mother elena comes to me

Well it’s been a bit, no apologies for the break here – it’s just been busy. Not too busy to keep journaling of course as I’m fast approaching 800 pages of thoughts that one day may be refined to make some sense of – then and only then worth sharing.

Perhaps worth sharing in something more formal than the blogosphere. No offense – these things just take work, and work takes time, and time takes away from tasks. Make time, someone I know would say. She’d be right about that…make it.

Today is Memorial Day. One of the foremost days of reverence that we celebrate collectively in these fine United States of America. It’s all the other days of the year that lead us to this day, that we should also be taking pause. I pray no soldier, sailor, airman or marine fall on this day, or any other day frankly – but especially while in service to our nation. Lest we not forget, that is what this day is all about. God bless every one of them.


The wall of service at my paternal grandparents house in Cibolo, Texas, Grandpa Daniel on top, dad underneath flanked by uncles and grandsons.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Time has proven this much to be true in life. And as my children grow older now, I think often about when this saga will end. I’m also hardened by the fact that it won’t. My only hope is that when and if their time may come, when and if liberty’s tree beckons to them –  that their shields be like the oak, their nerves, so many frozen leaves in the fall, and their roots – run deep and true.

We are not meant to bury our children, and even when the time comes do we feel that we are not meant to bury our parents either. The fact is, death is natural – but its raw experience … is anything but.

We lost mom a few weeks ago and rather than explain, I’ll let her obituary tell the story. In drafting, I couldn’t help but think of Professor Wernsman.  He taught me how to write an obit and in the end, always told us that he wished he didn’t have to be the one, but that we would remember him when the time comes. So, this one is for you Robert, you have no doubt looked her up by now for that dance …


Photo titled Pretty Lady on a Car taken on the road to Fort Pena by Joe M. Esparza for a photography course at Sul Ross University, Spring 1970

SAN ANTONIO – Elena Salmon Esparza passed away Wednesday, May 4, 2016 while undergoing open-heart surgery. She was 69.

Elena was born to Cande and Juan B. Salmon Jr. in Marathon, Texas, on February 19, 1947. A fighting Mustang alum, Elena attended Marathon Independent School District, graduating from Marathon High in 1966. She moved to San Antonio, where she attended Durham Business College, graduating in 1967 with a secretarial certificate. She immediately accepted a position with Texas Head Start, and moved back to West Texas settling in Fort Stockton. It was during this time she met Jose “Joe” Maria Esparza of Imperial, and the two were wed on June 22, 1968 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marathon. Elena long described Joe as her “Prince Charming,” the love of her life, and for 21 years they shared a love for each other, for their family and their friends.


June 22, 1968 – Marathon, Texas

They made their first home in the far stretches of West Texas in Big Bend National Park, where Joe was a park ranger. They often spoke fondly of their time in this majestic national park where for years to come they would return for vacations. Later, they moved to Alpine, Texas, where Joe completed a BA in Industrial Arts at Sul Ross University. Elena also often spoke of their home, the historic red brick and rock cottages of Smith and Marquis Halls for married students – the area now home of the Lobo Village Housing Complex. A few of the original brick cottages have remained for historic and aesthetic purposes. After graduation, Joe took a job teaching in El Paso and there the couple welcomed their first son in the spring of 1971. By 1973, the couple left El Paso for Gonzales and later Kingsville where they welcomed their second son in 1977. Joe had made a career move from teaching, to U.S. Civil Service, eventually settling in with the United States Department of Agriculture as an associate for the Agricultural Soil and Conservation Service. The family found themselves living next to the historic King Ranch in Kleberg County.


Circa 1969

Elena was fond of the large ranch gatherings during their time there. In the summer of 1979, Joe accepted a promotion to a USDA-ASCS County Executive Director’s position and relocated the family to the Permian Basin, closer to their ancestral home. The couple lived in Garden City and welcomed their third son in 1980. In her years there, Elena completed her associate’s degree from Howard Junior College in Big Spring and worked for the Glasscock County Entomology Office in the historic county courthouse for many years. The years in Garden City were the last the family would all spend together. By 1988, the couple accepted another transfer to Jim Wells County moving to Alice, where Elena continued furthering her education at Bee County College. In the late summer of 1989, Joe died tragically and suddenly. Elena moved back to San Antonio to raise the younger two of her sons in Schertz. She became a paralegal while there, attending classes at the University of Texas – San Antonio. Elena worked several jobs while her youngest two completed grade school, and then high school at Schertz Samuel Clemens – living directly across from the school.

