Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Breakfast with Sir Rafa

My grandfather, Sir Rafa, was always an early riser. Always. When I visited them in El Paso, TX, it didn't matter how early I got up (even if I got up before 6 AM), he was always up earlier. I used to wonder if the sun could only rise after Sir Rafa had gotten up - that's how early he arose.

Anyway, Sir Rafa loved going out for breakfast. That was one of the activities he truly enjoyed. While Oma always made the best breakfasts, there was something fun and tasty about going out for breakfast. And as a bonus, Oma would get the morning off, neither having to prepare the meal, nor having to clean up afterward.

It didn't matter if it were just to McDonald's down the street or the Burger King at Fort Bliss . . . or even to the local Village Inn on Hondo Pass Drive (the place he most often visited for breakfast, because it was close by and he got good service - plus, it seemed like everybody knew him there, like Cheers). He also loved Oma's favorite breakfast location: the Cracker Barrel on El Paso's west side.

Anytime I visited them, it seemed like we'd go out for breakfast at least once (possibly twice, depending on how long I was staying). Usually it was just the two of us - me and Sir Rafa. His reasoning was to give Oma a break in the morning - but like I said, it was also fun. Sometimes we'd get Oma to agree to come with us. However, I think she liked sending the two of us off, because she liked the time alone; that way, she could get ready at a leisurely pace without having to worry about taking care of Sir Rafa and me, too.

Here's how it would go. Typically, we'd be relaxing in the den or the kitchen in the evening after Oma and I cleaned the kitchen after dinner. They'd be watching TV and I'd be in there with them, reading, or maybe watching a movie with them. (One of Sir Rafa's favorites was a movie called Junior, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emma Thompson - but this is a story for another time.)

Then Sir Rafa would ask me if I thought I could be ready to go out early the next morning. It always seemed like he'd ask me out of the blue, but I'm sure he'd had it planned for hours - or even from the first moment I'd walked in the door upon arriving in El Paso. He would also never tell me why he wanted me to be ready extra early. But I knew why. We were going out for breakfast the next morning.

Like I said, it didn't matter how early I got up. It didn't matter how quickly I got ready. When I walked out of my room, he'd be at the kitchen table, reading the paper and drinking a small glass of juice. After seeing if Oma were coming with us, and finding that she'd decided to stay home and get ready, he and I would head out. I always drove. He usually made comments about his finally having a chauffeur.

If it were just the two of us, then we'd usually head to the Village Inn on Hondo Pass Drive. The servers would always greet him. "Good morning, Ralph," or, "How are you this morning, Ralph?" and so on. (His name was Rafael, so most people called him Ralph.) If the server who was waiting on our table hadn't met me yet, he'd always introduce us. No matter which server waited on our table, we always got around to chatting with her for a few minutes, whenever she had a few moments of free time, that is.

Once we were finished, he'd hand me a piece of gum (usually spearmint, or sometimes cinnamon) and we'd head home . . . but not before making an "important" stop first. See, there was a gas station on Hondo Pass, just before it curved south and turned into Magnetic Drive. He'd ask me to stop there. Once parked, he'd give me a few dollars in cash. He'd then have me go in and get three scratch tickets (you know, the scratch lottery tickets), one for him, one for me, and one for Oma. Then we were ready to head home.

We'd walk in from the garage, through the laundry room, and into the kitchen. Oma would be in there, just finishing her breakfast. He'd pass out the scratch tickets, a quarter for each of us, and we'd scratch away. Sometimes Oma and I would win a buck, or a new scratch lotto ticket, but most often, it was nothing. I think I won a buck on a few rare occasions. Sir Rafa? He was usually the one who most often won something off those scratch tickets, whether it was just $1, or a new scratch ticket, or some other amount of money. I remember one time after breakfast when he won $5. We stopped at the gas station later and he had me buy 5 scratch tickets with that $5. And once, when I wasn't there, he'd won $500 off a scratch ticket!

It's fun remembering those days. I miss those breakfast outings. I was reminiscing about them this past Sunday, when I took Livie to the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City. We each had pancakes, bacon, orange juice. It was fun, just the two of us. That's why I was thinking of similar outings I'd had with my grandfather.

So, I told Livie about those days while we waited for our breakfast. She'd asked at one point if I'd ever taken her to breakfast with Sir Rafa. I'd said "No, because you hadn't been born yet. And when you were born and we visited them, you were just a tiny baby, and didn't eat regular food yet - only milk. But if you had been old enough, Sir Rafa would've made sure you came with us. I can guarantee that."

I got a little sad thinking that she never had the pleasure of going out for breakfast with her great-grandfather. But then I realized something. We can't go out to breakfast with him anymore. But I'm sure he was at breakfast with us, in spirit.

Sir Rafa and Baby Livie, El Paso, TX, 16 June 2006. She was almost 4-months-old.
Just a little background on the photo. This is Sir Rafa enjoying Baby Livie's company, just days after she and I arrived in El Paso from Boston. I'd gotten a new assignment (in the Air Force) in Alamogordo, NM, which was just over an hour from my grandparents' place. We'd flown out to El Paso (the closest major airport), and I took a couple days of leave to spend time with them before heading north to Alamogordo.


Trisha said...

I also believe he was at breakfast with you in spirit as well :) Such a sweet post!

Michaele said...

So great to have those memories. Sweet photo also. Thanks for sharing.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

What a fun tradition.

I had forgotten about Village Inns. We don't have them here.

Nancy said...

What a great post about Sir Rafa, Sonya. Such a simple tradition you had with him, but very special. :)

Randy said...

I believe the same as Trisha. He will always be with you.

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