UNSUNG AMERICAN SOLDIER SUCCUMBS TO CANCER
CANCER KO’S “BADDEST MAN” ON SIXTH ST!
San Francisco, CA- Long before I ever got the notion to cut hair professionally, my uncle Palamento Fernandez ran the San Francisco Barber College. Sans a formal education, Pal, as he was referred to by most, bought his way into a number of barber schools in California, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. In case you don’t know, Sixth St. in San Francisco is the polar opposite of Sixth Ave. in San Francisco. In the avenues, people live in luxury, on Sixth St. you are lucky to live in squaller. That was the 1970s and the only thing that has changed is that there are not a lot bums or winos anymore, no the Crack heads have now taken over.
UNCLE LOST A LOT IN THE MILITARY
My uncle was involved in the testing of Atomic bombs. Not realizing what radiation and the like would have on a soldier’s body, at least that’s what the US Navy claimed at the time and for many years to follow. That being said, he never really found happiness, to which I blame some of that on the US Navy that exposed him to enough radiation that the possibly best father of the Fernandez sons of Palamento Sr. and Alicia Fernandezees) was unable to have kids.
PAL SAW THE PARTIES & WERE AMAZED BY THE CHICKS!
I lived with him twice, once at 16 when my friends and I would bring chicks over to his house and play “spoons” for drinks. It was my best friend Hector Martinez, a two-time Golden Gloves champion and myself vs. the women. Our faster hands meant we won most of the games and the chicks had to do the drinking. One night Pal comes downstairs, one girl is down to bra and panties, the other had lost only her shirt, while Hector had his boxers on and a tee shirt, I sat there with only my briefs in this “Strip Poker” scenario. That was the only time he never uttered a word because of our wild parties. “Usually, it was turn down the music, etc.” Instead with all of us closer to being nude than dressed, Pal just looked, sort of chuckled, turned around and went back upstairs.
WATCHED HIM GO FROM BEING QUIET TO SILENCE!
While residing with him a few years ago, Dementia began to take hold of his life. Sometimes he would holler for naught. Ten minutes later, it was like it never happened and he’d grab and hug me. Seeing uncle Pal showed affection about as often as George Bush Jr. flashed brilliance, these I could see were trying and difficult moments for him. Although I tried my best to hide it, I cried because of his condition, just as I am writing this now. For it wasn’t the fact he was going to die, it was the realization that we were no longer going to Joe’s of Westlake or the Original Joe’s on Taylor St. in the city.
AND THEN THERE WERE THE GROCERY BILLS!
Little by little as his memory left him, I’d ask him each day, “How are you?” While this is commonly spoken among relatives and people you care for, his response of, “My head is getting sick.” To me this was some of the most heart wrenching of times with uncle Pal. Once my aunt Santa, or “Tootsie” like the candy roll said to me, “You’re eating a hell of a lot of food. We went through a lot of steaks in a week.” When she found out I was on a beef less diet, she was miffed as the grub was flying off the shelf! Then she came to find out that from the lady cooking for Pal that she had to cook two steaks each time she prepared lunch or early dinner for him. One steak for my uncle, and one “medium” steak for “his” dog Floppy.
DOG ATE FAR BETTER THAN I DID!
Shrimp, lamb chops, stew, it didn’t matter, there had to be enough for the dog with whom Pal had a great relationship and last saw (and recognized) on our final visit last week. Death affects different people differently. Some get over it and their grieving time is limited. I’m not one of those people as I dwell a lot about people that have died and left the big building that is planet earth. This one won’t be any different. Knowing the end was imminent, I took the dog running in the cemetery where my father and his father are buried. I then went to my grandma’s grave which is right alongside my uncle Johnny’s. I was an emotional mess in both places knowing the time for another Fernandez to pass was near.
YOU NEVER FORGET THAT “LAST” VISIT!
Last week, I fought back tears and he could see what was happening. Pal took his hand out from underneath the blanket, grabbed mine and told me loved me. I said to him, “You know who I am?” and he answered “Pete.” That was the highlight of my day, week, and month all in one! What was obvious to me was that the ticking of his clock was going to stop soon. Instead of going home, I drove to the park down the street and cried for a while. My uncle had his faults, but he never failed to show love even if it wasn’t in a verbal manner. He just wasn’t a great orator. Instead he was a fantastic son, uncle and brother, which in the end doesn’t compare to spoken words.
“BADDEST MAN” ON SIXTH ST. CONTINUED!
With a pistol, switchblade and a barber’s razor, uncle Pal was never robbed, this when robberies on Sixth St. were every day occurrences. Simply put, and the crooks in the neighborhood knew it, he was not the guy to mess with! My uncle will be entombed in the coming days. And in the coming years, hopefully Dementia and Cancer will be as well!