At the time of her death, she was an employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety – Crime Records Division in Austin, where she commuted daily from San Antonio for 17 years. Elena served as a volunteer Election Judge for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office for over 30 years; traveling the state of Texas working polls as a judge and Spanish translator – she never missed an election. Elena was very close to her TxDPS family. Her reverence for country could only be matched by her love for service to the great state of Texas, that which she shared with thousands of TxDPS employees across the state.

Elena is survived by her siblings, three sons and seven grandchildren: Alicia Layne of Alpine; Camila Estrada of Cleveland, Ohio; Juan Salmon of Kermit, and Maria Teresa Salmon of San Antonio. Her sons and their families: Leah and John Daniel Esparza of Austin and their children – Jacob Pecos, Joshua Brazos and Jack Sabine; Danielle and Javier Esparza of Vancouver, Washington and their children – Jacen Jose, Amelia Kate, Anna Elena and Eli Michael Ronald; and Joseph Esparza of Austin.

Viewing and Rosary were held Sunday, May 8 at the Schertz Funeral Home. The Funeral Mass celebrated Monday, May 9 at Good Shepard Catholic Church, followed by interment at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Fr. Ed Pavlicek presided.

In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations be made to the Texas Department of Public Safety Foundation in memory of Elena Esparza, by designating her by name, either by mail or online, TXDPS, P.O. Box 6178, San Antonio, Texas 78209, http://texasdpsfoundation.org/donate/.

The family wishes to thank all for the tremendous outpouring of overwhelming love and support.



The following are the remarks of the eulogy, although deviated from slightly, were delivered on May 7, 2016 at Good Shepard Catholic Church:

Good morning and welcome to the Esparza Family Reunion – on behalf of Leah and I, my brothers and immediate family – thanks for coming here today and helping us celebrate the life of our mother.

My Godfather called a few days ago and reminded us that days like this – as full of sadness as they start – they do become reunions.

Ya’ll know what happens at reunions right – no it’s ok, it’s a Catholic Church – we’ve already had our wine and father says there is always confession right over there.

Well, besides that – We ate a lot at our reunions, I’m ok with that – in fact, I expect mom who was almost always in charge of making the beans and rice at all these things – to come in – waving her wooden spoon saying, “yoo hoo – It’s getting cold!”


When my kids were young, they started calling her “Nana” – and shocking to me – she allowed for that…me and my brothers affectionately referred to her as “the tortilla factory.”

You know I would hear things… my mom would say to my boys… and would have to sit them down after she would leave to explain to them – that I have no earthly idea who that lady was that just left … being all sweet – but that was not the same lady that raised me and your uncles I assure you.

I could see the gears turning in their little heads – “why is dad always telling us how hard he had it and how mean Nana was? … I don’t get it.”

See I had to explain to them that Nana is getting up there … and she’s trying to get into heaven now – that’s not the same lady boys. I’m telling you – trust me…

Truly – it has been one of her greatest gifts to me and my brothers – to witness her enjoying her grandkids…and only recently, all of her grandkids together for the first time… In fact – just this past summer for what we couldn’t know then, but would be the last time too.

69 years on this earth, and she got all seven of her grandkids in the same place for mere hours – And I had never seen her riding such a cloud – we are reminded just how fragile life is aren’t we.


I was reminded of that when I was in her apartment on Friday and saw one clock set to the central time zone … and another set to the pacific time zone, where her other grandkids lived – those of you that work with her already know that, because she did the same thing with her office clocks – now THATS how mom loved.

You would never hear the words LOVE coming from mom – but these little guys sure did from NANA – and we all darn sure got it in big doses whether we wanted it or not…just in her way…


I’m going to say just a few words as we are on Fort Sam Houston time… and besides ….she wouldn’t have wanted me to linger up here making a fuss … in fact we all know she would have tried to “sush” me by now … you know how she was – such a passive personality – never spoke her mind or anything.

She sure had her way of getting ones attention – didn’t she?

Let me think back…A shoe, hairbrush, spatula, flyswatter, serving spoon, deck of cards…box of cake mix … as kids we learned…that before we delivered bad news to mom…we had darn sure better take pretty good inventory of what was in her arms reach around the room …and then of course take the appropriate defensive positions.

Now she may have stood about five foot-half inch – but the woman had a seven-foot wingspan and could crush walnuts between her fingers if she got a hand on you and if she couldn’t – she was deadly accurate with that right hand cannon let me tell you…

Oh I wise up quick … started bringing friends with me when my spidey sense started going off – thinking that company might restrain her – Dalton, Cody, even my cousins – I see you out there… you guys can attest.

You see even THEY quickly realized … that if a spatula grazed off the side of my head and hit you … with even a glancing blow?   – it was still gonna sting something awful –

…and Dalton and I used to regularly engage in BB gun wars with each other – how we still have working eyes in our sockets is beyond me. My gosh, we are lucky she never learned to take up shooting those things.

