Nothing can compare to the loss of a loved one. I believe it is the kind of grief you may learn to cope with, but never truly overcome. I lost my father, Abraham Lincoln Washington Ramos, to illness at the age of 13. I was a third form student at Wesley College and this was one of the toughest periods in my life. The poem below, titled Seven Seasons of Sadness, is my tribute to him, and it was written several years later to express the very difficult time I had coping with his death.
I was in utter shock when I received the news of my father’s passing, and every funeral “close to home” throws me back to that dreadful day of his own. Yes, there is an old adage: “We all must go some time,” but even when we see a loved one ‘pining away’ due to illness — as was the case with my dad — you hope against hope that somehow they would recover and return to the life they lived and enjoyed so fully. Even as the days and weeks went by, and Daddy remained bedridden at the Old Belize City Hospital on Eve Street, death was a possibility I never entertained, never wanted to entertain. He could not die and leave us.
Upon hearing the sad news, I was overcome with grief. Although my sisters cried at the funeral, not even a teardrop fell from my eyes. I was literally in a state of disbelief, not knowing if I was an actor in a nightmare from which I would soon wake up or in a new, alien reality – a different world without the man who had always been very central to my life.
Daddy had no sons and six daughters, all with my mother Pearl, and he was exceptionally grateful to the Creator YAH for us. He was deeply spiritual – a Methodist at first, who later converted to Roman Catholicism. His funeral was held at St. Ignatius Church in Belize City. My dad loved to sing and he penned a few church hymns and Garifuna songs himself. He had a pair of cymbals which he played during worship, and he would close up one of his ears with his hand while singing at the tip of his voice, like if it was nobody’s business. My consolation was the fact that he knew to hit his notes well.
Daddy was a very strict educator, a no-nonsense school administrator, and very meticulous in documenting. He wasn’t afraid of shifting paths when he found himself in an environment that wasn’t conducive to his professional development and self-realization. At times, he was like a rolling stone seeking to find the right place of rest. He taught in many villages and knew all Belize’s languages, including the Maya languages.
To me, Abraham Ramos is Daddy—beloved forever! Beloved because even after he and my mother separated in the late 70’s, he still made his presence felt in our lives. He wasn’t going to let anyone call him an absentee father. He took great care of us, helping to ensure that we had what we needed, and like my dear mother Pearl, sacrificing himself often to ensure that we did.
Daddy used to come to our house with his manual ice cream maker and churn up the best homemade ice cream in the whole of Belize! Sweet sugar corn is all I remember! A very skilled man, he even braided our hair at times and we looked neat too! He loved cooking, and he made us bread regularly. Once — we were living in Freetown Sibun at the time — he made it a bit too salty, but we ate it just the same.
Daddy also washed our clothes by hand. He always made sure we had lots of fun toys and the most comfortable shoes, which he purchased at Bata, which was located right on Albert Street. Rain gear was bought each year, so rain was never an excuse to be out of school. He would not have it! I remember us walking one day through flooded waters, wading from Hattieville to get to Sibun, determined to get home. My elder sister Mona and I had just gotten Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse slippers and if my memory serves me right someone’s new slippers got washed away – I said it was hers, she said it was mine that got washed away!
Daddy spoiled us but he also knew when to crack down on us. I remember those stern looks he often gave to keep us on ‘the straight and narrow.’ He never needed to pull the belt, as far as I can remember — at least not on me.
He had different pet names for all of us: Mine was “Sweetie;” my sister, Mona, was “Sugar;” my other sister, Mariette, was “Custard Baby.” Ethlin, the eldest living, was “Tea-lin.” Pearl Eliza, aka Roxie Murillo, the youngest girl, had lived with my mom’s grandmother, Elsa Brown Murillo, since she was a baby. She came around the time of the marital break-up, so you can understand that this was something painful for my parents to go through, perhaps just as painful as them losing their eldest girl, Lucy, who was born in Silk Grass Village but became ill as a baby.
