The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

Personal Column: My time as a brother

Mateo and I smiling in a jeep after honking the horn multiple times.
Esteban Gallardo
Mateo and I smiling in a jeep after honking the horn multiple times.

When I was around six years old, I first started telling my family that I wanted a little brother, for the sole reason of having someone to play football with. Realistically, I knew it would never happen, but the thought of having a mini-me would never leave my head. Despite my initial excitement, those initial thoughts faded away, at least until September 2020. Halfway through that month, my mom told me that my Tia Venessa was adopting a baby. I can’t recall what my initial reaction was, but I knew then that I wanted to meet him. 

I met him later than expected because of COVID-19, but that was just one of the many reasons why I couldn’t see him. His birth mother had tested positive for HIV which can be carried into the baby. She also self-disclosed that she smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and was addicted to heroin/cocaine. Before he was born his mom was assisted with something as simple as a gallon of milk, produce, and protein by a Houston icon who goes by the name Mattress Mack. She returned that kind gesture by naming the boy ‘Mattress Mack’. I still laugh about it today. When he was born, he was immediately placed in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). The first thing the doctors did was run mass amounts of tests to see if he carried some of the diseases his mother had. My cousin was considered a miracle baby by the doctors because it was unheard of to survive birth in this extreme of a situation let alone make it with minimal diseases. 

When I first met him, I remember feeling upset that such a beautiful little kid had gone through so much pain. But that sadness morphed into protectiveness when I locked eyes with him. I immediately knew I would do anything for my little man. My Tia changed his name to Mateo as soon as she could. I still called him Mattress Mack for a while but absolutely loved his new name. Mateo Ramirez was officially adopted on Nov. 12, 2021, and not only was he now a part of my family, but he made my six-year-old dream come true. I finally had my own little brother. 

Covid-19 prevented in person court, so a zoom meeting was held. (Aime Gallardo)

 

Story continues below advertisement

When weekends came during the school year I jumped at any chance I got to go visit Mateo. Regardless of how early I had to wake up on a Saturday morning I still felt the need to go see him, even if it meant sleeping on his couch for a few hours before playing with him. Though if I’m being honest, I was more excited that he had the body of a future linebacker, and I kept him conditioned and primed by chasing him around the kitchen and living room. As time passed, I couldn’t help but notice how smart he was getting. The way my cousins and I could joke with him made it seem like he was our age. One of my favorite memories was walking into the kitchen and finding him on the ground chowing down on some white powdered donuts. I didn’t really know what to think other than how he got the bag down from the counter and how he went through a brand new bag so fast, but just as I tried grabbing the bag from him, his little legs took off right under me and ran so fast out of the kitchen. I figured he had a better chance of becoming a running back in the NFL after that. 

Eating white powdered donuts wasn’t the only thing he was obsessed with. Mateo loved Chuck-e-Cheese and was just as excited when someone said those words then if he was actually going. He loved screaming “ALEXAAA” in my sister’s bedroom, although I’m not sure if he wanted to see the light go in a circle or hear a voice. He loved to dance to “Baby Shark” and “Roar” by Katy Perry, and he didn’t care who was around to see it as long as he got to shake out his moves. He loved to watch “Bluey” no matter whose house he was in and expected you to give up the remote for him. He loved having his own food and refused to share it with me but insisted it would be okay with a pat on the back and a smile, just no Goldfish. He loved to model with sunglasses and a sweater in front of my entire family during my mom’s Valentine parties. He loved his sister and did whatever he had to do to make her laugh. He loved to be creative whether it was scribbling on paper or his chair, and made sure his creations were in the permanent market. He loved playing with my LED lights and would press them when I wasn’t looking then smile when I turned around to catch him. He loved causing trouble in daycare but played friendly when his mom or Mattress Mack was around. 

There are so few words to describe such a ball of energy. If he wasn’t biting me anywhere he pleased or eating spicy food he would giggle about the simplest things like me wrapping him in a blanket and calling him Taco Mateo. The more I saw him, the more I realized how happy he made me and our family. Watching him grow from being a baby struggling with health issues to a little kid who could smile his way through anything really helped me admire the amount of fortitude he had. He was stronger than most and a fighter since birth. All I could think about then was the amount of fun he and I were going to have together when he got older. I pictured calling him while I was in college and asking how his day at school was like a protective brother would do. I pictured going to all of his games when he pursued sports like a supportive brother would do. I pictured watching him graduate 5th grade all the way up to 12th grade like an encouraging brother would do. I pictured everything a loving brother would do.

Mateo passed away on Aug. 12, 2023. Just six days before his third birthday. I remember getting a call from my mom at around ten in the morning and waiting for her to put her own words together. When she passed the phone to a lady I had never heard before I was even more lost. The woman explained that she worked at the hospital but would discreetly pull back every time she finished her sentences like she was hiding something. “Baby Mateo was in an accident and he didn’t make it”. After 20 seconds of staring into the ground, I started to shake and stutter. I was told to hand the phone over to my sister who couldn’t look up after she heard what happened. When I got to the hospital I walked into a silent hallway with the only sound being screams from afar and the loss of breath in my lungs. I saw my Tia curled up next to his body and I couldn’t do anything but run out of the room. After sitting with my family silently for what felt like a blink, I was told they were moving him to a new place, so I built the courage to go and say goodbye. I held his hand and told him when I saw him again we’re going to eat all the white powdered donuts we could find. 

Mateo’s vacation fit in Hawaii. (Vanessa Ramirez)

I couldn’t stand being at home where all I felt was sadness illuminating everyone in my house. I asked another family member if I could stay at their house and they questioned me, asking if now was the right time to leave. Thinking about it now I regret it, leaving my entire family for those two nights but I knew I needed to process it by myself. After his funeral, nothing was the same. My family lost something big and our dynamic had shifted. Even now I still can’t bring myself to eat white powdered donuts. Mateo wasn’t just someone I took for granted; he was someone that changed everything for me. I value every single one of my family members more because I know now what it’s like to lose something priceless. Having a love for family isn’t just being there when they need you most, it’s always being there. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired after school or you just got off of work. Expressing the love you have for your close ones should always be your top priority.

 

Leave a Comment
Donate to Upstream News
$150
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Carnegie Vanguard High School. Your contribution will allow us to cover our annual website hosting costs and fund field trips, competition fees, and equipment. We appreciate your support!

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Esteban Gallardo, Staff Writer
Esteban Gallardo is a Junior at CVHS. In his free time he enjoys to open and sell Pokémon cards as well as drive and view cars. Additionally, he puts a lot of work into sports, spending on average 1 hour a day running and working out to prepare for the Cross country and Track seasons. He is very ambitious in his goals, as well as very direct with what he wants/achieves. He often works hard to improve himself, and is willing to go the extra mile to get there. He hopes to become a more sophisticated writer, to further his skills and knowledge in journalism.
Donate to Upstream News
$150
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All Upstream News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *