SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 173: “Quiet and Loving Greatness”

“’My dad said you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough. He was very strict and I always addressed him with ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir.’ He was a workaholic. I did not understand it at the time, but now I do. He was teaching me.’”

“I’ll never view our friendship the same.” After twenty years of both a professional and growing friendship, it is a pleasure to call Chrissy (not photographed) my friend.

For close to 20-years we’ve seen each others lives develop. From career advancements to our marriages we have always stayed in contact. In a world as competitive, and seasonal, as the entertainment industry, it is quiet a special thing to meet people like Chrissy.

She is a person of remarkable values, and whether in rain or shine, we have always managed to somehow stay in touch.

I start today’s entry using this tribute in crediting Chrissy as the purest way to light the marque in introducing our newest friend, Chrissy’s father Ramon – Age Ninety.

It is Ramon’s birthday party, and I have been invited to meet him. What I did not realize, is that other than immediate family, I am the only guest. I can’t tell you how humbled I am to find this out and to be privileged to be enjoying a home-made lunch with six of the warmest people I have ever met. All a credit to family unity and absolute love.

And to be a participant in celebrating the life of the man who set the bar for the values that Chrissy and her family radiate is an honor greater than winning any industry award.

This is what life’s about, family and the traditions therein; the families we came from, the families we are starting, or even the families we create in our friendships. And today, after over twenty years of friendship with Chrissy, I feel as if I have a larger family in spending time with her, her brother and family, and my new friend, her father, Ramon.

Ramon tells me of his childhood, “’My dad said you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough. He was very strict and I always addressed him with ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir.’ He was a workaholic. I did not understand it at the time, but now I do. He was teaching me.’”

On a shelf are photos of his father and mother, Chrissy gets them down and shows them to me.

“I remember working with dad, dad built a Mexican bakery and I worked there when I was in high school. We lived in a house behind it, and later built a store in the front.”

That store…? It is right next to Ramon’s niece’s house where we are having our birthday celebration. The store has been sold by the family now, but it still stands as recognition of Ramon’s fathers accomplishments.

“’My dad was a very good businessman, he said, ‘One day I’m going to own the whole block,’ and he did end us buying most of it.’”

With ninety years of rich history Ramon is remarkably clear in his detailed remembrance of his life. We talk of his earliest childhood memories. Family, his life as an athlete (very accomplished at football and baseball), living through wars, the growth of Long Beach, and of his marriage.

With tears, “My wife is a good woman, she always gave… worked for 40 years as a social worker. For ten years I worked at the same Catholic welfare center as she did. That’s where I met her. She was so smart and loving.”

Ramon breaks down in emotion as he tenderly talks about his wife. I’m chocked up by his show of tears and sitting next to us, as well touched by the moment, Chrissy says, “Did dad tell you why mom is not here?”

That’s part of the reason Ramon is gentle and watery eyed.

We talk of purpose, “I don’t fully know my purpose anymore” Ramon tears.

You see… Ramon’s wife is in deep stages of Alzheimer’s, and with the aid of a caregiver, he takes care of her full-time in the house of their dreams.

“I want her to be in her home,” Ramon shines.

I’m chocking up, “Might I suggest something?” I ask.

We pause and I call it as I see it, “You have raised a wonderful family, all intelligent, caring, self-sustaining and loving. Plus, you are doing all you can to give your sweetheart comfort. Perhaps that is a big part of your purpose?”

Ramon is a Christian, “We have to stay with Christianity,” he says. “I know it looks bleak, but with the help of God, I know it will all work out.”

We talk of the eternal perspective, a view shared by many faiths in one way or another, and a point that has given many of us comfort in times of trial or grief.

“Maybe in the eternal perspective, you and she will be together again,” I share as we shift subjects.

Ramon relates his wishes for us in a captivating way, sharing his life and relating it to his wishes for us.

“My dad taught me the importance of respect for family and work ethic. And working with my wife as a social worker I learned compassion and understanding.”

Ninety years walking the planet, Ramon has seen a lot, lived full and loved well. All evident in the children he has raised.

Ramon gives us insight as to preparing for the future, “Education, get as much as you can… Travel, and see the world. You have to see how other people live so you can see what the world really is and who people really are.”

“I was lucky enough to work as a social worker. I worked with all kinds of kids by day, and hard to reach groups by night. That, plus thirty years working in oil refinery with Arco helped me to travel and see things.”

Sure… A close friend of mine introduces me to her father Ramon; yet in meeting him I realize there are strangers nearer than we think. Could be a distant family member, a relation of a friend or even a link through a neighbor. But in the end, we are all a family of sorts in sharing this earth. And the more we reach out to meet whomever, the better we all will be.

Chrissy, Family and new friend Ramon, thanks for letting me into your lives.

And Ramon, your wisdom and love is felt by us all. Live long my friend.