Yeah she never liked a fuss – but man did she ever make a fuss over all of us, in her own way…


26 years ago I stood before so many of you, over at the old church and at Fort Sam as we said farewell to dad.

The world’s not been the same nor ever will it.

We all had to find a new normal.

It won’t surprise you to know how mom took her new normal on. And I mean by the throat and with plenty of conviction.

I was 18, and had actually left home just a year before. My brother Jav was 12 and in middle school and my youngest brother Joseph was 8.

As sons and daughters we are meant to bury our parents – but just not too soon as kids and certainly not the other way around.

So mom, still young, always beautiful…took stock, saw she had plenty of work ahead with these guys – and started hoeing her row.

My brothers were grade school age – soon junior high, then onto high school —– mom took up an apartment on the second floor just up the road here and across the street from Samuel Clemens High. And I always found it odd, that I had some really unexpectedly happy memories there myself.

It was there I would return “home” from college over the holidays and take up residence on the living room couch… my brothers sharing a bedroom… and mom in hers.

Despite mother’s firm warnings, I would drive late at night.  I can now admit – that it was really only because she forbade it….

In those days …that’s how mom and I always were …always circling each other.

…and Major Norloh, if the statute of limitation has expired – I’ll say another good reason was I MAY or MAY NOT have ALWAYS HAD current inspection OR registration – I was always strapped for cash so… now if that has not expired – I did NOT just say that ok?

But I can’t tell you how many times I must have strolled in around 1 or 2 am – oblivious that I was causing mom to wait up and worry…

I know that now – I have teenagers…

After strolling in – at wee hours… I would just be settling into that big comfy couch she had… and would slowly waken to the ruffling of canvas, the smell of lemon and lavender …and the strange metallic gushing of what I would soon figure out to be steam blasting through stainless steal…

And there she would be.  In the doorway of the bathroom using only closet light for bearings as to not disturb me – working her third job.

Ironing shirts at 4 in the morning for the attorneys she paralegaled for during the day.

She’d light out by 6AM head to her day job and by 5PM, she would head over to Garden Ridge where she had a job there toll painting.

She’d come rolling in around 10 or 11 at night – get up at 4 and do it all over again – I had no idea until I came home that first break – just how hard she was working, but I was not surprised and got used to it as it became such common place. I just expected that’s what we all had to look forward to when we grew up.

And as for weekends and holidays – let’s not forget her 4th job cleaning houses. Man she just hustled non-stop.

4 jobs – three kids.  That was mom. You just weren’t going to put her in a corner – no way – no how.

Us boys – we learned so much – we had no idea. But she made us into visual learners – Mom taught us by how she lived…how she lead…she reminds us of that now in her death.

Always quick to put cash in your hand or make sure the pantry was full and the lights came on. Never once…not once, making any of us feel guilty about that.

That’s who she was – fearless, protective, yes – stubborn, my gosh wasn’t she stubborn!?

I can say that now —- cause —- no brushes or spatulas are around anymore!

Those of you that worked with her at DPS can say – Strong willed. Extremely dedicated. Hard working. Loyal forever.

All also correct – again, she taught us all – by how she lived. And she…did…live.

And a few days ago – Joseph and I were with her when she passed, her sister Maria T, Aunt Bodie, Aunt Linda – the disbelief …

The way I see it, she knew she had to fix her heart – although in many ways broken for more than 26 years.

On one hand, she knew if she were to just make it out – as we all clearly were expecting her to do… She’d tame the pain – and would have more time with her grand kids, her family – her DPS family, her friends, the church and beloved choir…

And on the other … she knew what awaited her– not just the everlasting, but the love of her life – patiently waiting.

Folks, either way she was good and she new it…I find an INCREDIBLE amount of peace in that fact.

And you know what, we all want to get there with her. Eventually. We just don’t want to die to do it. Death is a strange thing is it not?

I say this to my boys every time we lose a goldfish, a hamster, our family dog soon… and to my sons directly, I am so sorry boys … but there will be more.

What does dad always say boys – dying… is just a part of living.

One day we all do our part – just make sure you make YOUR mark on this world – as your Nana surely did – she did.


When the surgery was originally scheduled for Tuesday – the surgeon said…we should be able to take her home on Saturday – home before Mothers Day he said.

Then we had to push to Wednesday…and we said well – that’s ok – if all goes well, you’ll get to go home on Mothers Day – that will be nice.

As it turns out … things didn’t go as expected, they often never do … but mother…she made it home after all.



1 Response to “mother elena comes to me”

  1. 1 Linda Seidenberger Reeh
    May 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Wow, that is just awesome. You have so honored your Mom. I am sure she was/IS so proud of you & all of her family. I am, too. God bless.

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