Alvarado, California no longer exists.  The small bay area town, named after the Mexican governor of California in the middle of the 19th century, merged with the adjacent town of Decoto in 1959 to become Union City.  Alvarado – while it existed – was where Sabio Carrabello was born, 90 years ago.  He died on July 20th, his wife of 71 years, Juanita, at his side.

Sabio met Juanita in high school, where he was quarterback of the football team.  They eloped to Reno prior to his enlistment in the navy.

After serving in World War Two, Sabio opened “Sabello’s” (apparently, a contraction of his first and last names), a barbershop in the sleepy town of Hayward, not that far from Alvarado, and worked as a barber for 56 years.

By all accounts, he loved what he did, and it showed in the styling awards he won and the loyal customers he kept.  Those closest to him describe him as having a generous nature and a willingness to help those in need.  His three daughters and one son will miss him deeply, as will his 12 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren, 9 great great grandchildren, and, of course, Juanita.

Services will not be held.  Instead, donations may be made in his name to Bethesda Christian home in Hayward.

I’m drawn to obituaries.  Most, I assume, celebrities notwithstanding, are written by surviving family members.  As a writer, I am intrigued by the challenge: how do you do justice to a life in a few paragraphs?  What do you choose to include or exclude?  Do you take a facts-only approach, or do you try to discuss someone’s inner, emotional life?  Do you talk about the challenges and difficulties they faced, as well as the triumphs and simple ho hum moments?

If you had to write your own obituary today, what would it say?

Let’s give it a shot:

A. was born in Madrid, Spain, but emigrated (or is it “immigrated?”  He never got that one straight) to California, to Los Angeles, when he was still a baby.  Unfortunately, he never learned Spanish.  Later he learned German, but that proved to be useless outside of Germany.  As a young man, he had romantic notions of being an architect, and it took him only eight years to figure out that while he was a decent architect, he would never be a great one.

He finally stopped ignoring his first love, writing, and took it up as his vocation, along with owning a couple bars, but that was more a diversion and source of income than a passion.

The writing gave him purpose.

But not the writing alone: he married L., who was his boss when he rolled pizzas at DiMattia’s Pasta Café (no longer there) in the Glendale Galleria (still there).  She let him use the phone when he wasn’t allowed to, and in return he entertained her with mock spontaneous poetry readings in front of the pizza oven.  She was beautiful and she read more books than him and he fell in love with her.  They had two sons, R. and G., who, combined, love baseball, soccer, football, tennis, track, death metal, cooking, video games, and bird watching.

If you knew A., this would strike you as hysterical.

There is a photo in the bathroom of his two sons when they were one and five, in the bath tub together, that brought a smile to his face every time he saw it.  In his wallet he kept a photo of his wife he took years ago, as well as the handwritten note she left him one summer when he was leaving to return to college.  In it she wrote that seeing him on summer vacation and holidays was of no consolation to her.

Those were the words she used: “of no consolation to me now.”  Even after many years of marriage, he admired her profile as they lay in bed.

A. wanted to think of himself as a good father, but he was never quite sure whether he was too strict or too lenient, whether he should be a distant authority figure or a buddy.  So he winged it, and hopes he didn’t screw up too badly.  His family will miss him, but he hopes that one day they will read some of these blogs, maybe some of his screenplays (some sold, most unproduced) and get a sense of the man.  But more than that, he hopes that they, and L., and his parents and friends, will think fondly of the time they spent together, and forgive – or at least understand – his mistakes and flaws.  

Because he was not sure whether God existed or not, A. does not care whether any type of religious service is held.  If it pleases his survivors, that’s fine.  But he would like them to have some kind of party to reminisce and eat and drink and play music.  He has set aside $1000 cash for food and drink.  It’s in a cup in the highest cupboard in the kitchen.


  1. For what it’s worth, there’s at least one random stranger on the internet who thinks you’re a good father and now knows where to get $1k in cash (don’t worry, I don’t know where you live, and I would make a crappy burglar).

  2. Alfredo, not my favourite topic, but I accept the challenge, and will give it a go. Here it is!

    Once upon a time there was a little girl born without pretensions. This little girl used to admired, if not wanted to be, someone else. She believed that a better and perfect world was achievable, as much as her own fairy tale. Humble, naive and even gullible, she developed some confidence issues with the priceless help of others, of course. She grew up (well, not much really) being or feeling invisible for many people, but this indifference would soon become her mojo. A big opportunity knocked at her door and she did not hesitate to take it, but instead of riding the easy road, she chose (or was driven to choose, who knows?) the tough one. Too proud to be mistaken by a girl with no principles… damn! Anyway, no regrets, since she had a hell of a life and accomplished more than average. She demonstrated to others, but more importantly to herself, how much she was worth it. Now that the fairy tale has a happy ending, go and celebrate my life, not my death! And, by the way, no, I did not hide any money for you to spend