Jornada del Muerto
Dr. Armando Luis Zumaya, MD
Armando Zumaya was born in the Mexican border town of Matamoros August 25th, 1955. He and his family emigrated to San Clemente when he was ten. He was always a bright, charming boy, who seemed intent on putting other people ahead of himself. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he also had a deep streak of arrogance. His brother and two sisters came to resent the attention he got, often at their expense. The family never had much money; both parents worked multiple jobs to feed themselves and their four children.
They shared the same goal as so many other immigrants: to give their children a better life than they received. All four Zumaya children graduated high school, something neither of their parents had done. But the family could only afford to send Armando to college, and even then only because of his scholarships. Seven years later Armando came back to San Clemente with a medical degree and opened a small solo practice in town.
He grew to become a popular and respected public figure, and his practice was successful and made him quite comfortable. By the time he and his wife Maria had the first of their three children in 1983, he was making enough money to support his entire family as well as his aging parents, who live with Armando still.
Armando is one of the highest-profile citizens of San Clemente who supports the expansion plan. He insists that without the influx of money and business that the plan represents, San Clemente will become another of the countless dying little towns that run up and down the American heartland. Sometimes, when he’s alone with his thoughts, he will admit to himself a certain idle contempt for the plan’s opponents, but not out of any personal dislike (indeed, he counts many of the plan’s opponents among his personal friends, and is one of the few people in town who can claim to genuinely enjoy the company of Dolly Smith). Rather, he feels that the opposition represents something that poisons this community and so many like it around the country. The fear of change, of challenge, of [u]growth[/u] is what repulses Armando. He sees it in the eyes of his brother and sisters, who work the same sort of jobs with the same sort of goals in the same sort of situation their parents did. He sees it in the beaten faces of the men and women who come to his practice, dying slow deaths of their own making rather than doing what it takes to better themselves.
Two years ago Armando began to feel pains in his stomach, radiating to his back and then beyond. He started losing weight. Other people didn’t notice — Armando had always been good at keeping people from figuring out when things were wrong with him. Discreetly, he took a trip out to Austin to see a doctor, who referred him to a specialist. Cancer, of the pancreas. At least, that’s where it started. The doctors he saw (and he got second and third and fourth opinions) gave him six months, then. A year at the outside.
People can tell, now, that the good Doctor is unwell. He deflects inquiries to his health with a chuckle and a shrug, insisting it’s just age that thins his frame, and slows his gait. His family, especially his wife, know there’s something more serious going on, but he insists even to them that it’s nothing for them to worry about. For the last year he’s quietly been setting his affairs in order, making sure that his family would be provided for, that his patients would not go untreated when he was gone.
He feels it coming. It’ll be any day now. He’s spending more time with his family, especially his children. He’s going to miss them, but he tells himself it’ll be alright. They’re taken care of. And when he looks back on his life, he feels a deep, satisfying pride. He did good, didn’t he? He took the life his parents gave him and he made something of it. Armando just wishes he was going to get to see his children do the same.