My mom and dad are my biggest icons! I admire them tremendously. One thing I know for sure is that a father’s sound advice should always remain at the forefront of our minds. I can still remember his biggest admonition to me when I ventured into high school: “Pay attention to your books. Boys later!” Desiring to do what pleases Daddy even when he was dead, I’ve certainly kept that a strong focus on learning, but I have to confess that after his death, I did stray with the boys – another reason why, in hindsight, I would have loved to have him around for longer, to help keep me more focused.
As a schoolgirl, my education remained my first priority and boys — no matter how cute they came, and Wesley College had some good-looking and very smart ones — were never allowed to encroach on my learning. My goal was always to be a top performer and beat those boys even at science, and I somehow felt that when I delivered the valedictory speeches at my high school and sixth form graduation (Wesley College and then Belize Technical College), and when I completed university with a 4.0 (departmental honors and highest distinction), that Daddy was looking at me from somewhere in the heavens cheering loudly although existing in a different dimension, although I could not hear. Yes, that was and is still my fantasy – that he would enjoy and celebrate with me, just as he did with rousing applause when I ran on Sports Day and almost came in dead last! He celebrated the fact that I finished the race, nonetheless, and did not drop out.
Dad still holds the title of being the most rigid “book pusher” I have ever known, and now I find myself telling my children the same sorts of things he used to tell me: “Take a book and read! You’ll know more.” We have a way of turning into our parents, don’t we? Oddly, I became the third generation of newspaper journalists in our family, following in the footsteps of my father and his father, T.V. Ramos.
I’ll also admit, Dad wasn’t quite a saint, you know! In fact, he could be very short-tempered at times. He was intolerant of disobedience. Disobedience was unforgivable in his books. He and my eldest sister were at odds for years when she chose Sunday matinee with a family friend over going to church with Dad. Sadly, it took his terminal illness for them to reconcile, and that sadly happened on his deathbed.
I cling to those fond memories of him, and as rewrite his story tonight, I remember a conversation I had with a former neighbor just a couple hours ago, who recalls his work in the media. My dad penned several articles in Amandala during his tenure as Associate Editor. He featured many Belizeans who he believed were Worthy of Emulation. He also wrote many historical articles, which must be preserved for posterity. As I now sit in the writer’s chair today, I feel his enduring presence is my life, knowing that I have taken up the baton.
I bask in the memories of my father’s love and dedication. He, too, had the enduring love and support of his father, T. V. Ramos. Let’s keep this positive circle of love perpetuating throughout the generations of our families. And don’t you forget that every day is Father’s Day.
Seven Seasons of Sadness
The hot sun had scorched the earth
The vegetation toasted by its rays
Simultaneously my joy departed
As I said goodbye to sunny days
My spirit wailed bitterly
Though my grief was bottled inside
I stood firm upon my feet
No one knew, inside I cried
I was merely thirteen then
My soul could not fathom the loss
Of one that was so dear to me
Who would grant my happiness at any cost
My rock, my strength, my inspiration
One who always cheered on with adulation
Building me up, making me strong
Steering me away from the road that’s wrong
Father, why did you have to leave me?
Couldn’t you see that I was not ready
To say goodbye to you so early?
I will never again be happy
As I sat alone in the dark
I cared not that I was afraid of it
I wished that if, indeed, ghosts do exist
That my father would appear in spirit
Alone in the dark with my quixotic thoughts
Flashing in and out of sanity
My frail, fatigued body quivered
As my tear sacs reached maximum capacity
The saltiness burned as I shut my eyes tight
Still persistently putting up a fight
I said, ‘Be glad ‘cause daddy was suffering’
And then the tears just came down flowing
I felt like I had been crying for hours
Then an unsympathetic hand shook me back into this world
As if he did not know that I had lost my father
He asked, Why are you crying so, little girl?
The resentment I felt compounded my sadness
I just wanted to be left alone in the dark
It had been several months since the burial
And I was still in no mood to talk
The sun continued to travel its orbit
Yet I really could never forget
The earth revolved around its axis
And I mourned for my father yet
There could be no replacement for him
No one could ever stand in his place
I still shudder at the thought
That I will never again see his face
© Adele O. Ramos, dedicated to my late father, Abraham L. W. Ramos