May 13, 2013

El Fenix - a love story

I have a bittersweet Notebook-esque story to tell you. My grandfather passed away on Thursday morning and this is his love story.

Growing up my grandparents on my mom's side didn't have the best relationship. I can remember as a child sitting at the Thanksgiving table to which there would be one if not two other family members sitting between the two of them as they referenced each other in third person and never really made eye contact. Strange to me but bearable. She had her life attending Mavs games, watching Oprah, and reading the newspaper while he had his charting genealogy, watching documentaries about space, and tending to his tiff green lawn. Separate rooms, separate lives.
Getting older started taking a toll on both of them. Grandma was catching a case of dementia and grandpa seemed more wobbly than usual (probably because of the numbness in his hands and feet brought on by diabetes). As their ailments got stronger, their dependence on each other got stronger. He needed her to button his shirts and she needed him for the answers to who/what/when/where/why. They literally needed each other whether they liked it or not.

I'm not sure how the tradition started but apparently about four years ago they started going to El Fenix every Wednesday. Same time (3:30 - I always struggled with this. Am I eating a late lunch or an early dinner?) same waiter, Ramon, and same dish - chimichanga and a #7. About a year and a half ago I started accompanying them to what we now call "El Fenix Wednesdays".  I started taking their picture every time we went adding the hashtag #elfenixwednesdays on my instagram account.
We began to notice more and more communication between the two of them which then turned to affection as time went on. The evidence...
When gma would not recognize him (oh, dementia) he would say "64 years honey" to remind her of their relations. They began holding hands, wiping the queso from each other's mouths, kissing, and saying I love you. Truly incredible to watch. My mom and I always wondered if it took them losing their minds to fall in love but maybe it was just letting go or literally forgetting life's bitterness that allowed love to settle in. In the last year of his life my grandfather became a more animated and compassionate man. Many "I love yous" were exchanged and although he is not with us anymore I am so grateful to have spent so many El Fenix Wednesdays together witnessing two people re-fall in love. Those days were his last but I'd say they were his best. 

I know he will be looking down from the big El Fenix in the sky this Wednesday. We love you and miss you. 


  1. So precious, Merrick. I know you'll cherish those memories of GMa and GPa and the lessons in love. Sally

  2. Job 8:7 says, Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.
    You were a witness to the restoration power of our Lord.
    It doesn't always look as we would imagine, but restoration nonetheless.

  3. Thanks for the great story, Merrick. I'm a friend of your mom.

  4. I appreciate the sweet sentiments! Thank you for reading.

  5. Saw the story on facebook and had to follow up and read your story. Great story, wonderful writing and you almost got me to tear up at work. Sorry for your loss but what an amazing tribute. I hope all is well.
    Adam Kohler