Max Villa was a good dad. A grandfatherly type--not that I know much about those. I never really had one. But if I did, I'd have liked for him to have been like Monique's dad.
Mr. Villa took a liking to me right off the bat when Mo told him that I had a strange obsession with Bonanza. He got a good laugh out of that, then told her a story about how, "It was the year of our Lord 1959" when, working in a New Mexico hotel, he waited upon the Cartwright brothers. THE CARTWRIGHTS! Can you imagine? I was beside myself when she related the story.
We met completely by chance shortly thereafter. Monique, Andrew, and I were sitting outside of a frozen yogurt shop in Long Beach when Mo caught sight of her father through the window of the Wingstop next door. He joined us at our table and we chatted for some time.
I got to have such chats with him on several more occasions over the next two years. When I went to South Africa, he graciously contributed funds to my trip. I brought him back a painted bowl and some candy. He showed me artifacts of his family's accomplishments. He was proud of them, proud of Monique, and proud of me.
He expressed his great sympathy to me when my dad died. I think he worried about leaving Monique in the same way. But like my dad with me, he left his daughter prepared. He left her self-sufficient, loved, encouraged, and with a drive to succeed I have rarely seen matched by anyone I've ever met. He left her with a wonderful man who treats her the way any dad would want his daughter treated. His memory will push her ever forward. She'll hear his voice telling her how impressed he is with her for the rest of her life.
Que descanses en paz, Mr. Villa. We'll take good care of your baby girl.