My dad, Wayne H. Ramirez, born September 28th, 1934, would’ve been 82 today. At the time of his death, he had five grown children and ten grandchildren – a big part of his legacy.
He died June 8, 1997 after a long illness and I’m certain that he intentionally held on past June 7th, my brother’s birthday. That’s the kind of man he was – smart and strong-willed.
Even though he passed almost 20 years ago, when I think about him now and wish him a happy birthday, I regret that I may not have done so with joy and love in my heart when he was alive.
We had some issues.
First, a little bit about my dad.
My dad didn’t like picnics because he said he was born under a tree and he’d had enough of picnics.
The youngest of 7 children, they were migrant workers and traveled from South Texas to Michigan to work in the fields.
His parents named him Wenceslao but somewhere along the way some one decided Wayne was easier to pronounce and spell, so that person or agency changed his name to Wayne.
A gifted musician, my dad played the saxophone and was drum major at Lanier High School on San Antonio’s westside in the early 50s. After that, he played with local orchestras all around San Antonio.
My dad worked for Civil Service at Kelly Air Force Base for more than 20 years, working with computers when one was as big as a truck. He programmed dot designs and would bring home printouts of Snoopy and other comic strip characters and he’d bring that thick paper from computer card cutouts that made the best confetti.
My parents loved to dance and my dad would spin my mom around on the dance floor for Mexican polkas and Cumbias. I’m so grateful that he dragged me out on the dance floor and taught me to dance even when I insisted I didn’t want to learn.
He had so much going for him, but something kept him down.
I could never really figure him out. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to literature, Shakespeare’s tragedies, and to 20th century tragedies. When I read “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller my senior year in high school, the similarities between Willy Loman, the main character, and my dad fascinated me. Protagonists with tragic flaws. The bigger the character, the more tragic the flaw. And my dad was a character.
There’s so much to say about a life.
My dad was smart, inventive, creative, fun-loving, witty, and funny. He was also tenacious, stubborn, and could be manipulative.
He liked to drink. And then he had to drink. And then alcohol became what he was and it motivated everything he did. When he had thoroughly ravaged his body, he stopped, but the damage was done.
Honor your father and your mother. I don’t think I did a very good job of that when he was alive. I was angry. I had a hard time not judging him for what he had done to his own body, not to mention all that we went through with his shenanigans.
I used to ask him to stop drinking. He always said it was between him and God. I’m grateful that God is in charge of my dad because I know for sure that God loves so perfectly no matter the flaw, no matter the vice and no matter the deed. His love is so perfect that He takes care of all His sheep, no matter what. I fall way short of loving like that.
My dad’s birthday reminds me of his life and how he lived: He married my mom and they raised 6 kids, built their life together, committed to send each of us to Catholic school, and took us on vacations. My dad taught us how to water ski even though he didn’t know how himself, loved the Dallas Cowboys, took us on adventures, and worked hard to provide for us. Until gradually, for some reason, he fell into the trap of alcoholism and that changed his life, relationships, health, and legacy.
Remembering my dad’s life and legacy has got me thinking about my own legacy and asking:
What legacy will I leave?
I’m creating my legacy every day. Just like my dad did and like every one does. How you live, what you do, who you help, your character, your words, and your actions determine your legacy.
Every day is a day to make that better. I know I still have work to do. As long as I live, I’ll be creating my legacy. All of us will.