Monday, August 24, 2009

Andrew knew...

One of my daughters recently began reading from Andrew's sporadic journal and notepads in which he jotted down thoughts in random fashion. One statement gave her some peace. He said his sisters helped build up his confidence. But in another paragraph he wrote his thoughts on the medication "Resperdol" or something like that. I think that is what he was prescribed at the mental health hospital. He had read up on the side effects, which were substantial. He didn't want to take it.

I guess it's one thing when a person is mentally disabled and doesn't really know what is going on, but that wasn't the case here--he did his own research. He could tell you all the reasons why he was or was not going to do something.

Andrew was fully aware that he was struggling and worked his own program: he exercised every day, ate fresh veggies with lots of beans and brown rice and whole grains and lean meat, and cut down on his vices. He quit smoking, a habit he had taken up either during his senior year or after high school, and limited drinking alcohol. I think he realized it was bad to drink hard liquor, but for a while whiskey had been his companion. But the effects it had on him were ugly. When I saw him, he would drink O'Douls, if he wanted beer, or just water.

He read a lot, and a lot of variety. He had history books, the bible, cookbooks, sports books, materials on gardening, car repair, and more in his room. He really studied the biblical passages and decided to fast for Lent this year. He quit eating meat for the duration of Lent. He went through a self-imposed cleanse and was the picture of physical health.

We hadn't been attending church services for many years, although I raised the kids in the Catholic faith. I wasn't sure why he decided to fast for Lent, but he was going all out, doing it for days at a time in the old-fashioned style...not just skipping meat on Fridays, but fasting. Now we wonder if he had been preparing to leave this earth for several months prior.

He ate some barbecued tri-tip on Easter Sunday. I talked to him on Monday evening and asked him about it. Had he enjoyed it? Yes, he assured me. His dad's barbecue was always delicious.

He had called me that night about 6:05 p.m. when I was getting ready for work. I didn't see the call until I was at my work station about 7:00 p.m. I saw I had a message and listened to it. He wanted to talk to me, he said. I called him back right away. When I asked him what he wanted to talk to me about, he seemed to hesitate.

"Nothing. No reason."

I sensed he had simply changed his mind. So I talked to him for a bit, drawing him out and sharing with him, gently. A little bell was going off in my head, but it was faint and I didn't really know what to make of it. I told Andrew I loved him and hung up. That was the last time we talked.

Andrew's essay: "Why I Love Sports Writing"

Andrew wrote this essay for the Knight-Ridder scholarship application. When I read it, I can hear his voice, feeling his enthusiasm, and sense his humility. It is him...the Andrew we all love and miss so very much. I am so proud to share it with you.


Why I Love Sports Writing

By Andrew Ramos

Ever since I was a little kid, I would wake up in the morning and wait eagerly for the Tribune to get to my house. When the newspaper would finally arrive, I would run out into the cold morning fog, grab the paper and run back into the house. I would tear the sports section out of the middle of the paper, and I would give the rest of the paper to my mom so she could read the daily news. I used to and still do love any opportunity I get to read all about the magical sports hero’s of the world. When I first started writing for the school newspaper in my junior year of high school, I was amazed to find that I had a knack for writing the paper’s sports articles. I like to say my writing ability should be credited to osmosis because of the fact that I’ve read so much sports material.

I have always been among the top writers in my class, routinely getting the highest grades on all of my essays and reports. When I started writing for the school newspaper, I found that I was not only adequate at covering and writing sports articles, but also that I enjoyed the whole process more than anything I had ever done in school. My mom writes for the local Atascadero News, and every now and then Editor Lon Allan asks me to go out and do little “Street Scenes” for the paper.

I have written two stories for the former Atascadero Gazette and I was going to start covering more sports to help them out, but nothing worked out when the paper condensed to two papers instead of five.

I guess the best way to sum up why I want to pursue a career in journalism is that it is the profession, out of all professions I’ve heard of, that I feel would give me the most enjoyable life I could possibly have. Sports writing is one of my two passions, while the other is simply playing the sports that I love to write and read about. I hope and dream that someday I’ll be a professional baseball player, but this year in football I broke my hand in the third game of the year against Righetti, and it was kind of a wake-up call for me that, “Hey, its very likely you are not going to be a professional athlete.” But it gets better.

I came back for the last two games of the season to play against our arch rivals, the Paso Robles Bearcats, and I played my butt off in what was to be a 35-0 loss. Before the game, my coaches were secretly in doubt of my ability to come back from my injury, of my ability But after the game, my head coach commended me in front of the whole team and all of the coaches for playing so tough and never giving up, for trying to provide any spark I could, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. I was consoled by the fact that I would get to play at least one CIF football game, and I wanted nothing more than to win that game and three more games after it to capture the championship.

