of land in downtown San Antonio years earlier. He was very well connected, but Georgette never benefitted from this side of his fortune. Instead she got herself a job in a cafeteria, bought a sewing machine, and learned to sew clothes.

She would make $35.00 a week at the cafeteria, and make all her own clothes. She would buy a pattern, then cloth, and sew the entire dress. She got so good at it she started earning money from sewing for other people.  With an 8th grade education, she read, wrote, and spoke Spanish fluently. She managed to find the money to send her son to Catholic school. She worked in the cafeteria by day, a cocktail waitress by night, and sewed clothes on the weekend. She borrowed some money,  enrolled in a secretarial school learning typing & bookkeeping. She was able to leave her cafeteria job, and become a bookkeeper.

Her absolute unquenchable passion was music. Rhythm and blues, Mexican tear jerking love ballads and Elvis. She adored the King. She would put her son on the washing machine and sing Love me Tender while doing laundry. In 1958 she and her sisters went to see him perform at the Joe Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. In 2002 her son took her to Graceland.  They stayed in the Heart Break Hotel, watched the 24 hour Elvis Pressley Movie Channel, went to every attraction (including all the museums), the Lisa Marie air plane, Sun Studios and of course a 6 hour tour of Graceland itself. She loved every single minute, including the 220 mile round trip to his place of birth in Tupelo Ms. Georgette loved the way music made her feel. She allowed it to flow through her. Music took her from the deepest depths of sadness to the stratosphere peaks of happiness.

She worked for over 30 years as an office manger for a small vending company that placed Jukeboxes and pool tables in bars, hotels, and restaurants. Her duties included ordering the records for the Jukeboxes, typing the labels, scheduling service calls, and dispatching mechanics to various locations utilizing a two way radio. Full charge bookkeeping as well as payroll services were her main responsibilities. Her bilingual skills were a perfect fit, because that job  demanded someone to write and speak Spanish. Her impeccable honesty garnered the respect of her coworkers as well as all of the companies’ customers and vendors. She retired in 2000 shortly after the owner died. She traveled to Europe 5 times to visit her favorite nephew who owned a Mexican Restaurant in Germany.

Georgette was very frugal, hardworking, pragmatic and practical. She learned life mainly through the school of hard knocks. She was very independent and proud of it. But, she had a very deep spiritual side. Even before she started attending church, regularly she prayed to God. Her favorite Saint was Saint Jude the patron Saint of lost causes. She loved her pastor. She loved her church but mostly she knew she was loved by God. She took Communion very seriously. She read her Bible everyday, and did her devotions in the morning. She was a Deaconess in her church as well as a Stephen Minister and constantly volunteered to prepare communion. She sat in the same seat on the same row each and every Sunday for over 15 Years. She belonged to a group of church ladies known as “Joy in the Morning” that met every Tuesday morning. A lot of well meaning people go to “church”. Georgette went to a church building to worship. She would frequently ask “How may I pray for you today?” Georgette could very easily have pounded her fists on the table and asked God “why?”. But she often raised her hands up to Him and asked in total humility “why me Lord? What have I done to deserve so much favor?” Georgette’s spiritual attitude was not one of great expectations but one of great anticipations. She did not expect good things, nor did she fear bad things. She learned long ago that expecting good had only two outcomes: ungratefulness or disappointment. But anticipation had only one outcome: Gratitude.

If music was Georgettes intangible passion, then her 3 grandchildren were her deliciously tangible delight. When Georgette’s son brought home his bride-to-be to meet his mom for the first time, she spotted a note next to his graduation picture that said “this space reserved for a picture of my grand children.” Christmas was very important for Georgette. She loved to give gifts. The rule of the house was that everyone would take turns opening gifts on Christmas day. This ritual would sometimes last hours because she would shower her grandchildren with presents. She would babysit, take them to the movies, teach them poker, and teach them Spanish.  She poured unconditional love out to her grandchildren.  It brought great joy for her to be able to give. Her bible cover had pictures of her grandchildren. Her apartment had pictures of them on practically every wall. If pride was an illegal drug she would have been arrested long ago. She cherished the title “Mimo” bestowed upon her by each of them.

Georgette’s legacy is not that she simply overcame adversity. It is not that she came out of a bad environment, and turned into an upstanding contributing citizen, although she is all of that and more. Her legacy is not found in her public life but in her private life. Her legacy is not what she did openly but what she did privately. Georgette was a very private woman. She cherished her privacy. Except for the first 18 years when she raised her son, she lived alone all her life. She never remarried, nor did she ever have a roommate. Yet at her memorial service there were over 350 people seating in the pews. What a lot of people did not know is the amount of physical pain Georgette was in at any one time. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and a third of her lung had to be removed. She had 19 major surgeries for arthritis. She underwent a triple by pass heart surgery. She had steal pins holding up her neck from the deterioration of her spine. She had major back surgery. Everyday she was in a constant state of pain. When her family asked her back doctor what could be done for the pain the doctor said, “I don’t know how to treat the pain because, I don’t even know how it is that she is still walking”. During a carotid artery operation the surgeon clamped the wrong valve and sent Georgette into cardiac arrest causing her to wear an oxygen tube for the last year of her life.  No one ever knew the amount of pain she was in at any given moment. Georgette never spoke of the pain. One Sunday morning Georgette was sitting in her customary 3rd row in front of the church. A hymnal propping up her back to relieve the excruciating pain. Georgette sat stooped over. A very beautiful twenty something young lady sat next to her. Georgette introduced herself chatted with the young woman. She could sense the young visitor was apprehensive about a long trip she was getting ready to go on. Georgette grabbed the hand of her new friend and prayed. Then as is the custom in her church she filled out a prayer card and sent it up to the altar to be read during petitions. A few minutes later the pastor read aloud to the entire congregation a prayer from Georgette for the safe travel and minimized anxiety for Ashley’s trip abroad. The young (about to be traveler) was so touched by the act, that she immediately bonded with Georgette. This is Georgette’s legacy: It is NOT about us. It’s about our neighbor. Regardless of what is going on in our lives we can always minister to those around us. Everyone has a burden. Not everyone has a Georgette.

She died on all Saints Day 2009.

Happy Valentine’s Day mom. I miss you. I will love you forever. You are and will continue to be the most important Texan in my life.