Maybe it’s the connection to my dad, but I find Ajo as one of those little communities with something very special about it.
This morning we stopped at the Catholic Church, walked around the gorgeous town plaza and stopped at the coffee shop. When we climbed back in the RV, Louie Walters who met at the museum yesterday appeared outside our window.
“I’ve got a rabbit for you,” he said holding up a small envelope. He had been looking for us, and by God’s grace, we parked right outside his house.
We invited him inside, and after having to give us the sad news that Carmelita had passed away a few months ago, he still pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Inside the envelope was a copy of an email from Mary Ann, Charlie and Carmelita’s daughter. Mary Ann was a classmate of Louie’s wife, and he emailed her last night to let her know we were looking for her parents.
Reading the letter revealed that Mary Ann was just as excited to talk to us as we were to talk to her. Part of her note read:
“My mother and father thought the world of these people. Eugene was my father’s best man when mom and dad got married in Abilene, Texas. I want very much to be able to talk to them.”
As soon as we said our goodbyes to Louie, we were dialing Mary Ann. The moment I asked, “Is Mary Ann available?” she knew who I was. Although we had never met, it was clear she and I grew up with our fathers telling the exact same stories.
I was still sad I wouldn’t get the chance to see Carmelita again, but telling Mary Ann about the day I brought my father back to Ajo in the 1980s felt wonderful.
I remember the day clearly. We stopped at the pay phone in town and my dad dialed Charlie’s number.
Charlie first questions was, “Gene, where are you?”
“Charlie, I’m at the pay phone… in Ajo.”
A few minutes later we were parked outside Charlie and Carmelita’s house. Charlie met us in the yard, and these two grown men who hadn’t seen each other in 40 years hugged and began to cry. Enormous, honorable tears of joy.
Before we left town today, we stopped at the mine lookout to see the enormous hole my dad helped dig. The mine is abandoned now, but the terraced slopes to the bottom remain. And in the center of the pit sets a giant turquoise lake… a turquoise color I didn’t think existed in such quantity.
My mom and I stopped by the museum one more time, and then visited the cemetery to lay flowers on Charlie and Carmelita’s graves. We were grateful to relive a bit of dad’s past… and we celebrated with delicious tacos, apple pie and lemon pie at Marcella’s restaurant in town.