“If you’re not having fun, it’s your own damn fault” my grandfather proclaimed at his 80th birthday party when he was implored to make the obligatory toast. The large, exuberant crowd quieted, the adults raised their champagne flutes, and the great-grandchildren lifted their punch glasses. Clink, clink; take a drink. It was true. The party had been well-planned by my dad, his only living child and was very well-attended. Gramps was well-loved by many. It was a party for the record books, a true memory maker.

Gramps lived almost another 10 years. For most of his last decade he practiced what he proclaimed, he was having fun. He lived down in the Rio Grande Valley where he’d spent his entire life. There is a stretch of this valley that runs along the Gulf Coast. I had just turned 4 years old when we were riding out Hurricane Deborah together. Late that night, the power went out and by candle- light, he told me his story about surviving a hurricane that happened when he himself had just turned 4 years old.

Look up the 1916 Hurricane season; there it is. It is simply called #6. It’s dates range from Aug 12- Aug 20. Gramps was born on August 2, 1912. The storm made landfall on Padre Island on August 18. The winds were clocked at 135 mph. He and his mom and sister were there. They’d go there regularly with his step-dad to fish and they had fashioned a simple camp to shelter in. To avert disaster, they used a door and made a raft to stay afloat and ride out the storm. His step-dad had been out fishing. They never saw him again, but Gramps, his mom and little sister survived. And we survived that loud, dark night of Hurricane Deborah. We could not evacuate because my mom was in labor. She gave birth to my third brother during that hurricane.

I fondly recall Gramps gently revealing the story of his childhood storm. He recognized the teachable moment. He knew that carefully chosen words could comfort, entertain and inspire. I distinctly remember him giving the whole birthday party crowd his parting words of octogenarian wisdom; “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own damn fault.”

In loving memory of David Trevino Jr; August 2, 1912- April 5, 2002.

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