February 24, 2012
By mario.martinez45 SILVER, Thonrton, Colorado
mario.martinez45 SILVER, Thonrton, Colorado
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Warm nights, blazing days, and extreme cases of boredom were all I expected of New Mexico. As a kid I never really understood what was so special about this “Land of Enchantment”. In fact, I dreaded the day when it was time for my family to once again take that yearly drive to visit my mom’s side of the family. Driving through abstract mountains, outstanding rock formations, and nameless valleys made me feel like a prisoner being shipped off to some undisclosed prison. We were headed for a small town called Hope; the south eastern part of New Mexico. Being the small town in a rural are tourist constantly drove by on their journeys to wherever they were headed. What were supposed to be years of enjoyable summer vacations quickly turned into old abandoned desert towns and endless horseback rides through barren plains straight out of a Clint Eastwood western movie.
While my friends and family enjoyed summer at its best in Colorado, I labored through endless fields and gardens trying to earn at least $200. Aside from being payed below minimum wage, I also dealt with what was some of the scrappiest, toughest, and most genuine family that I have ever met. Some of them spent their lives on farms and cities never really sticking to one only following self interest. Others settled down and made a living off irrigating the dry deserts environment. Above them, however, was the patriarch figure that was respected in this small miserably hot town. This person was my grandfather, Antonio Varelas.

First impressions speak a lot about the person, and meeting my grandpa for the first legitimate time was no exception. The moment I actually said hello, he transferred a sense of pride, confidence, and most of all, experience like no one else I had met before. To this day I have yet to find someone that is as fortified and as capable as my grandpa. As soon as the meet and greet was over, my parents left, and my summer vacation flew by without slowing down. I had learned so much and enjoyed the time spent working with my uncles and my grandpa that I lost track of the days as they bled into each other, creating a profound and fascinating memory. A couple of days before I was to be picked up, my grandpa took me to hunt hares in the back trail of his small farm. The day began with a fire-red sun creeping over the horizon, and a slight wind that reminded me of those warm Colorado breezes in the spring. We spent half the day looking for hares but at the end of the hunt, had only managed to spot one. That day we traded stories of his youthful days, and tricks as to how be an effective hunter all while having a good time. This was the first full conversation I had with my grandpa, but a month later it would also reveal itself to be the last one I would ever have with him.

On October 16, 2004, my grandpa, Antonio, passed away after a work accident. I was nine-years-old, and that was the most impactful moment I can remember. That October morning is burned into my mind as being unusually warm, almost as if we were back in New Mexico. When we received the call that he passed away I felt a ringing in my ears that felt like an explosive had detonated next to me. My mom’s tears slowly streaked down her face and her gaze was that of a dead person. Instead of comforting each other, we both wandered off lost in thought; alone and in need of consolation.

The funeral went accordingly with a dignified and controlled church service, but the moment the casket was to be lowered into the ground, bottled up emotions exploded. Everyone was a wreck. There was not one single person that didn’t shed a tear as family and friends bid their last goodbyes. Tears welled up in my eyes and my only friend was the ground that I could beat on. His casket was lowered, the roses were dropped, and still I remained on my knees, crying my heart out. Once again, I was left on my own like a sickly kid in a room full of germaphobes. The day ended with a bittersweet sunset and a poorly prepared speech from my uncle, of moving forward in our life because that’s what grandpa would’ve wanted us to do. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was the truth no matter how cliché or overused it sounded. A few days later we finally left New Mexico. What was supposed to be a week of mourning and remembering stretched into what felt like months of solitude and isolation. At that point Colorado became a safe haven from what was the infamous autumn of my childhood.

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