Anna Toto Castillo was the mother of my maternal grandfather
Ana Toro Castillo
By: Carmen Schultz
I wish I knew more about my ancestry from my Father’s side of the family but they all lived in South America. The three I ever met did come a couple times to visit for a few weeks. They were my grandmother Castillo, my father’s cousin, Father Francis who both spoke only Spanish and my uncle, Father Louis who spoke some English. When I was very young, I believe my grandmother and uncle Louis had some contact with us especially down in Brownsville. I don’t know this personally, but I’ve seen pictures of us together back then. I also remember my parents talking about my Uncle Louis being the pastor of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is where Duane and I later got married. Naturally my grandmother who was always with my Uncle Louis would have been the housekeeper or hostess to anything dealing with the church’s’ activities.
The Castillo’s were a very religious Catholic family originating from Spain and later settling in South America. They were very staunch in their beliefs. They did quite a bit of missionary work that took them down into the jungles of South America and they lived with the natives for long spans at a time, months, sometimes years teaching them and bringing them The Word. Their actual home was in Caracas, Venezuela in South America where most of the family lived including many, many aunts, uncles and cousins to my father. I know that Father Francis, Father Louis and my Dad were raised like brothers by a favorite aunt, (Father Francis’ mother). I believe Grandma Castillo was busy most of the time with missionary work and church things. The few times that I met her, she really didn’t seem use to children, especially me. I also know that as very young children, Dad and uncle Louis worked on the streets doing odds and ends helping to bring in money to the family. They were extremely poor for many years until they got old enough to get good jobs to help with the family finances.
The next time I recall seeing my grandmother and uncle Louis was for a few weeks one summer when I was about ten or eleven years old, in Fenton, Mi. I remember the time in Fenton because it involved my life somewhat. I wasn’t really impressed with Grandmother Castillo, at the time, as I had to change the way I was during her stay with us. I was a tomboy and I liked being a tomboy! To me, back than I felt Tomboys had more fun than plain old fancy pants girls. I liked dressing in jeans, wearing my fathers white button down shirts which were far too big for me but were the style then and running around bare foot most of the time. Some of my favorite pass times were climbing trees and hide and seek, although playing sports, (usually baseball) came in a close third and I was good at all these things which made me feel special. This was me! I liked being me! When grandma Castillo came to visit, I had to change so I felt it unfair that someone, (to me a bit of a stranger), was allowed to come in and turn my life upside down and try to change who I was.
I really had a hard time associating the image I had developed of her as a daring, adventurous person hiking into the deep dangerous jungles of South America and living with the natives, with this Grandma Castillo. She was actually a tiny lady, who wore spiked high heels, had her hair done twice a week, dressed perfectly and had unmovable ideas about how GIRLS should act and dress. I didn’t fit the mold she had for me but, neither did she fit my mold of an Indiana Jones type. I was looking forward to this adventurous grandmother who had no fears and what I got was this very small person who was somewhat prissy. She left Bud alone but me, she decided to improve upon. To appease her, Mom and Dad allowed her quite a bit of lee way and made me wear dresses and stay home with her much of the time learning to darn socks, mend clothes or some other stupid thing she’d think up to make a silk purse out of a sows ear. Ug!!! I couldn’t be me and for this I resented her. I didn’t understand her language though I tried but I thought she didn’t like me the way I was and wanted to make me something different too so we were even. Naturally being the sweet, loving child that I was, I fought her all the way. She was used to having things her own way with her sons, and now my own mother, was spoiling her too or so I felt. Of course part of it could be the fact that I was used to being the person spoiled and she was usurping my spot. So you see, we didn’t have much in common or maybe we did (the spoiled bit). I’ll give her this though, she sure could make you laugh at times, usually not on purpose and mostly with a little help from me. It was fun pulling tricks on her, than watching her as she’d start rattling off the Spanish and jumping around upset by some antic that I decided to pull. I’d get into all sorts of trouble for upsetting her but I felt it a worthwhile pass time none the less. You know, after sitting back and reading this, I realize I have a granddaughter, Desiree, who used to act just like I did at the time. No wonder we got along so well. We were two peas in a pod!
When both grandmothers were there, we were told to call Grandma Castillo, little grandma and my favorite Grandmother Lyon, big grandma. This upset me as I felt it was hurting my favorite grandmother Lyons feelings. It wasn’t her fault that grandma Lyons was a large beautiful lady and this stranger grandmother was so tiny and always on stilt shoes.
I can remember one day my dad, who was usually a fairly serious person, pulling a trick on my grandmother Castillo. He fixed up a speaker on the backside of our toilet. When Grandma went into the bathroom, and after believing he had given her enough time to be seated comfortably, he spoke in Spanish and said, “Lady would you please move over; we’re working down here”. Grandma Castillo slammed out of that bathroom so fast you couldn’t believe how fast an old lady could travel. I know he had heard this on radio or something before he decided to try it out himself but it was really great seeing it in action on Grandma Castillo. It sure changed my outlook on Dad. It raised him up a couple notches as far as I was concerned. I thought my Mom and Grandma Lyons were the only ones that could be fun and silly.
I should have given my Grandmother Castillo more credit than I did and more love and understanding too, but at the time I was very young and she was affecting my immediate world in (I felt) a negative way. When I got older, I realized she had raised three sons, one of them MY FATHER, by herself in a time and place where this was a most difficult chore. It is no wonder that her sons wanted to pay her back in their own way. I guess at the time, I just didn’t want to be part of the pay back. Now, I would gladly do so, but this is just one of those (I wish I had done things differently) times that you just have to live with and forgive yourself for.
Grandma Castillo, you’ve been gone many years now so I’m using this web site and this article as my way of saying, “I’m sorry for having been such a rotten kid”. I know now, I should have been more considerate of your ways and your feelings. I can better understand you now and though you may not have been a fun grandmother or a loving grandmother like my Grandma Lyon, I really should have treated you better and given you a chance to be the person you were. After all, you were a part of our lineage and a great part of who we are today. Grandma Castillo, I am sorry for having been that obstinate, bratty sows ear instead of trying harder to be the silk purse you had hoped for, but dear old gram, some things just can’t be changed and one shouldn’t try.