This is a re-post of something I wrote on my grandfather's birthday, July 1st. He would've been 95 this year, 2009. I wanted to post it on the eve of the new year, 2010, to keep his memory alive as we move forward in time.
When I smell or taste spearmint, I think of Sir Rafa. He usually had that green spearmint Trident; I do, however remember that the alternate flavor was cinnamon Dentyne. He also had those spearmint breath mints that came in a roll, like Life Savers do; I think they were called "Breath Savers"? I have a box of spearmint Altoids that I keep in my car, and every time I pop one in my mouth, the overwhelming scent of spearmint whisks me away to El Paso, and the office next to the guest room. You know, because he had a stash of spearmint (and cinnamon) gum in his desk drawer.
I think of Sir Rafa when I stop at (or drive past) a gas station with a car wash. He enjoyed telling me about the time when I was little and he and I went through the car wash. He asked me, "Are you scared?" and I told him, "No, but can I sit in front with you?"
Livie has already repeated history in a manner of speaking. She and I once went through the car wash and she said to me, "Mommy, I'm not afraid, but you can sit in the back with me if YOU'RE afraid."
When Andrew cuts the grass and pulls weeds out of the landscaping, I think of Sir Rafa and all the care he put into maintaining a well-groomed yard.
The smell of the garage makes me think of how orderly he kept his. When Andrew's out working in the garage, sometimes I have a fleeting memory of seeing Sir Rafa as he was working in his.
How about the story that makes Oma laugh so hard she can barely breathe? Here's a hint: Hector is tired of hearing the retelling of this moonlit story recalling "the scream on Blue Ridge." But it's classic Sir Rafa, and I occasionally have Oma tell it to me AGAIN, just so she laughs.
When I walk into my closet and have to get something from the back, I see my uniforms, all crisply pressed, and my steel-toe boots slightly scuffed and not as polished as they should be. Right next to the steel-toe boots are my "comfy" boots, which actually DO have enough elbow grease to look almost like obsidian. I see these items and immediately get a knot in my stomach because I miss him so much.
In my closet, if I open the top drawer, I'll see my first flight cap with the gold 2nd Lieutenant bar; I then remember how my grandfather called the room to attention the first time he saw me in uniform. I remember how much he loved being related to a "90-Day Wonder."
Sometimes I'll see a photo of the mountains in my back yard (in Alamogordo, NM), and I'll think of him because he had a similar mountain view in El Paso, and I know that his Texas sunset would've been similar.
If somebody wakes up late, my first response is . . . ? Naturally, it's "Good afternoon."
When Hector and I sometimes talk about the English language, I sometimes remember the time Sir Rafa and I had a discussion about a certain entry from his computer's thesaurus. He asked me why "infer" isn't necessarily the best replacement word for "imply" and we had a lively discussion about the nuances of the English language.
Sometimes I'll see Alex's handwriting and think of how opposite it is to our grandfather's neat, compact printing.
I pour coffee in the morning and think that mine is so different than a certain somebody's black coffee. Mine has 2 Splendas and some hazelnut biscotti Coffee-Mate.
Oma sometimes remembers how both Bonnie and I each loved going to Luby's and seeing the colorful fish in the fish tank in the lobby. When in El Paso, if I drive past a Luby's, I think of BOTH of my grandparents, because if Oma and I were there, then Sir Rafa was there, too.
Ever notice how Uncle Chino has so many of the same mannerisms as his brother?
Remember the story about "Rafa and Chino: Newspaper boys"? Or the "Pieces" and "Getting hot dogs and sharing a soda" stories? Livie has heard these stories already.
Ever catch my Uncle Ralph when he speaks a "Sir Rafa-ism"?
So Sir Rafa was born on July 1st. Yes, he would agree that his birthday is before our nation's birthday, but he always wanted to make sure we understood that this does NOT make him OLDER than our nation!
May we continue to remember him, so that he may live on with us.
Olivia and Sir Rafa, when we spent the night in El Paso, before catching a flight out of the El Paso airport; the next morning, we were flying to the Lake House for the July 4th holiday.
Sir Rafa and Alex, at the Army museum at Ft. Bliss, in El Paso.
This photo was taken by my uncle, Ralph A. Torres, circa late-autumn -- winter 2008. This is at the Ft. Bliss cemetery. We miss you, Sir Rafa.
Oma and Sir Rafa, back in the day. Maybe this was the Enlisted Club at Ft. Bliss?
His official service photo from his Army days. He was a Sergeant (E-5) in this photo.