Image by narciso1 from Pixabay

Well, it’s that time of the year again. December 8, 2021. The flat earth has faked its voyage around the sun again, and 365 days later, I’m still here. Another great year of doing my best to stay away from as many crazies as possible while hoping that I can just get through a day without hearing the name of you know who. Hint: it ain’t this President, Joe Biden. So it’s birthday time and an opportunity to assess the past year and wonder where I am in the grand scheme of things. Have I learned well enough and done enough good things that I deserve to celebrate this birthday with a smile on my face?

Look, I’m smiling.

This June, I graduated with an AA in English from Long Beach City College (LBCC) with honors. Let’s start with that. Yes, it took me five years, but I dug in my heels, pushed my body and mind through some rough physical patches along the way, and made it to the finish line. Not bad for a then seventy-two-year-old.


My poem, The Ax Handle, was published in the LBCC literary journal Saga.

Student ID number masked.

I was accepted to California State University, Long Beach, where I am in the final two weeks of my first semester. The big difference for me is that I’m now taking three classes instead of two. I still count myself lucky every time I hear about students taking four classes while working part-time or even full-time jobs and taking care of a family. But, this is still no walk in the park for me. I’ve probably done more reading and writing in the past two semesters in college than I have in, oh I don’t know, thirty years? And I love it. I’ve written two original short stories this semester along with four academic essays, read about literary theories from Michel Foucault and Mikhail Bakhtin, watched the television drama, and read the text of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot for the first time. Holy shit, what took me so long? There was Olaudah Equiano, John Keats, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (I’ve seen the movie but never read the story), Virginia Woolf, and Chinua Achebe (a Nigerian writer), who blew my mind. They’re not kidding when they say you have a choice: sail through college and get that degree and not remember a damn thing you studied, or you can take each day to allow yourself to be absorbed by what you learn, and you will be changed forever. I like the latter.

Not satisfied with one artificial knee on my left leg, I decided to get a new knee on my right leg. There were no complications. I’m jumping around (maybe jumping is too strong a word) on two titanium knees now. How did I ever forget what it means to replace one’s knee? This is no walk in the park. As the physician assistant told me once when I complained about the pain, “Remember, we just tore your leg open, ripped out the old knee, and plugged in a metal knee while cutting nerves and moving shit around.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing now, but I got it. Yeah, they did that. Didn’t make the pain go away, but sure did sober me up and convinced me to take the damn pain pills that I’d been resisting out of fear of addiction and throw myself knees first into physical rehab. Five months later, I’m doing just fine.

I just love this picture.

Special thanks to my wife-partner, Sumire Gant, for leadership and planning. We’ve finally gotten around to some long overdue house remodeling. Funny how you take your home for granted sometimes. You’ve lived in it for twenty-three years, and you just get so used to things being what they are that you don’t realize how uncomfortable you are with specific spaces. Then, you come to the Aha moment that your home would be even better if only you took the time to fix or replace those spaces. Well, we’ve spent the nearly past two years slowly getting around to things that we’ve been putting off for a very long time, and it really feels good.

The most essential thing that has happened to me since my last birthday has been my continued growth as a human being, a husband, a father, and a brother. While I’ve had to fight hard to battle the Pandemic Blues, I continue to work on my nearly thirty-seven-year-old relationship with my wife-partner, Sumire Gant. We just celebrated our thirty-fourth anniversary recently, and on January 1, 2022, we’ll commemorate thirty-seven years of living together. Now, there’s a woman with patience.

I’m consistently strengthening my relationship with my oldest son, Antonio, the father of the beautiful granddaughter, Anabella, and my youngest, Daichi Gant-Ruiz. I’m so proud of both of them.


Then, there’s my family in New York, with whom I continue to build bridges. As the oldest, I just found it easy to disentangle myself during the sixties from family. Yes, I know I always used the excuse, “It was the sixties, man!” but I took it to an extreme through the next fifty years. I moved around a lot to other cities and coasts and acted as if they and my parents were someone else’s family. Yeah, don’t do that. It’s not a good thing.

The side benefit of building bridges is I’m also growing connected with the Dominican half of me, my mother’s side. I’m reading Junot Diaz’s book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, all about the Dominican Republic and Dominicans. Damn, I thought Puerto Rico was fascinating. They don’t have anything on the DR and their history of spectacular dictatorships and United States intervention. There are Dominican cousins (we seem to have a million of them) in New York who have been busy charting the family’s genealogy for some time now. I’ve seen pictures of grandmothers going back to the nineteenth century. Now, that’s cool.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

As I begin the next trek around the sun rushing toward 74, let me just confirm what friends of mine who are older than me have been saying for years, “Hold on, the best rides are just ahead.”

Author: Antonio Pedro Ruiz

Antonio Ruiz is an ex-junkie-alcoholic, former seminarian, one-time radio host-producer, past community organizer, continuing to be a media advocate, retired television reporter, ex-commission executive director, once a street vendor of jewelry and gloves, waitron (waiter to you), a former bartender who drank too much on the job, an ex-motorcycle courier who learned to ride a bike just for the job, ex-airport shuttle driver, former Entertainment news director-producer, the best time of my life, one-time live TV events red carpet producer-executive producer, ex-small business consultant, ex-youth media and journalism mentor, and now a college student who also has been married three times (thirds the charm), and just couldn't help living with two other women because well, that's part of my story.

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