Tuberculosis took nearly ten years away from us. As a family we were falling apart and growing more distant. TB is a terrible disease. We thought the doctors had it under control, but it came back, she had a relapse and she was back in the ward.
I would come home from work and find an empty house, the front door wide open. They were all gone, Carlitos, Teresa, Xotchi, even Joe. He was only seven, and nobody knew where he was.
I worked in the Imperial Valley. Two hundred miles away Christi lay in her hospital bed at the Maryknoll Hospital in Monrovia.
Xotchl, Teresa, and Joe were even farther away in Port Hueneme with their Godparents.
That’s Christi on the left, her sister Catherine in the middle, and sister Emily. Carlitos, the Boy, was in Oxnard being raised by the sisters and their mother. Tuberculosis took nearly ten years away from the life of our family. It also took her lung. The surgery was a success but it left her with only one lung. The remaining lung was infected also but medication kept it under control.
This wasn’t good. It wasn’t right. I wanted my family back. I wanted the six of us to be a family again and I knew it wasn’t going to happen here in the Imperial Valley.
Oxnard had not changed much. It still had little to offer. There was work at the Naval Base. There was plenty of work in the fields. Truck driving was also a possibility. I was so miserable growing up there that I did not want to put my children through all the racism and prejudice that still lingered there.
I remembered the Bay Area. Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, University of San Francisco, Berkeley, Hayward State, University of the Pacific, UC Davis, University of Santa Clara were all within driving distance. San Jose also had a city college right there in town.
Lockheed, General Electric, Westinghouse, IBM, and many other companies were established there. I wanted to go up there and find out if the Bay Area was actually as good it sounded. I could not leave the kids alone again, so once again I packed them up and took them back to Oxnard. My wife’s sisters would take care of them while I went up North.
I was a machine designer. There was plenty of opportunities there for me and I finally found employment at Food Machinery Corporation. It later became known as FMC. They were famous for making farm machinery like tractors. One division made tanks for the military. They also made complicated machinery for processing food.
When you go to a restaurant for breakfast and open those little containers that hold jelly for your toast, I was one of the original designers of that machine. I also help design the machinery that the Post Office uses to process the mail. One of my last projects was involved in purifying sewage water to make it drinkable again.
Things happened pretty fast after this. Christi had an operation. The doctors removed her sickly lung. I went back to El Centro and sold our house. I went back to Oxnard and gathered my wife and children. She was still weak from the operation. We were a family again. Highway 101 North, and we were family again.