Recently I happened to catch only a small portion of the Senior Citizens end of the year picnic at Frances Park in Lansing. On a beautiful 70 degree day, Fr. Fred Thelen led off with the Mass, followed by everyone’s favorite Mexican Bingo, and then on to some socializing and food. A group of about 60-65 Seniors mixed with a few of us under 65 years of age made for a smile filled day. I struggled to take pictures that I will one day regret. Or will I? I had the chance to sit with Evita who at the age of 99 continues to amaze and inspire us all. She continues to sing in the choir and is a role model for serving Jesus in a time when many can’t seem to lend a hand for twenty minutes to help their Church.
My very own prima Maria Elena mentioned to me that we always embrace at Church, and the fish frys but we never get much chance to talk. In our 15 minutes of conversation, I realized that I had graduated with her daughter who was a good friend of mine in high school. I had no clue that Dolores who I knew was my cousin, was Maria Elena’s daughter. I suddenly felt more connected to family and at the same time sorry that I had missed out on better hugs, conversations and memories.
This all took away time from snapping pictures for Cafecito and perhaps future generations who might happen to stumble upon this little website of mine. Those moments are gone and as the saying goes, tomorrow is never promised. But, in an age where “the photo” provides content for Facebook, Instagram, websites, Snapchat etc., we sometimes forget that the emotions, the feelings of the moment, the people, are more important than any picture can provide. Don’t misunderstand me, we one day will look at loved ones through these photos and remember their voices, their hearts and their souls and perhaps even shed tears of sadness and joy at the same time. Those photos will become precious and valuable. But to feel someone’s heart, to share what they have experienced when that person is in their 70’s, 80’s or like Evita who is 99 years young, is priceless. Almost addictive as you suddenly want to spend hours listening to them. Hearing what their soul has to say. No photograph can give you that.
These Senior Citizens that showed up this day, represent such a small percentage of the Seniors that make up our community and our lives. Over the past several years through the things I do, I have come to admire a few families in the Lansing area as they seem to embrace the older generations better than most. They go camping, bowling, out to eat, celebrate birthdays in groups of 30 to 40, travel to watch grandkids play soccer, baseball, softball or bowl. They go to the casinos and bailes together to keep everyone’s spirit young. You can see in the grandkids eyes the love and respect they have for their elders that sadly to other families is a thing of the past. Although those families don’t realize it, te quiero mucho.
Whether it was Sra. Licha Patino who each week gave me a kiss on the check and an embrace reminding me to keep paying attention to los jovenes because they need to know people care about them, or Sr. Juan Mendez who constantly encouraged me to keep focused on young people as one day, they might leave the Church. Or Sr. Bobillo who was willing to tell the Church community that Sein might be young, but he is a leader as if he were my campaign manager. And actually, for a Church council election, he was my manager and thanks to him, I won. They were just three of the biggest supporters I had back in the Youth Ministry days of the 1980’s. They gave me love unconditionally. Kind of Christlike que no? I so miss them.
Fittingly, I have no clue on how to end this writing. I simply don’t want to see anything written about Senior Citizens that has an ending as their influence on me, and others has no end – off my soapbox