Jerry Davich: Anger turns to a move and a new life
June 13, 2012 11:40PM
Ricardo Ramirez's family sent him to the U.S. to Valpo to live with a pastor and start life a new life. Now, he’s married, a new father, and a biz owner. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:22PM
Ricardo Ramirez’s mother was walking home from church in his hometown of Mexico City when a drunken driver barreled into her.
Ramirez, just 22 at the time, was standing near the scene and watched the driver speed away after the impact. His mother’s friend also was hit, as well as his cousin.
“It was a nightmare,” recalled Ramirez, now 36.
One by one, his brothers and sister came running down the street, crying at the sight of their beloved mother lying in blood on the street.
“I was watching my mother dying without her legs,” Ramirez told me.
Witnesses chased down the drunken driver and dragged him back to Ramirez.
“Do you know what you did!” Ramirez demanded before angrily, instinctively punching the man.
But his family interrupted the curbside interrogation with yells of “Guillermina! “Guillermina!” — his mother’s name.
Ramirez rushed to her side. She didn’t say a word. Pain stifled her words. Death was moments away.
“Everything will be OK ... you are going to be OK,” Ramirez told his mother, knowing full well he was lying to her.
In hindsight, he realized he simply was not ready to comfort her in her last moments. What would you say to a loved one in such a tragic scenario? Ramirez thought back to all the times she invited, even insisted, that he attend church with her.
“Come with me and you will know the Lord, too,” she would tell him.
He went to church with her a few times, but it didn’t stick.
Before the fatal crash, during the last days of her life, she would often tell Ramirez’s father, “I’m the happiest woman,” because she found the Lord in her heart.
But, after her shocking and graphic death, Ramirez was furious with her God for taking away his mother. He blamed God for several years until he slowly realized that his mother truly believed she was near God’s heaven when she was dying.
Still, Ramirez plotted revenge against his mother’s killer and bad blood boiled in his heart. His plans to attend college in Mexico, to become an engineer, also derailed because the university closed down. Plus, the man who killed his mother was never convicted of the crime. He’s a free man today.
New man, new family
Ramirez’s options were limited. His heart hurt. His anger simmered.
His father suggested he go to the United States to find work, a new outlook, a new life. Two months after his mother’s death, he first traveled to Los Angeles for a brief time, then to a faraway city in Indiana called Valparaiso. His family knew someone who lived there, he learned.
There, the natural-born green thumb found work at a landscaping business, a construction company, and then as a restaurant cook and masonry worker. He learned everything from the inside out and from the ground up. He paid his dues with hard work and buckets of sweat, learning how to speak English to chat with demanding customers.
Currently, he’s back into working on outdoor landscaping and also his preferred focus, “hardscaping,” the building of driveways, sidewalks, patios and the like.
Ramirez, who sports an easy smile and rough working-man’s hands, is currently going through a series of firsts these days.
He’s newly married, to Sarah Degner Ramirez, while inheriting her three children, Anna, John and Mary. He’s a new father to infant son, Samuel “Guillermo,” named in honor of Ramirez’s mother. And he started his own business, RRR Construction (508-4224 or www.rrrconstruction.vpweb.com), to nurture his blossoming American dream.
I’ve watched him work and each time I’ve noticed that he tackles every job with equal parts of brains, brawn, and ingenuity. He does side jobs. He does yard work. He does whatever it takes to put food on his family’s table.
His older model red pickup is filled with the tools of his trade — shovels, edgers, a lawn mower, an orange water cooler and several other tools I couldn’t even recognize.
On one recent job, he hauled several wheelbarrows of mulch from his truck to the work site on a humid, 90-degree day. Back and forth, back and forth.
This, I thought to myself, is work. Real work. Not typing at a computer kind of work. Ramirez, however, appears content with his job, his fledgling new business, and his new modern family.
Along the way, and probably most important to his mother, Ramirez found God again. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Years ago, he started regularly attending church, serving as an outreach coordinator, and even its director of a Hispanic tutoring program.
“This is who I am now,” he told me over breakfast recently.
Ramirez may already know this, and who am I to remind him, but I’m guessing his mother would be proud of the man he’s become.
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