Friday, April 1, 2011

Don Arturo Ramirez

By Charles Adames,

The sharp winds of a cold January morning could still be felt in my mind, cutting deep beneath my face, and small pieces of ice were melting beneath the tips of my eyelashes, while a rapid flow of heavy snow, carried by strong winds hit the oily car lot pavement at a New York dealership. It was not the condition of my body that bothered me most, but the view of the disorder surrounding me resembling my life during those days. The hours were long and cruel, and I could still remember some of the things that made me feel helpless, but in short moments I regained strength to continue on, as I remembered the last time I had spoken to my grandfather, those words resonating in my mind, gave me the strength needed to finish that long day.

            My grandfather, a man who still remains a mystery to most who knew his name, and even those who knew him, lived in Jarabacoa, a rural town in the city of La Vega in the Dominican Republic during the days of the dictatorship of President Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. My Grandfather was considered an important man, feared, respected and loved by many people in the town; either for medical advice or for everyday matters many people of all ages would make appointments to speak to him.

            When I think of my grandfather I think of Leonardo da Vinci, Don Corleone, the magical story telling of Garcia Marquez, a wild wild west out law, and even the aggressive and fearless qualities of President Trujillo himself. Like Leonardo da Vinci he had many skills, and believe me he was good at all of them. He was an artist, architect, a teacher, photographer, carpenter, a Cop, an inventor, a coffee plantation and a large and small business owner, a musician and even a bounty hunter. As an artist his work resembles those of the Aztec people. Tall wooden sculptures and rock engravings were among his favorite and best works. As a business owner he had the kindness of creating jobs for the poor, having more than two hundred people working under him at his coffee plantation. As a carpenter he never had to call for someone to build his house or replace its doors, chairs, tables or beds. He even built the coffin he was recently buried in, built many years before he was buried in it. I could still remember the fights he picked the first moment he introduced his coffin to the family, but to the criticism he plainly replied a man born into this world must even build the means in which he will leave it.

             Although there are many versions of my grandfathers story and his pact with the government still whispering about in the town of Jarabacoa and even some family member and friends now living in New York and other parts of the United states, the best known story goes like this: When he was still a young man in his early thirties, the government had put in a reward for his head, due to unpaid taxes. It is believed that many who were sent to the hills, where my grandfather would often go to check on his coffee plantation, never came back. The authorities under Trujillo administration eventually sent him a message asking him to work as a bounty hunter, in return of living him and his family at peace. During his work for the government no one he was ordered to capture was able to escape him. Those who will often hide in the mountains will often comeback tied behind his horseback unconscious, screaming or crying through the towns streets. Years later he was offered a Job as a city Cop. And after twelve proud years he put his law enforcement career to an end, being forced to retire after the assassination of the general. Many now say that not even Trujillo, the most feared man in the country, found ways to handle or stopped him from living the way he wanted to live his life.

            When I was very young my Grandfather would hold me and sit me on his lap and tell me his magical experiences during his trips at the the hills of Jarabacoa; I could still remember when he would tell me the stories of three headed snakes that sang like roosters under the coffee plantations, and how they were the oldest and the wisest of snakes, being the reason why they grew two other heads from their bodies. At times he would go and grab them and tear them apart or kill them with his pointy metal spear.  Today I still wonder if those stories were real or just a bed time story told to an uneasy child, and if they were just bed time stories, they at least were difficult to disbelieve because they reveal who my grandfather was, a strong, bold, and determined man who never showed a sign of weakness or regret.

             During that winter day at the New York dealership my thoughts would wonder about the destination my life was heading to; a nineteen year old high school drop out with a child on the way, and hoping to get promoted from a temporary sales person to a full sales consultant, the youngest at the dealership. But as I thought of the last words my grandfather said to me I regained strength and confidence in my self, and began to believe in endless possibilities. Weeks later I was given the opportunity to prove my self as a junior sales consultant, and after five years of hard work that had followed with a lustrous income, feelings of emptiness rushed into me, and I began to see the days and hours moving quickly before my eyes. It was then that I realized that the promotion I hoped for that winter day was only a product of something I wanted or needed at the time, mixed up with confusion about duty and uncertainty where my life would end up. This realization led me to seek for an unknown factor that would give me fulfillment. Months later I began to attend my local two-year community college in the quest of happiness. Now as the two years are coming to a close I feel a sense of relief because that college showed me who I want to become, a psychologist that would help my community, and even the Idea of this brings me great happiness.

            Today as I look deep inside myself the only thing I see is fear of becoming an ordinary person, one that lives life on the slow lane, running away from risks and challenges, afraid to live on the opposite end of my grandfathers ways, afraid of living life like everyone else that I know, filled with regrets as they look at the end of the road. Upon the end of my road I would like to look back at what I had left behind, not so much my accomplishments but more than anything the things I have done that otherwise with fear and helplessness I would have not even thought about. I believe this is why I would like to transfer and continue my education, because for many ordinary people their lives begin after college, but for me it was the first day of my life; I felt free, and it is all up to me now to live up to my potentials just like my grandfather lived up to his.


  1. Charles,

    Your story of your grandfather is such an inspiration. The shape and structure in which you composed this essay is truly an amazing feat. You are as capable writer as any I know.

    Your voice can be heard and still reverberates in my mind even after I read it. The way you conclude your essay is a true mastery of of how to announce your competence for a 4-year college.

    Your insights on how college is your first day of your life, where it has liberated your mind, lets just say that hits home with me as well.

    I am very happy to know an individual such as yourself. I hope we continue to be long time friends. I really appreciate your perspectives.

    Your Friend,
    Kevin G. Magana

  2. Charles, this an inspirational story for all of us. I am sure that many can relate to your experience of finding a fulfilling goal. May your journey only begin and successes allow you to always remember your Grandfather.


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