Julio Ibarra: Kindness, Strength, and Dedication



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By Ana García Ibarra

 

Christmas decorations from Ibarra PotteryI grew up muddy, playing with molds and brushes, being careful not to break pieces while running around the pottery shop. But we are not talking about me. This article is about the man who never got angry if I broke a piece or two.

If I had to choose three words to describe him, they would be kindness, strength, and dedication.

Julio Ibarra is the name of the man who, more than my mother’s dad, was my grandfather. And, no, I never called him “abuelo” because I think that is a strong word for such a sweetness. For me, he will always be my “abuelito” and nothing more.

Before becoming my grandfather, he was a young man with dreams, goals, and aspirations — just like me. He loved art, his mother, and life. But more than that, he loved Juanita, the artist he met when he was seventeen and the woman who would become my grandmother.

Julio used to be a dancer; he was funny and stubborn according to the thousands of stories that I heard from his mouth while he was drinking coffee. He used to put his hands together and smile, showing his teeth — those teeth with so many flaws – a smile that was perfect in its own way, mostly because it was sincere. I’m sure that he smiled so much while telling us his stories because he relived all the adventures; he enjoyed them as if he were living them again. Or maybe he was just fascinated by having all of his grandchildren with their wide-open eyes listening to everything he had to say; and then it was we who lived all the stories with him.

Apart from being young, Juanita’s husband, adventurous, my mother’s dad, and a grandfather, Julio was also an artist, but a real one — like the ones who live for and by art. If you ask me how I remember him, I would say, working. If I had to describe him, it would always be with clay in his hands and clothes. And even if he thought he looked bad, he actually looked like an expert in his field. Even with broken shoes or pants full of glaze, he inspired respect from everybody who met him.

When I was a kid, I remember spending the days sitting by his side with a book in my hands, reading out loud. He would take his glasses off, and sometimes he would close his eyes. I always thought he was doing that to concentrate more, but now I think he actually did that because he was having trouble understanding my reading as I was only six. Anyhow, he seemed to enjoy our moments.

Years later, I remember having my first debates with him. If I learned how to debate, it was not because he taught me how to do it step by step, but because it was almost impossible to find a way to win against him. Nothing worked, and sometimes I ended up upset with my arguments, with life, or with myself — but never with him. Don Julio had that; you could never be angry at him. Even if he was stubborn, you just simply couldn’t.

From him and his thousand scars, I learned that it doesn’t matter if you fall, get hurt, or if it hurts. You have to keep going. Work, life, and opportunities do not wait for you to heal. You just simply put a bandage on the wound. And if somebody asks you what happened, you say, “it’s nothing,” and move on.

So, apart from being young, Juanita’s husband, adventurous, my mother’s dad, a grandfather, and an artist, Julio Ibarra was a dealer. And one of the best. He started 25 years ago, when his first granddaughter was born, and it lasted until his final days. I remember him hiding candy, chocolate, and money to give us. He always did that when my grandmother or our parents weren’t looking. And that face, raising his eyebrows like saying “be careful, it’s our secret,” is going to be my favorite memory. And I’m sure it’s the same for all of my cousins.

I think there are no real words to describe him — neither him nor his big heart, his love for his family, his kindness towards people in need, or his desire to live. I could write paragraphs, but only the people who had the fortune to meet him would know what I’m talking about.

Julio Ibarra, apart from being young, Juanita’s husband, adventurous, my mother’s dad, grandfather, artist, dealer, and accomplice… has now become my guardian angel. The best of all. And although his physical absence hurts, I feel him so present in my life that I’m sure he is. Days before he left, he promised me he would always watch over me and take care of me. Today I know he is doing that; I feel it.

Rather than blame God for having taken one of my heroes from my life, I think I’m thankful for the opportunity to have met him.

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