Happy Birthday Gilberto

Paradise and Parenting

Leza Warkentin

On Sunday, December 1, my dear husband Gilberto will have an auspicious birthday. He probably would prefer that I don’t spill the frijoles about the number, so I’ll just tell you that it is only fifty percent of a century.


If you know my husband at all, and you aren’t bad at math, you will probably be surprised to hear this. He really doesn’t look like he’s that age (that ends in a zero and begins with a number that rhymes with jive). I’m awfully proud of him, because he does look younger than those years. He’s got great skin, thick, gorgeous hair, and huge, expressive eyes. Everything I wish I had, quite frankly. Jealousy is pushing me to publish his true age, buy some giant number balloons, or perhaps hire a sky-writing airplane. But I won’t, because someday (a long, long four years from now), he’ll be deciding how to celebrate my own half a century mark, and he may be tempted to steal a few of my ideas.

Gilberto is pretty much a classic introvert. He likes spending time off at home with his family, and requested a small family birthday dinner. But, even so, he is the kind of person that has already made an impact with his life.


Gil is an wonderfully talented musician. He has been a part of the incredible quality of live music our bay has to offer. I am always very proud of the contributions he makes here to the entertainment scene. I am happy that he is able to do what he loves every day, and I am glad that others have an opportunity to experience his gift.


But the impact he has made and continues to make with his life is so much more than just great music. He is guided by a strong belief system that leads him to love everyone around him, and to show that love by helping others when they need it. And people have really needed it. Everywhere he goes, he somehow finds sick people, hungry people, addicted people, sad people, lonely people.


To illustrate, on one of our first dates we came upon a child who was playing with his friend on his friend’s bicycle. He fell onto the exposed, broken bicycle handle. He stood up and grabbed his stomach, because he had punctured it open. Gilberto ran to him, scooped him up, and told a man driving by that he would need to take us to the hospital, which he did. In that moment, I decided this was exactly the kind of person I would be spending a lot more time with (I am accident prone).


After we were married for a few years, he went for a walk with my father. They were gone a long time. When they came back, my father emotionally described coming upon a homeless man who was passed out on raw alcohol. He told me that Gilberto spent a long time feeding the man and talking to him, trying to find out where his family was. They gave him a pair of shoes (my dad’s). I smiled and remembered exactly why I decided to hook up my wagon with his.


To be honest, I could fill a book with things he does for others. Every time he goes to work, he comes back with a story of someone he met, and the problems they shared with him, and ways he thinks he could help them. I have known this man for nearly twenty years, and there are few days that go by where he isn’t reaching out a hand to someone else, whether it is a person on the street, a student in his music class, or our own children at home.


For fifty years (sorry honey, I need to make a point), the world has been a better place because Gilberto Luna is in it. I feel so fortunate to have shared in eighteen of them. Please join me in wishing him many, many more.