Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grandpa Carlos

My Grandma Rise and Grandpa Carlos are finally together again – 33 years after Grandpa Carlos died at the young age of 61.

The remains of my paternal grandfather, Carlos Gallegos, were reinterred with military honors on Friday during a solemn ceremony at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. His casket was exhumed from the cemetery in Las Vegas, where it remained since he died in 1980, and taken to the National Cemetery. The casket was buried in the same grave that my grandmother, Grucella Gallegos, was placed nearly two months ago.
My daughters read the grave marker at the National Cemetery
I’m not sure how to describe my feelings about the experience. It was strange to be present for two burials of my Grandpa some 33 years apart. I was just 11 years old the first time, and his death was sort of locked in my memory, or perhaps my conscience, as one of several losses in a few short years. I lost two great-grandparents and a childhood friend, in addition to Grandpa Carlos, to death in a three-year period. One memory about my Grandpa’s funeral in 1980 is that I turned down the idea of playing Taps on my trumpet. I was too scared to do it.

The ceremony on Friday was nice. My Bustamante cousins, my brother and I served as pallbearers, just as we did in April for Grandma Rise’s funeral. Standing behind the flag-draped casket, I thought about the fact that two of my cousins weren’t even born back in 1980 when Grandpa Carlos died. One was born shortly after, and appropriately named Carlos after the grandfather he never got to meet. I wondered what he was thinking about during Friday’s ceremony. Same thing with his younger brother, Mark, who was born after Grandpa died, and to some extent, their brother, Dion who was probably too young to remember much about his grandfather.
Carlos Gallegos 

But the two oldest of the Bustamante boys, Dale and David, were very close in age to my brother, Jon, and me – and we all have our memories of Grandpa, I’m sure. I wish I could remember more about him. But I definitely remember him wearing a white t-shirt and sipping a can of Schlitz beer – either on his couch or on the chair on the front porch. I remember watching “professional” wrestling with him on Saturday or Sunday mornings – I can’t remember which. I remember sleeping in the basement of their home on 8th Street and waking to the smell of Grandma’s eggs and bacon. Whether it was breakfast or meat and gravy and corn for dinner, I always remember Grandpa Carlos telling me to be sure to finish the plate, cleaning it up with bread or tortilla. I tell the same thing to my daughters, often reminding them that that’s what Grandpa Carlos would say.
Las Vegas Cemetery 2012
Las Vegas Cemetery 2012
 Part of me wishes my grandparents would have been buried in Las Vegas, where they lived most of their lives. But I also know that Grandpa was proud of his military service during World War II, and what an honor it is to be buried at the National Cemetery, along with so many other soldiers. His uncle, Anastacio Gallegos, is also buried at the National Cemetery. Anastacio was the brother of my great-grandfather, Luis Gallegos, and fought during World War I.

Every time I asked Grandma Rise about Grandpa’s time in the military, she always reminded me, proudly, that he was an officer – 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army.

Rest In Peace, Lt. Gallegos.

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