Monday, February 23, 2015

Dispatch #34: Ramon Vasquez In Memoriam

Ramon Vasquez
by Lupe Fernandez

February morning, the pallbearers wheel the casket into St. Joachim's Church and leave it before the altar. During the funeral service, I wonder what the Ramon I knew from Burbank Elementary school would think of this service.

What if Ramon and I, at age nine, discovered a time machine, I would be scared to use it and Ramon would encourage me to go with him.

I was a shy kid. Ramon was funny, artistic, well-like and handsome. He took an interest in me at Burbank to bring me out of my silent shell. Sure we did a few things that were unlawful - the trash fire in the bathroom was a good test of the school principal's fire extinguishing skill - but Ramon was a good kid. Okay, Ms. Roberts, my fifth grade teacher, didn't want me associating with Ramon; she thought he was a bad influence on me. But Ramon allowed me to hang out and play with the other guys. George. Joey. Martin. Mark. Tommy and others.

Girls liked Ramon. He flirted with them. I enjoyed it vicariously.

Ramon and I travel from the year 1972 to 2015 and find ourselves inside a church.

"That's you!" I point out Ramon's casket to Ramon.

"I wonder what I look like. Let's good look eh?"

I hide while Ramon sneaks a peek at his body.

He finds me. "I look bad," he says.

Ramon recognizes his weeping family. People he doesn't know, people older than him. Crying.

"Everybody's so old." he says.

"That's you," Ramon points to a bearded man with glasses. "You got a girlfriend." He refers to a red-haired woman holding my hand.

"I do?" I'm amazed. Girls scare me.

"You got fat," he says Ramon looks at my skinny body and then at my adult self. "Too many frijoles."

People in the back row tell us to be quiet and ask about our parents. They stare at our clothes.

"Let's go back," Ramon says. "I don't want to miss Sanford & Son." One of his favorite TV shows. He loves comedian Redd Foxx.

I wasn't Ramon's best friend. Our kids didn't grow up together. The ground we played on, the elementary school we attended is razed. The lot abandoned. A new school built across the street.

Old Burbank Elementary Lot/New Burbank Elementary across street

The mural he created on the wall of La Mexicana Tortilleria on A Street is covered over with new paint. After I graduated from high school, I left town and didn't keep in contact with anyone.

Through Facebook I discover Ramon's obituary.
Ramon C. Vasquez July 28, 1961 ~ Jan. 29, 2015 Resident of Hayward Ramon, son of Adrian and Esther Vasquez, born in the small town of Zinaparo, Michoacan, Mexico and lived in Hayward from the age of 4. Ramon Graduated from Sunset High with the class of 1980 with high honors and innumerable academic awards and recognitions.
I attend the funeral with my wife, Angel. I don't know what ailed him. I don't know if he had kids. I do know my fellow high school Alumni grieve. Everybody liked him. Respected him. Ramon's body is buried in the green fields of Chapel of the Chimes.

He lives forever on the playground of my childhood.


  1. Lupe, I enjoyed this imaginative work. I felt like was sitting with you and Angel, listening to your conversation with Ramone. Thanjs for a good read.

    1. Michael-Anna,
      You're welcome. Thanks for reading.
      Fifth Grade Reprobate

  2. Wow! I could see you both. Thank you. I attended a memorial service myself this Friday. I am passing this post to his kids.

    1. Sue,
      I left out the part where Ramon teaches me how to start a fire in the Boys Bathroom.
      Sixth Grade Pyro

  3. Teary eyed I read and wander down memory lane...yes "his fellow Alumni grieve". Wonderful job Lupe

    1. Sandi,
      Thanks for reading.
      Fourth Grade Shy Guy

    2. What a unique and lovely perspective.

    3. Thanks for the compliment Rhonda.
      Three Grade Haircut

  4. Very moving. It is so hard to lose a friend. He would have loved your tribute.

    1. Kathy,
      I've incorporated aspects of Ramon in various middle-grade characters. Tough, scrappy, handsome, intelligent, compassionate and a healthy eye for girls.
      Second Grade Siesta


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