Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Adios, Mi Abuelito ~

These are my parents on their wedding day. On the left is my grandmother, and on the dapper looking gentleman on the right is my grandfather, Ramon.

Ramon was born in Spain, outside of Barcelona in the Catalunya region. The impending Spanish civil war sent him on a boat to Colombia with his sisters and mother (people I never knew). He soon met my grandmother and they proceeded to have a whole bunch of kids and a cattle farm, until civil unrest led to the destruction of that farm and sent them all to the city of Cali. My Mom married my Dad - a gringo! (as you can tell from the picture) and moved to California, where I have always lived in some city or another.

I'm sure there is much much more to this story, but the fragments keep trickling in...

When I was growing up, I didn't see my Colombian grandparents all that much as, well, they lived in Colombia. We did visit a few times, and I always remember my grandfather as a silly (in a good way!) man. He took us to the bullfights and made up kooky names for things. He used to hold cicadas by the wings and make them "sing." (I never knew one could play the cicada.) He knew all sorts of jokes and songs that he'd entertain everyone with. He talked to us all the time, even though he spoke a language we didn't really understand and couldn't speak... but we pretty much got it.

In the early 90's, most of my Colombian relatives relocated to Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Amish country. I went to visit one summer and stayed there for about 6 weeks. Every day, my grandfather would come to my aunt's house where I was staying, and walk me to my grandparent's house for lunch. He walked very fast, as do I, so we'd usually zip across this tiny town doing random errands along the way. He would talk to everyone, in Spanish, and they all seemed to really like this eccentric old man and always seemed to know what he was there for. "Sure, Ramon, I can mail this for you." "Yes, it's a lovely day, Ramon." "So this is your granddaughter, Ramon?"

I remember one time, my grandfather asked me to drive him somewhere. (All my relatives like to have me drive because they seem to think California drivers are better.) I wound up taking him down a rural road to a farm, where an Amish family came out to greet him. He jumped out of the car and started chasing baby chicks around. I looked a little terrified and the woman of the house laughed, "It's ok, he always does this. He likes to play with the chickens before he gets his eggs." "Oh," I replied, "is that why we're here? Is that ok?" "We're farmers, we sell our produce. Ramon says we have the best eggs in the area."

Eventually my grandfather began to show his age. A bout of colon cancer left him weak, and then the Alzheimer's kicked in. The last time he saw my mother, he didn't know who she was, and he was speaking gibberish more often than not.

Don Ramon died on Tuesday morning, July 24th. He was 96 years old. I've been lucky to have a life with all 4 grandparents and even one great grandmother, and I guess that means I'll be around for a while. Only in recent years have they all started to pass away. Ramon y Manuela had been married over 70 years, my American grandparents were married 66, and my parents are heading into their 40th. It was a different time, for sure.

But for all the life my grandfather, Don Ramon, lived, and the little time I got to spend with him, I will always remember that he loved it all. He was a funny, friendly man whom everyone loved whether they spoke his language or not. Because they all understood something he always had - a purely genuine smile and great laugh.

Dios los bendiga. Suenen con los angeles.