Thomas Garcia: Remembering an uncle, friend, good man

Thomas Garcia

By Thomas Garcia

QCS Columnist

Last week my family and I said “until next time” to my uncle Steve Garcia as we laid him to rest on a cold Saturday morning.
While it was a very somber moment, we were reminded to celebrate his life, remember the good man he was and how he touched our lives.

My uncle worked in the Nara Visa Truck Terminal when I was growing up; it was next door to the diner my dad worked at for many years.

Growing up I would always see my uncle behind the counter, stocking shelves or working on the pumps at the truck terminal. He believed in hard work and put in more than his fair share each day, much like my dad. The two shared more than a last name; they shared a strong moral code and strong work ethic, that can be said about all of their brothers and sisters as well.

I would venture next door to listen to him talk with customers, locals and family as they came into the truck terminal. Some of the conversations were “grown up talk” so I was told go back to the diner or dismissed from the room. We all went through this when we were young but as we got older we were allowed to listen and take part in the conversation.

One thing I always enjoyed was hearing my uncle laugh; he took his work seriously but he enjoyed a good laugh like the rest of us.

One time in particular comes to mind. I am sure Dad will throttle me the next time he sees me for telling this story — but I’m willing to take the chance.

During the week, my dad would make a bread run from Nara Visa to Logan. He would meet the Rainbow Bread truck and pick up the hamburger buns and loafs of toast needed for the diner.

Dad was about to leave with my cousin Gene Lujan, the morning dishwasher, who at times would go with my dad to pick up the bread. I was in the station playing the arcade game, in fact, if you ask my dad, he would tell you I played more games than I washed dishes over the years.

My dad pulled the truck around to the front of the truck terminal to get some air in the tire that was low. He sent Gene in to get the tire gauge from my uncle to see just how much air he needed to put in the tire. However, Gene came out of the truck terminal with a tire buddy instead. For those who don’t know a tire buddy is a type of club that truck drivers used to hit their tires with to check their condition.

This of course was not what my dad had asked for and he asked Gene “how am I supposed to check the air pressure with this?”

Dad instructed Gene to go get the tire gage so they can hurry up and get on the road. If you know or worked with my dad, then you know he was in a hurry to get things done. He had to rush to finish a task to get on to the next one.

My uncle and I watched as Gene walked to the diner to get a tire gauge that my dad had in the back room. This brought about the first smirk from my uncle because he had a tire gauge behind the counter for Gene to get rather than make the longer trip.

Dad came into the truck terminal looking around for Gene and got the tire gauge from my uncle. Shortly after filling the tire with air, my dad drove around the building to pick up Gene whom he thought would be at the back of the dinner looking for a tire gauge.

That was not the case though, as my dad drove around the building Gene walked out of the front of the dinner only to see that my dad was no longer there. Gene looked in at my uncle and shrugged his shoulders in confusion. My uncle motioned to Gene that my dad had gone around to the back.

Gene waved and proceeded to walk around to the back of the building, just at the same time my dad had driven back around to the front looking for him. Lets just say that my dad was fit to be tied at that moment.

Dad parked the truck and went inside of the restaurant to get Gene and finally leave, as he cleared the doorway, Gene emerged from the hallway between the two buildings and got into the truck.

Gene was in the truck for about three minutes before my dad came out and saw him sitting there. My dad exclaimed “where have you been?! I’ve been ready to go for 10 minutes!”

By this time my uncle was laughing to hard he had tears in his eyes. As my dad got into the truck and sped off my uncle picked up the phone and called Ted Chacon, a family friend who worked at the Port of Entry up the road.

My uncle laughed as he explained what had just transpired and as he drew near the conclusion of the story his laughter picked up as I heard him say. “They had played ring around the roses and missed each other so many time that I didn’t have to heart to flag Ralph (my dad) down and ask him for my tire gauge back.”

Later that evening I overheard my dad and uncle talking about the incident and laughing at what had happened. As my dad vented his frustration of driving around the building my uncle would chime in, saying, “Every time you went around Ralph, Gene would pop right out looking for you. I kept thinking if this went on any longer you all were going to put a rut around the building.”

I watched for a bit as the two of them laughed and then returned to the arcade game.

Looking back, I was concerned more about beating the game and getting the high score then enjoying and taking in two brothers enjoying a good laugh.

Nowadays, I take the time to enjoy the time I spend with family and friends, be it for a reunion or a simple trip to town.

I hope my uncle Steve knows just how much I loved him and how much it meant having him next door for all those years. He gave me my first pinch of Red Man chewing tobacco that helped me choose not to take up dipping, left an occasional quarter on the arcade machines, always saved me a square for the Super Bowl and World Series and he’d cover for me when my dad called to see if I was there playing the games instead of working.

I look forward to the day when we can once again talk about family, football and stories about you, my dad and my uncles and aunts growing up.

Thomas Garcia is a senior writer at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at

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