When I first thought about writing these stories it was over 20 years ago. My mom and I had often discussed the numerous and outlandish stories about living with my father. This blog is actually named after one of my favorite stories about my Dad, but I’ll save that one for a later date.
It’s probably time you were introduced to my Dad, Jose Alejandro Luna Peralta. Like many people in Mexico, he went by his middle name Alejandro. My Dad was born in Mexico City in 1945. The stories surrounding my father’s childhood have always been scarce. My dad would only recount stories that made him seem heroic or that were amusing, but in his eyes, there was an enormous amount of pain.
In 8th grade, I had to create a biography of our family for English class, and like a dutiful student, I interviewed everyone and especially my father. It began exactly like you’d think it would: a teenage kid asking his father questions about his youth. Not more than 20 minutes in my father broke down and ended the discussion. This was the only time my father spoke candidly about his youth. So let’s begin….
My father was born to Benjamin and Emma Luna. She was enormously beautiful and married my grandfather at a very young age. My father was the first male heir of his family and preceded his brother, Benjamin, by two years. At best they were a middle-class family. My grandmother was preoccupied with her beauty and my grandfather’s focus was on other women and his social appearance. It was never a happy marriage.
I believe that from a young age the concept of primogeniture was deeply driven into my Dad. He had the blessings and the burdens of being the first male son to both his parents. This imprint marked my father and everyone around him for his entire life.
Early in my father’s life, his parents divorced. This may not seem like a big deal but remember that this was Mexico in the 50’s. Although it was legal, divorce was a social and religious blight. Things from this point become hazier.
Without a way to provide for her family, my Grandmother Emma remarried quickly. For reasons unknown, Pedro Villalobos (her new husband) hated my father and my uncle. I can imagine that they represented the indignity of divorce and a failed marriage; furthermore, they were not his children.
Soon after moving in with their new step-father, my dad and uncle were relegated to the servants quarters. You can imagine the indignity of being treated like a lower human by your family. Of particular importance is the fact that my grandmother acquiesced to this insult and abuse. To the day my father died, he was terrified of mice or rats; he always explained that he was haunted by the diseased rodents that tortured him when he was forced to live in maids rooms.
Sometime around the age of 14, Sr. Villalobos kicked my father and my uncle out of the house to fend for themselves. There are conflicting stories of how things actually developed, but this is what I know to be true. My father and his brother attended military school: they received a good elementary education and my father’s acumen for learning developed enormously. My father was a staggering 6’4″ and never lighter than 250 pounds. He was a mountain of a man: not athletically inclined but incredibly strong.
He often told stories of having to scramble for food, money and basic goods. I remember he would also tell the story about his brother and him riding a bike (my uncle peddling and my dad coasting on the back spokes) would come up behind an unsuspecting maid carrying bread from the market, my dad would pinch her butt and she’d drop the bread just as they passed. Grabbing the jettisoned bread, they would speed away. He always told this story with enormous delight. I remember my brother and I giggling at this story repeatedly.
These funny highlights masked a lifelong scar of abandonment and rejection. His father never worried for his two sons, choosing only to make sure he was dressed to the 9’s and he could chase women. His Mother rejected him and my uncle choosing to devote her time money and affection on the daughter from her new marriage. His grandmother was the only person that showed him kindness and familial affection.
Since that time, my father developed a sense of responsibility for his brother. Perhaps due to the harshness of his environment, my father became more of a father than a brother to my uncle. It was never a relationship of equals: it was a vertical relationship with my father at the top and there was never any room for discussion.
Incapable of affording a college education in Mexico, my dad moved to Israel. There he joined the army and thus affording him an education simultaneously. My dad used to tell me of living in a kibbutz and being a paratrooper. Although I never saw a degree, my dad’s profession was an industrial engineer.
I’m obviously glazing over lots of information, but it gives you some orientation as to how my Dad’s life moved drastically. When my father returned to Mexico, he went to work for Phillips and this is where he met my mother.
My mother was the director’s personal secretary. My father courted my mother aggressively and romantically. Six months later they were married. They were renting their first apartment together and waited almost four years to have kids. My brother came first, and true to form and my father’s constructs he has the exact same name as my father.
Due to his enormous business and social acumen, my father’s business took off. He had left Phillips and started his own company. I followed my brother just 18 months later, and by that time my father was getting really rich.
They built their first house in Las Aguilas, into which I was born. By the time my Dad was 35 he was responsible for an entire family, he was a multi-millionaire, he was supporting his mother and his brother. At the center of this exploding success was my parent’s marriage. Always difficult and seemingly happy.
Perhaps because of his horrible childhood, my father loved excess. He/we lived extremely well. He had a natural talent for refinement, appreciation and flawless taste.
The year that I turned 6 we moved to Los Angeles. The reason for the move has always been a bit muddled, the point is we moved. It was supposed to be for a year, it ended up being 35!
My Dad’s businesses were thriving and he was deep into the construction of our new house in Las Lomas. This house was to be the culmination of his dreams. Enormous, massive, expensive, lavish, and packed with the most beautiful furnishings.
Life in LA was a challenge. No one quite knew what to make of the nice looking Mexican family in Palos Verdes. My brother and I had to integrate into American schools and my mom had to reinvent a new identity away from her family and everything that was familiar to her.
Things ran their course as well as possible until my maternal grandfather passed away. My mom’s Dad had for many years stepped in as a father figure with my Dad. Furthermore, he was my dad’s accountant and controller. He was a serious and intimidating man, except with my Mom.
With the help of my Grandfather, my father walked a narrow line and his businesses prospered. When he passed, my mother was devastated and my father lost control. His spending exploded. His family and employees embezzled rampantly. His family and marriage were mistreated.
The marriage and our family life became extremely difficult. Fortunately for us, my Dad preferred to travel and work in Mexico so there was less of him to see. But in the end, my parent’s marriage ended in divorce. Not a normal one mind you, War of the Roses type of divorce!
From High School on, my Dad rarely took an interest in what we did other than to criticize it. Like he had always done, he used money as his main way to control us. As time went by, my Dad’s financial situation declined. Making bad investment after bad investment, spending recklessly, having no one to guide or protect him (even from himself).
Although he remarried quickly after the initial divorce, that marriage was horrible. It was horrible to see from the outside. His new wife was his former secretary, a gold digger, and without a moral compass.
In the end, my Dad had almost nothing. He had spent his money and survived on debt. He had lost three families and was almost totally alone without friends or family. In some ways, his passing was a blessing.
All of this is to give you context. It is not a judgment. This is only exposition. I think that this very basic timeline will help give you a little understanding as to where he came from, why he did what he did, and how we ended up where we are. I implore you to remember that in the journey of our lives, our ships can be redirected by blessings and curses, that no one is just one thing, and that by truly knowing someone we can better understand ourselves.
Please enjoy our musical selection: Quiereme Mucho
This entry was posted on Monday, August 21st, 2017 at 6:19 pm
Posted in: Blog Stories