A Day in Tohatchi

Required Reading for those who are new:

R.I.P. Randy James Arthur
Remembering Randy

On Monday evening, I left work early and I packed an overnight bag and drove to Tohatchi, NM which is about 6 hours away from Clovis, NM clear across the state. Why Tohatchi? Why such a sudden trip?

I was due to have a knee appointment in Albuquerque on Tuesday afternoon, and since I am hardly in the area, I thought I would visit Randy’s grave and Randy’s family, which I was very close to.

I arrived in Tohatchi at around 10:00 PM, but being in a Navajo Reservation in pitch black darkness can leave one confused as to what turns to take. Needless to say, I drove around a little aimlessly for about an hour and finally found the mile marker I needed to turn into.

Immediately after I arrived, Julia (Randy’s mom) hugged me, said Ya’ta’hee (‘Hello’ in Navajo) and got my bed ready. I slept in Jackson’s (Randy’s deceased father) room and had strange dreams.

I woke up early the next morning, and had a cup of strong black coffee with Julia. We cried about Randy, remembered him fondly, and I expressed my regret for leaving the reservation.

See, I had lived with Julia for a year or so when I was younger. I hitchiked back and forth from Gallup to Tohatchi (back when this was a fairly safe and common way of travelling) and I learned to herd sheep, ride horses and be adveturous. After a while, my adventurous spirit got the best of me, and I began hitch hiking to Taos, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. I never made it back to the reservation, although Randy and I did stay together well into 2003.

I trekked over the hill behind Julia’s house and reminiced fondly about the adventures Randy and I had while walking in the desert. I remember walking for miles and finding what I would consider to be ‘magical’ places that seemed to have been long forgotten. As a matter of fact, a couple of miles into the desert, I had found a peculiar circle of rocks, much like an American version of Stonehenge.

Julia and I got ready to go and we went to visit Catherine, Randy’s older sister. We a breakfast of eggs and toast, and immediately delved into talking about Randy. I mentioned I wanted to visit his grave. We left together in my car and made it through the labyrinth of dirt roads and finally arrived at the cemetery.

It’s hard to believe that the first love of my life was gone forever. That I would never hear his voice, or hold his hand. It felt strange to say that he was dead. It felt as if his soul was still very much alive, possibly hitch hiking to another state or even silently watching us through specter’s eyes. I didn’t feel him as gone.

We went back to Cat’s place and talked some more about Randy. She brought in his chef’s kit. Randy had gone to the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Academy in Dover, New Hampshire and had finished his Chef accreditation. Unfortunatly, he was ‘over qualified’ for most of the externships he applied to, and no one was able to afford his skills. She took out his cooking tools and gently ran her finger over the various zesters, peelers, ladles and spatulas.

I am always going to miss Randy, just like I miss my Abuelita who raised me. They both are in my thoughts daily, and I seem to always get this feeling in my chest as if my heart is breaking every time I realize that they are gone, and I will never see them again.

My thoughts are often filled will regret of not having spent more time with them, and like I mentioned before, I think it’s imperative to spend time with those at high-risk of leaving this terrestial world sooner than we will.

It was a good visit and far too short. I am planning on taking weekend trips a little more often, because when I am back on the reservation, I feel like I am home.

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