It’s hard to imagine condensing 68 years of a man’s life to a few minutes, but I have to try. We couldn’t let this time go without telling you some of what our dad meant to us. My mom and my brother, Steve, are giving me this privilege, but I know they share these sentiments.
At the turn of this century, a book soared to the top of the best seller lists. Its title gave premise to its content: All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Today, we offer a tribute based on a different truth, Much We Needed to Know We Learned from Robert Martinez.
Dad taught us resourcefulness. If we would ask a question, Dad’s response would always be the same. “Look it up.” He would say this even when 9 out of 10 times, he knew the right answer. As a child this was so frustrating. As an adult, we recognize the powerful lesson. Most of the time the information, the knowledge, the data is there or attainable, you just have to be willing to ‘look it up.’
Dad taught us integrity. Always tell the truth, independent of consequence. The truth will set you free. Not much to add here. Steve and I both learned at a young age — Dad was serious, and Dad was right.
Dad taught us humor. Frequently, he had everyone in the room laughing. Dad would have you stand up (or sit down) and offer the following challenge. “I will bet you that before I walk around you three times you will move. And, I promise I won’t touch you.” Never once did I see a person refuse. Clarify? Yes. Refuse? No. With the terms of the bet settled, Dad walked around once, twice, and then he proceeded to do something else – talk with another person, retrieve a drink from the refrigerator, the list goes on. The person standing/sitting would look puzzled. Then, he understood. Dad never intended on making that third trip. That person would move and those nearby would laugh.
Dad taught us innovation. He never stopped looking for a way to increase the efficiency, improve the process, or fill the gap. Dad’s mind was always at work. He held three US patents, but we know he could have had many more. He called his rigs, inventions, and ideas, “Mexican ingenuity.” There wasn’t anything he couldn’t build, fix, or invent to solve a problem. It’s one of his traits we admired the most, and he even carried it into our kitchen. He loved Mom’s cooking, but he could make barbecue ribs like no other. And, many times he felt the need to coach my mom on making hot sauce. Mom didn’t need coaching, he just wanted it hot. It was so hot. How hot was it? His hot sauce was so hot, my eyes would water before I finished climbing the stairs to their house, and he would break into a sweat with the first bite. He affectionately called the fiery substance, “Mexican ketchup,” so that I would try it. Then, in the next breath he would tell me that it would put hair on my chest. No thanks, Daddy. I’ll pass.
Dad taught us the value of education. Daddy never graduated from high school. As far as I know, it was one of his only regrets. Those that met never knew. Many thought that he had a graduate degree of some kind – not because he misrepresented himself, but because he was so smart. Plant managers consulted with Daddy before purchasing machines. He knew his craft. He knew it well. He wanted Steve and I both to be continuous learners, never missing the lesson in any given situation.
Dad defined work ethic. My dad never had a relationship with his father. My grandmother gave him away when he was five. He was raised by relatives between Michigan and Texas. He never once acted like a victim or used his circumstances from preventing him from doing his best. Growing up Steve and I knew, we would never work as hard as our dad. Dad held jobs as a migrant worker and a bowling pin set-up man (before there were machines). He sold tamales door-to-door, served in the military, and learned to operate screw machines. As a child, I remember many nights when he came home from work, ate dinner, then went out to the shed to fix lawnmowers for a landscape company down the street. Dad was always working on something – for us or for others.
Dad taught us patience. His favorite place for this lesson – the golf course. Dad bought me my first set of clubs when I was nine years old. He would spend hours in our backyard, coaching us on our swing, practicing the short shots around his makeshift green, and driving golf balls into the fields around our house. He loved that game. He would drive to Michigan to play with cousins, he would play in Florida, and eventually, he even taught Mom. At the time I was more interested in playing soccer with the kids down the street, but, now I recognize, even on the golf course, he was teaching me. Patience comes with practice and persistence, a valuable lesson for us all.
Dad was a man of quiet faith. His faith was his own. He didn’t speak about it much, but it was there. I was in 7th grade. My science teacher started talking about atoms. She wanted me to believe that there were a million of them on a line about an inch long drawn in the middle of the page. Seriously? You want me to believe there are a million little things sitting on the line, and now, you tell me they have distinct parts -protons, neutrons, and electrons. But, I can’t see them? Alrighty then. At that point I was convinced: her degree came out of a specially marked cereal box. I went home and presented my case to my dad. Dad, I’m not going to do my homework tonight, and I might end up failing this class. The rest of my grades are As, but I thought I should tell you now instead of waiting until the end of the grading period. He let me go on, and then he asked two questions. Sonia, do you believe in God? Of course! Have you ever seen Him? I said no and proceeded to do the assignment.
The following thoughts are from Christopher. The last month has been a whirlwind. Dad went into the hospital on December 16th. I would like to share Christopher’s words from the night after Daddy died. These words further demonstrate my dad’s quiet faith.
I got the privilege of being there with Robert, Faith, Steve and Sonia during his last few weeks here with us. I was in the hospital room with him at Community Hospital East and it was before his heart cath. The cardiologist painted a pretty tough picture about the probable results of the test and explained that open heart surgery was a very real possibility. There had been some question as to whether or not he would sign for the procedure since there was so much at stake and that the result could mean a surgery that could have very scary results.
I don’t remember exactly when he said it, but after he decided to do the procedure, he said “It’s in the Good Lord’s hands.” Ever since, I have been thinking about those words, and Robert. We all know that this was the beginning of a battle that would call him home. But in that time, in that place, Robert made a choice. He chose faith and life. He chose to put his trust in the Lord and not in his own hands. He could have easily chosen to say “No” and to go home. He knew that he had failing kidneys, heart disease and that this test would probably lead to very difficult times. Faith told me later that he “had a bad feeling” about it. But, Robert made one of the most courageous decisions I have ever witnessed. He chose life, no matter the cost. He chose to let God decide and not to take matters into his own hands, He trusted that God had his back and that He is merciful and full of grace.
Reflecting now -three weeks after his death, we can tell you with some of Dad’s lessons, we listened, we understood, and we shaped our own lives accordingly. Other lessons we chose to ignore… never realizing their truth or their value until now. And, I am sure through the years, all of us will continue to learn from what he taught us. What a precious gift to serve a merciful God and know that we can make different choices at any time.
Today, for instance, I know that I have seen God –not in His full glory, but in my dad and in many of you. The choice to see the Almighty’s blessings faces us every day. God gives us a bible, His word to teach us about His perfect love and how we should live. In our case, He gave us even more in the life of Robert Martinez, who exhibited the fruit of the Holy Spirit living within him – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Robert was husband, dad, brother, tio, grandpa, brother-in-law, primo, friend and so much more. He modeled much of God’s word. My brother and I listened to our dad and watched his example over and over again. Robert Martinez’s legacy will continue in the choices we make from this moment.
Please bow your head and join me in prayer.
God, our awesome heavenly Father, I praise you for life and for allowing us the awesome privilege of experiencing the life you gave my daddy, Robert. I also praise you for your Son, Jesus. Jesus is the reason we have hope. Jesus is the reason dad had hope. We can stand before you now because of Him. Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. Your mercy endures forever. Amen.