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“During the summer we went with my mom. My uncle was a fruit tramp, had a house in Los Banos, and there were times we stayed with him. In fact, my uncle Carlos, my mom, and my grandfather, I remember all of us staying there at the same time.”

“What was the day like? What time would your mom go to work?”

“Sometimes as early as six o’clock in the morning, depending if it was in the rush of the season. When it was going full bore, 16 hours a day. We were told what we could do and what we couldn’t do, and that’s just how it was. I’m not saying we didn’t screw up, but we didn’t screw up major. My mom was not someone you crossed.”

“What would your mom do after work? Would she come home, visit people, go out?”

“I remember, on Friday nights, we’d go out to a movie and then eat Chinese food. We always walked to the theater, and from there we’d walk over to the restaurant.”

“When did it stop, the traveling with Mom?”

“When I left home,” wistful, appealing laugh. “My family is very traditional, old tradition. If I went and did anything it was either with my mother or my brother or I had family there. I was never unchaperoned. I was always watched over. My cousin, the same thing. My cousin and I, when we first started going to dances, our mothers went with us. And the boys asked the mothers if they could dance with us, we were never asked. It never seemed unusual to me; I was just glad to go to the dance.

“I never had a pair of jeans until I moved away from home. Before I turned 16, dating age, my mom took me over to my grandfather’s house. We sat down on the front porch, and he told me the do’s and don’ts. About boys and what they could and couldn’t do, what races I could and couldn’t go out with. To this day I follow his advice. I call him Daddy.”

The television is turned on again, I hear a child’s sigh. “When did you leave home?”

“My mother gave me an ultimatum when I was 18: ‘Quit your job, stay home, and do as you’re told or leave.’ I was becoming too independent to be living at home, and it bothered my mother. She was fair. I knew I needed to leave.”

Patricia brushes past us on her way to the kitchen, retrieves another pop, some ice, fills a glass; a telephone rings. “Your mom and dad divorced before you were born. Did he stay in contact with you?”

“My dad was always in contact with us, gave my mother child support. Theirs was an extreme love-hate relationship. It’s amazing, they would fight with each other, but you could tell even in that moment, there was so much passion in it that it was unreal. They really loved each other, but they couldn’t get along.”

“Would they scream and yell?”

“My mom would yell. My dad would just be stern and keep talking, but she always had the upper hand. ‘Kids, let’s go,’ and it was over.”

“So if you were visiting him in L.A. and they started to fight, she would pull the plug?”

“She had a knack of control. He, to this day, is very, very traditional. When he comes over here, spends three days, he gets up, his coffee has to be ready. I fix his breakfast. I don’t think the man knows how to use a frying pan. He sits down and I take him what he wants — that’s just how it is. My mother didn’t mind doing that, but at the same time she wanted some voice in what was going on. The reason for the breakup, he was having an affair. In Mexico it’s no big deal for a family man to have another woman in another house, and the wife doesn’t say anything about it. But my mom said, ‘I’ll be damned…’

“Are you married?”

“I’ve been married twice. My first husband was Anthony, my high-school sweetheart. I still love the man; he’s a real super guy. Anthony and I only fought one time, and then he left. We grew apart; he was and still is very much a hippie. He’s working on the Greenpeace ship now, deckhand. He loves to travel, but you can’t do that with a child.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“I was raised here. I was gone for 18 years — lived in Arizona, Nevada, but most of the time in the San Diego area. I always came back here to visit, this was always home.”

“When did you move back?”

“September 16, 1988.”

“Does your brother still live here?”

“He was killed in a car accident after he left the Planters bar. He was drunk and didn’t want to drive, so he got a ride from somebody else, but he was too drunk to realize that this guy was too drunk too.”

“When was that?”

“My mom died when I was 28. He died five years later, February of ’83.”

I looked into clear brown eyes, aware now that Grace and I have arrived at the cliff. I am very ambivalent about jumping. I lean back in my chair. “Tell me how your mom died.”

“I had a premonition. I’ve always been very strong on premonitions. My mom knew about it. It’s a sixth sense. Three weeks before my mom passed away I had a premonition that someone was going to die, and because of the fact that Grandfather was the oldest, I thought it was going to be Grandfather.

“My mom was staying at my house. I was living in Oceanside; she was working at the Vega Packing Shed in Carlsbad, packing tomatoes. My mom and I were heading home from the store, and she said, ‘I wish I knew what it was like to die.’ I told her, ‘I know, I know what it’s like to die.’ My mom says, ‘What do you mean?’

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