The Life of a Texan Father

The Texas Story Project.

What does it take to make an extraordinary human being? Surely, overcoming unprecedented struggles can help with this feat. Tales of hardship and survival are the tales that consume us and can bring a certain appreciation to a human being. When I first began looking for someone to interview, my first thought was to find someone who had been through a horrific episode in their life because I thought this would make my story interesting. After much deliberation I decided that perhaps this was not the best route for my story. I wanted to capture the simplicity of a Texan family. Who better to exemplify that than the head of household of a very extensive and unique family. This is the story of a Texan Father.

Around fifty five years ago, my father-in-law, Ray, was born in Harvard, Illinois to two migrant workers. It was often joked about, that his mother had him one day, and immediately went to the fields the following day with him in a sling. At the age of five, his parents and his 7 siblings moved to Texas to follow their work. It was in Texas that they decided to finally settle and let their family flourish. At this point, his mother and father worked in the fields for $1.65 an hour each and had barely enough to support the big family. At an early age, he and his siblings started to work to help make ends meet. This taught him to prioritize the things he needed versus the things he wanted. This prepared him for the struggles he was going to face when he reached fatherhood.

At the age of 17, Ray started his own family with a woman he would come to divorce in 2017. Together, they had 10 children ranging from ages 33 to 11. Ray describes the beginning of this fruitful relationship as difficult because he did not have stable employment. He started off doing sub-contractor work such as installing electric poles or connecting telephone wires, however, the consistency of these jobs varied. He then began working at the Baptist hospital downtown, as an HVAC tech but later began working at the University of the Incarnate word. It is here that he stayed working as an HVAC Tech for the past 25+ years, and continues to commit his time because he enjoys the work environment. Working at the University has allowed Ray to send each child to college with the benefits he receives as an employee. Having these employee benefits from the university helped alleviate the stress he had when the time came for higher education for his children. Being a stable employee also helped him economically, and he was able to provide a consistent income for his family.

Along the way, Ray’s life changed when he filed for divorce in 2016. Although the details involving the divorce are too long to recount, it was evident that he would struggle for the next 2 years. He had shared a life with a woman for 34 years, and that was going to be gone in a year. The divorce hit him hard, and he could not financially support the last 3 children on his own income. Ray, began doing what he calls, “side jobs”, including repairing and installing ACs and heaters, and repairing fridges or freezers.

Ray has exemplified what a great Texan father he is through his struggles. Despite his struggles, Ray persevered through them for himself and his family. He has also shown how committed Texans are when it comes to family, by doing everything he can to make sure his children had the opportunities he was not able to have. When asked, “What is your favorite memory about Texas”?, he first replied with, “Going down to the coast with the family,” but later changed his answer to “Watching my kids grow up”. Ray was born in Illinois, but became a Texan by nature.

My name is Efrain Garcia De La Cruz. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona to a single immigrant mother. I was born second to my sister who is two years older. My life was shaped by watching a hardworking woman dedicate her life to making sure her children had everything they needed to succeed. Times were rough during my childhood. Thankfully I never lived in the streets, however, for a very long time we resided in “projects.” When I was around eight years old my mother met the man who she would come to be with until this very day. Things did get better; however, my new stepdad was also an immigrant making it very hard to hold a stable job. Out of this relationship came my little brother who is my motivation and my light. I was 11 when he was born so my sister and I basically raised him while our parents worked multiple shifts. Aside from not having all the luxuries possible, we lived an humble and adequate lifestyle and always managed to have food on the table and a roof over our head which are the only two necessities that I required in order to get to where I am today. My low-income status motivated me throughout middle school and high school in order to receive the best grades possible and acquire a scholarship. Thanks to my mom’s hard work and love of her children, I was able to become a first-generation college student. Now as I work towards my diploma, I look forward to graduating and taking care of her as she once did for me.

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