Mike East - Pater FamiliasSunday, June 21, 2009
When I first met Mike East back in 1959 at St. Ed’s High School, a Catholic boarding school in Austin, he was wearing a cowboy shirt, faded jeans, boots with spurs and a cowboy hat. Mike had blue eyes and one of them was slightly off so it was almost uncomfortable to look at him. He was very quiet and shy. When he spoke, his Spanish was far better than his English.
When I met him again at his South East Texas Santa Fe Ranch last week, Mike was still soft-spoken and shy. He was wearing beautiful spurs that had a comforting quiet jingle when he walked. Mike denied that he had been wearing spurs that first time around.
Watching the Patrón run his ranch was eye-opening for me and much more so in that we (my companion John Arnold and I were one year ahead of Mike) had the unusual invitation to visit and spend time with a most private man. We met his family, including his lovely companion Leticia who seemed to gently be the real behind-the-scenes patrón.
Watching Mike lose his quiet cool (he baby-talked in Spanish) with his 15-month old grandson Quintun I saw a bond that rapidly alerted me to Mike’s fatherly qualities. Those very qualities are celebrated, appropriately, today.
In a rare moment of candor Mike revealed that his father Tom had been very demanding with his only son. Mike had never received much credit for things done well but was constantly harangued by things done badly. I met Quintun’s father John and I noted how Mike treated him with gentle respect. I did not have to be told (Mike would have never mentioned it) how proud he was of his son. John will probably follow Mike’s footsteps. Mike’s other older son may not follow the family trade. When Mike told me this, he was neutral and hinted at no displeasure. Mike is giving his son room to find his own way. Any other father, including this one, would have lost his patience. Mike has that in spades and I am sure that the suffering inside would never rise to the surface.
I watched Mike with Leticia. It is a gentle and warm relationship. Quintun absolutely loves her. Lucky for him Leticia’s Spanish is perfect. She speaks to him only in Spanish. Some day he just might be observed by some classmate. His classmate might note the spurs, the cowboy hat and shirt and the faded jeans. He might note that his Spanish is better than his English. Quintum will grow to be a gentle man because he will have the example of his father and grandfather. The Patrón and a future patrón, John East, on this day from this far side of the Rio Grande, to me look as perfect as fathers can be.
Mike’s father Tom, lies in a burial ground-for-one, not far from Mike’s ranch house. Tom East must surely be given some credit for making Mike the man, father and grandfather that he is today.