Me and my dad
My paternal Grandmother, Mary Camacho 1967
I wrote about pertinent experiences in my life that brought me to where I am today. Next I’d like to tell you about my spiritual upbringing, which is essential to understand the foundation of my gift. To do this, I must discuss my relationships with my paternal grandmother and my father. They are responsible for the best parts of me.
My grandmother was born in Hawaii on the Big Island. She and my grandfather came to California in 1959.
Grandma and Grandpa Camacho: Renewal of vows 1967, 50th wedding anniversary
August Camacho: My father in his early 20s
I was born in 1967 to her 4th child, August. My father, like my grandmother, is a gentle soul, very kind, loving, empathetic and accepting of all regardless of race, religion or station in life. We went to my grandmother’s house in Hayward every Sunday after church, with very few exceptions (I was raised Roman Catholic). I would play with my cousins, my aunties and uncles would talk and my grandmother would cook dinner. Sunday’s at my grandma’s were some of the best days of my childhood. I always loved my grandmother and felt very close to her. I spent my life emulating her and my father hoping that one day I would be as patient, loving and accepting as they were. I say this because, although I was a very quiet little girl, I had a wicked temper, and once I lost it, I was like a rabid wolverine. My grandmother and father were, in my mind, the only people who could calm me down. As a matter of fact, when they were around, you would never see me angry. They always seemed to see it coming and would come over and “nip it in the bud,” so to speak. I remember on many occasions my grandmother coming up behind me and by putting her hands on my shoulders and just standing there, I would feel a calmness wash over me and everything would be all right. I also remember, her coming to get me and asking me to “help her cook.” In these moments, I know there was something more going on, a communication, in hindsight, that can only be described as spiritual lessons that had taken root in my subconscious that have now moved to the conscious, encompassing mind, body and spirit.
1982 Grandma and Dad at my mother and father’s renewal of vows reception
My grandmother and me on my 1st birthday
I was unaware of this as a child, but my grandmother was a healer. She used to go to the homes of parishioners who were in crisis and needed some kind of help to pray for their well being. The sheer number of people at my grandmother’s funeral, spoke volumes to me. First, my quiet, petite and loving grandmother had a life outside of me and her family. Second, that she had touched the lives of what seemed to be every person in her community in such a way that inspired them to come and show their respect. There is power in unconditional love, compassion, empathy and prayer.
When I was at my grandmother’s house she would often come out into the living room when she had a minute and pray the rosary. I would see her sitting on the couch with her rosary praying, her lips moving as she said her prayers. I would come over and sit next to her, close my eyes and start moving my lips like her. I was very respectful; I knew we were praying, and though I had no idea what was being said, I could pretend I did. When she was done, she would always look at me and tell me I was “good.” I was a “good girl.” Her affirmation always put a smile on my face. When I was older, after my First Holy Communion, I knew my prayers, so I would sit with her and pray the rosary. When we were finished she would say, “You are good. You are a good girl.” I loved sitting with her and loved praying with her. I didn’t know it at the time, but those moments with her embodied my most important lessons. It gave me my foundation in faith, religion and spirituality.
Every traumatic experience I endured through my life was healed with faith and prayer. And although therapy also played a role in my healing, faith and prayer softened the epiphanic blows. Throughout my life, I’ve had debilitating panic attacks, unable to move and scared to death because I had no idea how long one would last. Fortunately, the more grounded I had become in my spirituality the less the attacks occur, until now, where I am free of such attacks.
Although I only prayed with my father while in church, my best childhood memories are with him. My father put nothing before his children and our mother. He worked at Mare Island Shipyard in Vallejo, CA. He commuted 45 miles from home to work before that was a requirement in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wanted us to grow up in a house, and Hayward was where he could afford to buy one. We had a 1/4-acre backyard, challenging to find in a city, even in 1966, and it was AWESOME! My father had a garden that he planted along the edge of our backyard. I would come out because I loved being with him. He would give me a trowel and show me how to plant the seeds. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, they make a shovel just my size!” I was so happy! On the weekends, I was either in the garden with him or sitting in the driveway while he changed the spark plugs, oil or brake pads on the car. I would sit there, with bated breath, waiting for him to ask me for a tool or to hand him his beer so he could take a sip. When the request came, I was on it! On the weekdays, when he came home from work, the second he sat on the couch, I sat right next to him. I would just sit there, waiting, waiting for dinner, waiting for bed, waiting for whatever was coming up next.
1987 Me and my younger brother, Augie (August) at his high school graduation
Approximately 1956: My mom, Judith, about 18 years old.
My brothers and I were not victims of corporal punishment, and 3 out of 4 of us were really good kids. Personally, I only remember one time when my father spanked me as a form of discipline and he didn’t do it by choice. My mom made him do it. I totally blew it! I was very small, maybe 5 years old; he had me by the left arm, and he started swatting my butt. I started laughing hysterically. He thought I was crying and said, “I’m sorry Laurene, but…(I have no idea what my transgression was.)” He looked at me and said, “Are you laughing?” I was laughing so hard I couldn’t answer him. I was laughing because he cupped his hand before he started swatting me, so all he was doing was fanning my derriere. I blew it because my laughing set my mom off! She didn’t just swat my butt; I got the belt. From then on, my mom did all the disciplining in our family. I must say, in my father’s defense, he is not an aggressive person; he is a loving, supportive man who treated his family with the utmost respect and kindness. As a matter of fact, he treated everyone in this manner. My father never hit me because he didn’t have to.
On the couple of occasions where I made a bad choice, my father would look at me with disappointment in his eyes. That’s all it took; I would go into my bedroom and cry, that was more than enough punishment for me. So I disappointed my father a few times but always made it a point to not do it again. I am not perfect, but I do the best I can to avoid transgressions and do no harm. In every way, my grandmother and father were/are my moral compasses. The older I got and the more independent I became, the harder the decisions before me. When I had a decision to make, any decision, I would think to myself, Would my dad be disappointed if I did this or didn’t do this? And if the answer was yes, I would respond appropriately. I never wanted to see that disappointing look again. I would also ask myself, What would my grandma do? How would she handle this? How would grandma whose nature could only be described as existence in a state of grace, approach this issue? And then I would try to emulate that. Then the day came when I no longer had to ask myself those questions; I just knew what the right thing to do was. I’m not perfect; I have made many mistakes in my life, but most of my mistakes involved hurting me, not others. Do no harm; this is a philosophy I work diligently at accomplishing. This quality comes from my grandmother and father.
I could write much more about religion in my upbringing, but I think the most important thing my family taught me, which has its foundations in religion and the bible, is to love and accept people unconditionally. Religion was not used as a vehicle to justify hate, ostracism or bigotry. I feel religion was given to us as a means to teach us how to be good to one another, how to accept everyone as well as love and appreciate them, not in spite of their differences but because of these differences.