by Armando Peņa
It was always my sense that my Mom wanted us to build something together as a family, since we never really had a father. But one by one, we left home. There were seven of us boys growing up in a south Texas border town, without roots. Mom raised us alone, so we survived as farm workers, migrating from state to state to work the fields.
None of us knew what happened to our father, Pedro. By the time I was a baby, he was gone, like nothing more than an apparition. I'm not sure if he was here illegally, or if he came in under the bracero program during World War II. Our father could have been deported in Operation Wetback. Or it could have been something between him and mom. My family has always been full of secrets, and when Mom died, she took them with her.
All seven of us brothers are haunted by our memories of our childhood. We were outcasts. Our father was gone, and even our mother's family seemed to reject us. And maybe because of what happened to us, some of my brothers seem to have more failure than successes in life. More regrets.
I left south Texas long ago and made a new life for myself in Los Angeles. Now I have a family of my own. When Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, I brought her to L.A. with me for treatment. But she never made it back to Texas.
It's been six years now, and my brother Carlos and I have decided that it's about time to take her ashes back home to Texas. Carlos has come to L.A. to help me carry Mom's ashes home. He's the only one who stayed back in south Texas and looked after Mom.
We're taking the long route back to Texas, so we can visit our other brothers. We haven't seen them all since before Mom died. It was nothing for us to drive thousands of miles when we were migrants, harvesting the crops. But we were a complete family unit back then.