Our close friends Tom & Christine and Ryan & Laura lost their grandfather Tomás today. He was 85 years old. An ESL teacher. A World War II veteran (351st Bomb Group, 510th Bombardment Squadron, stationed in Polebrook, England between 1943 and 1945). He was a father of 5. Grandfather of many more. An avid historian. And a friend.
Tomás Nomás (front row, second from right), in front of his WWII plane "My Devotion." (c.1943-45)
I remember when Tom, Christine and I first moved down to Southern California from the Bay Area, Grandpa Tomás (also known as "Tomás Nomás" because he didn't have a middle name) welcomed us into his home many a time and fed us some really great meals. Although the food was simple steaks, corn on the cob, salad, cherry pie, beer they were always amazing (especially considering that we were all broke at the time).
There was a price tag, of course, which was to listen to war stories that we pretended we hadn't heard before. Or listen to Tomás reading old documents he uncovered while researching his family tree (like the often hilarious last will and testament of an ancestor who wrote with painstaking detail which of his sons would receive which chicken, mule or cow on his farm). Looking back, the price tag was a bargain.
I remember attending several events sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, of which Tomás Nomás was a member. We went to the Santa Anita racetrack to watch the horse races. We also spent a memorable evening at a St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage dinner, where we were the only ones under age 65, it seemed.
I still have a certificate he awarded me, naming me a "Fellow of the Pod," in the International Connoisseurs of the Green and Red Chile. I received it for successfully tasting three varieties of chile pepper a feat our friend Tom (Tomás' own grandson) never even achieved. It's dated the 19th of July, 1992 and signed by fellow pod-members "Christine, Enchilada" and "Tomás, Queso Grande."
Even after I moved into my own apartment, I would still see Tomás periodically at family events or major holidays. New Year's Eve. Tom's graduation. Tom and Christine's wedding. Ryan's graduation (where Tim first had the opportunity to meet him). Ryan and Laura's wedding. And every time, Tomás greeted me (and subsequently Tim) with a smile, firm handshake and pleasant words.
And so in memory and honor of Tomás Nomás, I lift a glass and recite his favorite toast: Arriba ... Abajo ... al Centro ... Adentro!