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Old Pueblo Abuelo: They call me Papa

(Old Pueblo Abuelo)

This is the sixth installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson.

Andres is my name. Andy is too. It’s all the same. Some call me Drew.

Legend tells us journalist Ella Winter told novelist Thomas Wolfe, “Don’t you know you can’t go home again?” in 1938 and Wolfe used that phrase for his novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Basically, as most of us know, you really can’t go home again. You might be able to visit a city, a street or an actual house where you once lived but the passage of time and fading memories makes “going home again” an impossibility.

For me, my earliest memories begin in a home on Ohio Street in the Rose Neighborhood west of the Rodeo Grounds. I can remember seeing the lights of a Ferris wheel from a carnival on the rodeo grounds from by bunk bed window. My grandmother passed away around that time, when I was 3, and I have three memories of her. I remember seeing her standing by a chain link fence, I remember her candy bowl and I remember her giving me homemade creamed corn soup. To this day, I stop and look at the creamed corn cans in the grocery store.

Some memories can be implanted but that memory is so specific and it fills me with emotions that I know it must be true. I also remember my younger brother Javier being born at that time and I remember two things that must have caused my parents worry that I can only now understand as a father and a grandfather.

I remember hiding a bottle of flavored children’s aspirin behind a door and then eating the whole bottle because I thought it was candy. All I know is I woke up in the hospital with a lot of needles in my wrist with the doctor begging me to throw up into a large metal bowl. That doctor was Dr. Philip E Dew of the old Thomas-Davis Clinic. He saved my life on what must have been a long Thanksgiving weekend for my family. My parents told me Dr. Dew almost never left my side and he called every doctor he knew for help. Unfortunately, Dr. Dew passed away this past February.

The other incident involved me running away from my babysitter’s home when my dad was on the Tucson City Council. I can’t remember where I thought I was going but I remember a policeman coming to a quick stop by me by the side of the road, picking me up and throwing me on the passenger’s seat of his cruiser and, when he got in the car, he told me how scared everyone was. He scolded me the whole way home and I remember our house filled with people. If that was to happen today to a politician I can just imagine the media frenzy. Cops are good people.

But that home on Ohio Street was just one of 18 places (I tried to count them all) I have ever lived in when accounting for family homes in Tucson and in Maryland. It also includes the various apartments I lived in while in college and the old Christopher City where University of Arizona married students lived. I’ve tried to visit a few of those homes and I either can’t find them or they are gone forever. I literally can’t go home again.

Christopher City was demolished in 2000 so it’s obviously gone as it our home on the southwest corner of Valencia and Del Moral Blvd, by the airport. I knew the home was falling apart after driving past it over the last 30 years or so but I made one final drive down there a few weeks ago only to find it completely gone. It’s an empty lot now.

There was only desert in front of our home at the time and I can recall hearing the Sunnyside High School PA announcer proclaim, “Touch down Harry Holt!” on a fall Friday night from a block away. Holt went on to play for the Wildcats and the Cleveland Browns. There is no way one could hear an announcer from that far away today thanks to dozens of apartments claiming the desert.

I walked around the grounds of my old home and found part of a wall and some tile that I remember my father putting in. Our old mailbox stand it also still there. I couldn’t go home if I tried.

My old elementary, Los Ranchitos, is no longer a school. I used to walk across the desert to get to it. The buildings are still there but the kids are gone. I went to Sunnyside Jr. High. It’s gone. They call it “Sierra K-8” now.

More “Old Pueblo Abuelo” can be found here.

We moved to Maryland in the late 1970s because my dad got a job in Jimmy Carter Administration (He also worked for Ronald Reagan. Those days of working across the divide are definitely over). I went to Kensington Jr. High. It’s now a retirement community or something like that. I went to Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda and played sports there as a “Spartan.” The mascot is now the “Wildcats.” I went to Arizona and got a degree in Exercise and Sports Sciences. That undergrad major is no longer offered there. I got a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities. That is no longer a recognized area of study. Now, more recently, the school I teach at changed colors from teal to red. Again, I can never go home again.

Then there’s my name.

We called our grandfather “Papa Nino” and my kids called my father “Tata.” I was almost named “Ignacio” but my parents decided on “Andres” instead. That morphed to “Andy” when I went to school. In high school, a lot of my African American friends in the DC area called me “Drew” because they saw my dad’s tight curls and they felt “Drew” was a more appropriate name.

Only a handful of people call me “Drew” to this day and only two little girls call me “Papa” (Well, one can’t speak yet). One day, my great grand kids will call me “Papa Nino.”

Only then, will I truly be home again.

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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