Tricia Goetschius Fuentes
You haven’t heard of Saint Bob? Most people haven’t. Bob isn’t really a saint, at least not in the canonized sense. He isn’t the typical religious type. Let me take this time to introduce you to a few of his least-holy qualities. He began smoking cigarettes at the age of fourteen. He didn’t quit until his late fifties, after losing his sister to cancer. He understood the cruel power of addiction. Though usually patient and kind, when he lost his temper, it was explosive. No one could string together a longer sentence of cuss words than Bob. He preferred cussing in Spanish, which he learned from his father-in-law. To his ears, Spanish made everything sound prettier, even obscenities. This temper combined with his fierce protectiveness bore the creation of the attitude adjuster. The attitude adjuster came into being when he taught his second daughter to drive. It was a crowbar, which he kept in his trunk. Meant to threaten anyone who honked, yelled at, or otherwise intimidated his daughter, the attitude adjuster never made it out of the trunk. In reality, he wouldn’t hurt a soul, but his children knew he always had their back.
Bob was also a quiet and humble man who brought love and joy to so many. He sometimes battled depression and a general feeling of insecurity. Lack of control greatly upset him, and he was surrounded by uncontrollable beings. Seven, to be exact. Bob and his wife, Eyda, had six kids of their own and their youngest niece was, in every important respect, also their daughter. Seven kids, two dogs, and one cat in a three-bedroom rambler. Bob’s home was never quiet, though it was certainly humble.
Today, like every day, Bob wakes early. While the rambler still sleeps, he takes his first shower of the day. Refreshed and bedecked in his worn robe, he heads to the kitchen and clears the counters of yesterday’s dishes. He makes room for his assembly line of school lunches. He digs out the yellow Steno-pad from his junk drawer and examines the orders he scribbled last night:
1 turkey with pickled jalapeños (Nora Jean)
1 turkey and swiss cheese (Tricia)
1 roast beef (Jacob)
3 egg salad (Tami, Justin, and Antonia)
1 bagel with cream cheese and ham (Jenette)
He lays out seven paper bags and labels each with his kids’ names and a note written in his wife’s native tongue, “Papá te quiere mucho” (Dad loves you). He finishes with his signature cartoon drawing of a funny little guy with a face shaped kind of like a skinny hippo. The little guy wears a gigantic smile, sparse whiskers, and a single swirly strand of hair on the top of his head. Sometimes the guy waves and greets the reader with, “¡hola!”
With each lunch now assembled, he starts a pot of coffee. He then heads to the doors of the two bedrooms filled with children and gives his first wake-up call of the morning. Next, he gently taps on the door of his own bedroom to invite his wife, Eyda, to join him for their morning coffee. He hurries back to the kitchen to catch the first cup before the pot fills (he swears the coffee is stronger and tastier that way). He and Eyda enjoy their first sips in silence before the rambler fills with the morning sounds of the pack:
Arguments over the length of time spent in the one shared bathroom.
Spoons clinking in cereal bowls.
Pop Tarts toasting in the kitchen.
Morning cartoons playing in the living room.
Bob finishes his coffee while it is still hot then goes to his room to change. He dresses in his pressed jeans, polo shirt, and old brown shoes. His shoes are Rockport, the only brand that keeps his flat feet from aching too badly at the end of his long day. Bob’s flat feet prevented him from going to the Vietnam war, but they couldn’t save his friends from their fate. The weight of this memory makes his heart hurt all the way down to his feet, even with the Rockports. A crash from the kitchen brings him back to the present. He yells for all to put away their dishes and finish getting ready for school. Next, he heads outside to warm up the engine of Eyda’s Toyota and run the heater so his wife will stay warm on her way to work.
Bob’s kids pile into his Volkswagen Beetle, keeping the little car warm despite the broken heater. He asks if everyone has their lunches. He wonders which one of his kids forgot theirs today. This morning it is Jacob who runs back with Tricia (the one with the house key). In less than a minute they rush back, slamming the door behind them. Bob rolls down the window and yells at Tricia to go back and lock the slammed door. Finally, they speed to St. Matthew School where he drops off his kids as the bell rings. Hours after waking, he heads off to begin his work day.
Old-school Catholics cross themselves whenever they pass a church. “In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Bob was raised Baptist and he adores his Catholic wife. He doesn’t consider himself particularly religious, or rather, he isn’t a zealous type, but he is a man of faith. He is plenty irreverent. He loves to tease his reverent wife and make his kids laugh by finding the sleaziest televangelist on TV and turning the volume all the way up. He yells, “Praise the Lord and pass the buck!”
Bob can also be reverent. His favorite part of the bible is the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
…and so on. Though he doesn’t fully trust organized religion, Bob admires the strong faith of his Baptist mother and of his Catholic wife. Driving southbound on I-5, he crosses himself as he passes Blessed Sacrament Church to his left. “En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espiritu Santo.” Then he turns up the volume to his radio. KJR is playing his favorite CCR song.
He exits on NE 50th Street and heads two miles west to the southbound Hwy 99 on-ramp. It is arguable as to whether this route saves him any time versus staying on I-5, but at least the view is better. As soon as he reaches the Alaskan Way viaduct, he feels something strange in his chest. It is as if his heart rate dramatically increases and decreases at the same time. He can’t properly explain it. Crossing the viaduct takes him from one part of his world to the other. He leaves behind his home, his wife, and his seven children, and drives towards St. Martin de Porres Shelter. There he oversees the welfare of hundreds of older homeless men. As he approaches the start of the viaduct, he momentarily panics at the realization that he is responsible for so many people. He wonders how long he can keep it together. Then he reaches the moment where he soars above it all.
The Alaskan Way viaduct is not much to look at. It is a monstrous elevated road through Downtown Seattle. It is nearly 1.5 miles of utilitarian greenish-grey concrete and it towers over Seattle’s waterfront. But in that 1.5-mile stretch, drivers are treated to the most beautiful view of God’s glory.
Bob’s orange Volkswagen Beetle crosses the viaduct twice per day. During these moments it is just him, the water, and the sky. He reaches the shelter and gives his all. He receives several calls from his kids, wondering what time he’ll be home tonight. He goes back home and gives his all. His pager beeps with his work number, indicating some level of emergency. There are moments when he thinks it is all too much. There are days he loses his temper, yells at his rowdy kids, then feels deeply guilty. His Catholic wife reminds him that some of the greatest saints had moments of despair. She kisses each of her kids on the cheek and sends them to bed. Bob grabs his yellow Steno-pad and calls them back. He asks, “What kind of sandwich would you like for your lunches tomorrow?”
The Alaskan Way viaduct was torn down not long after Bob died. I’d like to think it is not a coincidence. I cross myself when I pass the space where it used to be. “En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espiritu Santo.”