We had to travel down to Inglewood to play an undefeated football team, the Inglewood Sentinels, a team who had just been trampling opponents all year long and had twice scored 76 points in a single football game. I let my team know I expected nothing less than everything it had, and even if we did lose, we would lose as warriors. We went into the game 3-8, and I can see how some players would want to just pack it in and go home. But not me.

Inglewood had two offensive lineman that were 6 feet, 7 inches tall and 325 pounds. The rest of their line wasn’t far behind those two in size and the team had four running backs (including the quarterback) who had NFL type speed. All of my team wanted to sit around and just let ourselves be beat before we ever set foot on the field, but a few of my fellow seniors and myself got our team ready to play and we voiced our expectations.

The first half of the football game was beautiful. We held their offense to 8 measly points and our own non-existent offense somehow managed 7 points of their own. I had 8 first half tackles myself and I was playing the game of my life. There’s just something about adrenaline and I was so woozy at the end of the first half that when I was checking the scoreboard for down-and-distance on their last first-half drive, I could no longer see the lights of the scoreboard. They were just a big blurry, jumbled mess of lights and all of my energy and adrenaline left me to do nothing but give the absolute best I had.

At halftime, my whole team just acted like they were kind of shocked that we were doing as well as we were, but I tried to rally them, to make them believe that we were good enough to win the ballgame, and I feel that we were on the way to a victory. And then, when I jogged out onto the field to start the second half the scoreboard was easily observed again and I was no longer woozy from the blows my head had absorbed. I was ready to play.

We kicked off to Inglewood to start the half, so I went out on defense after I kicked off. Then, Inglewood ran a sweep to the weak side, my side of the formation, and I sprinted up and attacked the pulling lineman. One of the Sentinel’s halfbacks apparently didn’t want to block me on that play, so he dove at my feet and grabbed my left ankle. Well, I was running at full speed, so with my left leg being held, I was falling forward and my right leg was way out in front of me. One of Inglewood’s lineman hit me right as I planted my right foot, and his weight plus my weight, including both of our momentum’s, proceeded to snap my right fibula near my ankle.

The Sentinels broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown on the very next play and my team ended up losing 35-21. I rode the bus home because I hoped that maybe I just had a bad ankle sprain, but the next day X-rays revealed a break that ended up requiring seven screws and a metal plate. I’m still on the road to recovery right now, but I hope I’ll be able to play in the high school baseball season later on in the school year.

Now, I know that whoever is reading this is probably very mad that it is so long, but I just wanted to include this story to represent my love for sports and my zest for writing about them. For the past four years of my life, my life has been all about playing as many sports as I could and doing as well as I possibly could have in school, so I feel that leaving this information about myself out of this essay would have been cheating myself.

If I was asked what my career goals were, I would say winning the World Series with a California team and then going into journalism after that. But I now realize that you can’t control everything that happens to you, so you have to be prepared for the worst should it decide to start following you around.

My goal in journalism is just to keep working and writing for whomever will hire me and then my ultimate goal is to one day write for Sports Illustrated or ESPN: The Magazine. I get my Sports Illustrated magazines on Thursday’s and barring an overload of homework, I have usually read them cover to cover by the time Monday rolls around.

Every one of the sports I have played involved the whole team being committed to a common goal and we have usually done very well. I feel that my leadership skills, derived from and kindled through my involvement in sports, will be an asset for any company that I will ever work for.

How I got the news...

I had just gotten off the night shift at 7 a.m. and was in bed, sleeping hard, when I heard the doorbell ring. No way was I getting up for some salesman or religious peddler! I was so exhausted.

Suddenly there was banging on my bedroom window, and I screamed! My mind was too fuzzy to think, but was someone breaking in? No, they were calling my name: "Open the door. It's the Sheriff's Department." Huh? What did I do? Am I in trouble at work?
When I got to the door and opened it, there was a Deputy Sheriff and also someone else I knew...Melody, a sister of my ex-sister-in-law.

"You need to call Bill right away," she advised. "It's about Andrew." I flashed back to when Andrew was 2 years old and she had been there in our lives...trying to get him to talk. The Deputy said something about "so sorry" but I wasn't sure about what. I just knew, when they say that, it's serious.

I think when I called Bill I got ahold of Jayne, my daughter. She talked in a very controlled, but tight voice as she filled me in. Andrew was at the hospital on life-support machines. Hurry, but don't be reckless, she cautioned.

I sat down at the dining room table and sobbed. Taylor held me. I called Lee to come home. I didn't want to drive myself the 40 miles to the hospital. When Lee got home, we went together.
I listened to the message Bill had left me just minutes after he'd found Andrew lying on the floor. I tried to prepare my self for what I would see, what was to come...Oh God, how will we cope with this?