“Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?” Bonnie Tyler
Last Saturday my friend, Edie, and I were waiting out the seasonal torrential downpour before heading downtown for the Somos Albuquerque event. As we were talking, we were interrupted by the news alert that Senator John McCain had succumbed to brain cancer. We stopped in our tracks and listened to the news that came in and the tributes as the reporters recalled their own memories and interviewed others close to the Senator.
“All of us can aspire to put the greater good above our own.” Barrack Obama
As an Independent voter, I have always respected and admired McCain, giving much thought in voting for him in the 2008 election until he chose his running mate. Over the past few days, and as more information was released about him, the more I respected who he was. I wept over moments when former Vice President Joe Biden, former Presidents Barrack Obama and George W. Bush and his own daughter Megan McCain eulogized him. I gained a deeper understanding about his time as a prisoner during the Vietnam War and the cruel acts afflicted upon him. I was taken back to when he was the Republican candidate for President and in a town hall when his opponent’s nationality was questioned. He took the microphone back and squashed the fear mongering. Some critics said he could have done more, yet he could have done nothing and perpetuated this delusional stereotyping. He also didn’t belittle the woman for her lack of information instead tried to inform her in her ignorance.
“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who spends himself in a worthy cause:
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
Even in his last note, McCain spoke of his imperfections, believing in the ideal of something greater than self, gratitude for his FULL life, and a connection to America’s ideals, “liberty, equal justice, respect for dignity of all people”. And through these tributes, though his own words, I was reminded of another individual that had profoundly impacted who I am.
This person is my maternal grandfather, Samuel Alfredo Romero, my grandpo. While I only had him physically present for my first 24 years, there is so many ways he shaped the woman I am and what I believe. Born in 1924, in Northern New Mexico to a family of 12 children. I don’t know much of his younger years, I do know he was one of the older middle children. A history buff like him, I’d eat up the tiny morsels he’d share (or actually my grandmother) about his time serving in World War II. He first started on the European campaign as a paratrooper in the Army until I was told, that his older sister begged him to be reassigned to another role. Not talking much about what he saw in war, I heard more of his tales riding on a motorcycle through the Austrian countryside in which he said reminded him of his beloved Northern New Mexico. He was a Sargent in the 86th Infantry Division of the 452nd Inf Reg, known as the “Black Hawks” (thank you Nick Layman for helping track down this information).
He went on to fight in the Asian forces until he returned and on the G-I Bill went to Highlands University getting a degree in Social Science while working as a mechanic in Las Vegas, NM (next time you visit Las Vegas and stop to eat a towering cream puff at Spic and Span Bakery, look out the window and you’ll see a little white building–this was the old mechanic shop he worked at). He met his future wife at the bus stop in front of that shop. Funny, they knew each other as my grandmother was friends with his sister, but he was a few years older. After they married, they moved to Santa Fe. He worked for the State of New Mexico in the Health and Human Services department. He was known for his silent strength, courage, honest and good nature (with six strong, stubborn women in his household—you’d have to be good natured).
“I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due to the man that’s made a difference in my world.” Salt n Pepa
I was not born Dara Romero. I was given the opportunity to change my name during my divorce and I chose the sir name Romero. From an early age, he taught me to be self-sufficient. I knew my ins and outs around a car. I could change my tires, oil, the fuel pump just to name a few. I learned that I am not a victim in my own life, while I might not be able to control what others do and what what happens around me, I do have the power to control my response to it. We shared a love of history and a deep love of family. While not someone who was touchy-feely when it came to sharing his emotions, you definitely knew you were loved because of his actions. I could always count on him. He was also tough, believing that hard work was the only way to achieve greatness and not on the backs of others. Those values were instilled in all of us at an early age. There were times when he pounded the table to get our attention and my grandmother would teasingly tell him to stop it. He would often tell me, “Aca muchachicita” to get my attention in asking, “what did I do”.
He died on Sunday, July 27, 1997. He suffered a massive heart attack during mass in Mora, NM . I was not there, but remember receiving the call as the ambulance took him to Las Vegas, NM. On my way from Albuquerque, I had U2’s Pride in the Name of Love on repeat.
I played this song over and over during that trip as it reminded me, “What more in the name of love?” It was the way he lived his life. We arrived and shortly after he was pronounced deceased. I was honored to help write his obituary and to recite a poem at his burial. I still think of the day he was buried on the mountainside of our family ranch next to my mom. It rained all morning and the hill side burial ground became both slippery, while creating extra weight on the processioners walk to due to the clay based soil. We all thought, “of course he had a hand in the weather, he wanted his pallbearers carrying his casket–who were made up of my uncles, my brother, my cousins and a few of his nephews—to work as men should.”
I still see him in my children, Cati in her love of the outdoors and artistic abilities (his folk art painting of his Las Cruces home hangs on my bedroom wall). While Isaiah never got to physically meet him, he carries on his name. I am reminded of my grandpo all the time when I see Isaiah. He is the silent strong type and that is willing to do whatever for his family. Physically he has the same curly dark hair and sturdy body frame. I see my grandpo in my work ethic, in how I value relationships, and in how I speak up for the wronged. He and his life experiences have even influenced my design aesthetic.
Witness to the world’s atrocities, one can be crippled by it, become a victim to it, or rise above it and see that there is good in the world if we each take a role to focus on creating that good. To read all the disparaging, divisive and threatening comments and see corresponding actions in recent years, to what has become the social norm, it is refreshing to be reminded of courage, integrity, humanity and valuing our differences in the hopes that it is a world we can continue to embody in lieu of burying it with our lost heroes. I hope both men and women of valor will rise up to the challenge.
“See you in the funny pages…” Samuel A. Romero
With light and love,
Dara Sophia ROMERO