THE FATHERS IN MY LIFE
As men, we all can find experiences during our lives with our fathers to use as metaphors or examples of what they have meant to us. Some of us have lost our fathers to illness or age or some tragic accident; some still have them with them; some have lost them due to the father’s irresponsibility and neglect.
That is not a judgment; but rather just an observation and I would be less than truthful if I did not acknowledge it. It happens way too often; and it is sad; but we do not live in a perfect world and there is no sense in pretending otherwise.
And at the end of the day; it’s the man who helped raise you who matters most. It’s the father who woke up nights when the child was sick; who stayed up late waiting for their child to come home; the one who cried when the child got married or was hurt by someone else; the one who worked day in and day out to provide the best he could; the one who felt your happiness and felt your pain; that’s the real father.
The one who dried your tear with his strong and rough hand; days after your life had changed forever.
When we die, I don’t think God will judge us by how we were treated by our fathers but rather by how we as fathers treat our children. For those who don’t have children by choice; that’s ok too. But for those that do, we must always remember that when we made the decision to have them; or to adopt them in some cases; we signed on for the rest of our lives.
As we celebrate Father’s Day; I am reminded of the “fathers” in my life. There are more than I will mention here; they know who they are; these good men are still with us; so allow me to mention those who have gone on before us. Perhaps these words will provide a bit of solace for those whom they left behind.
My childhood friend and little league teammate Rudy and I once went to the cemetery where his father is buried to try and find his father’s gravesite. I think he told me he lost his dad when he was barely 9 or 10. Rudy knew my dad; I unfortunately never met his.
But on that Sunday afternoon; as grown men I still felt like a kid helping a friend from the barrio look for his father. When we found his father’s final resting place the look on his face was like one of a proud child remembering the baseball glove his father had given him when he was young.
His father had taken him to Sears to choose the glove; he was proud of it. It meant more than what he realized; and it had certainly become more memorable and meaningful after his dad passed away.
He didn’t realize just how meaningful until after his younger brother had lost it.
Both of our dads gave us something special; both Rudy and I inherited our baseball playing skills from our fathers; and we still can’t stop talking about our undefeated season, our city championship title in 1965; and our making the All Star team 2 years in a row! For those of you from those days; we played for the Swabbies.
Our paths still cross frequently today; we’ve shared stories about our dads; me more than him; he understands.
My friend Alex’s father and my dad worked together when Alex and I were in elementary and for many years after that. But neither one of us knew until many years later. Coincidently; Alex and I worked together at the old Fields and Company in the 1970’s.
His mother used to tell him that she always got a kick out of the way my father walked so fast. She told Alex that my dad walked so fast; his dad was always about 3 steps behind. Funny; because no one could keep up with my dad before age slowed him down. You’ve heard all the old sayings; “early to bed; early to rise” and “the early bird gets the worm”. My dad believed in being early and getting to where he was going by the most efficient way; and he definitely did not believe in “burning daylight” or being late; that was definitely a no no!
Alex tells me that his father would speak fondly of my dad. To this day Alex and I still speak often. When he lost his dad; I shared his pain; when I lost mine; he was there for me. When my dad found out that Alex’s father was ill; his few words said it all; “Alejandro; es un buen hombre”; “Alejandro is a good man”; “may God Bless him; and tell Alex I am praying for him and Carmen too”.
On June 9, 2008; a few days ago; Alex marked the third anniversary of his father’s death; we talked; we remembered. “Alejandro” Reyna passed away a few days before Father’s Day in 2005.
When my father died; Rudy and Alex were there for me; each in his own way; and for that they have my unending love and gratitude. They are both very good fathers and grandfathers too.
Aside from my father Florentino, I have met other extraordinary fathers in my short lifetime. Ok; for those who know me; no short people jokes here.
There was Marcos, my brother in law; he reinforced my love and joy of music; he would play the guitar and I would sing; pretending I was on stage somewhere in Mexico singing “Volver Volver”; He would look up from the guitar and say something like; “Man Chub; you can sing”; I liked how he said my nickname; which has always described me to a tee (ok; no “fat jokes” here either now; besides I would rather be pleasantly plump than kind of ugly; I can lose weight; what can an ugly person do?).
Anyway, even though I knew Marc was being kind; to him there never was a bad song written or a bad singer. That’s just the way he was; very respectful of people’s feelings and always welcoming.
Back in the 60’s when I was going to Thompson Jr. High, I would walk downtown to the law office where he worked after every school day and would wait for him to give me a ride home. We would talk about things; he taught me a lot on those ride homes.
He helped me to get through my ninth grade year; as I should have been going to Mathews in Arnett Benson since we moved there from the Guadalupe Barrio in 1969; right before my ninth grade year. And we lived only a block and a half away from Mathews.
But I had decided that I would do whatever I had to do to finish out my junior high school days as a Thompson Cowboy. After all; I wanted to follow the rich tradition of those from the barrio who had gone there too.
Marcos was born with the music of life in his heart and he shared it with our family; too many times to count. Since we lost him I’ve felt that there has always been a void in our family gatherings and somehow that love of music hasn’t been quite the same as when he was alive. It was as somehow the strumming of the guitar strings provided a way for me to express myself and still today I still hear the music and songs we shared together.
Cancer took him from us; I miss him a lot. He was a good father to my niece and nephews; and not surprisingly they were all born with musical talent. I hear his grandson’s are following in their grandfather’s musical footsteps.
Now that is a legacy.
And then there was my brother in law and friend Daniel. He was one of those unforgettable characters; like the ones we used to read about in “Reader’s Digest”.
He too showed me what it means to be a father. He was taken from my sister and their children, son in law and grandson way to soon; but he could have lived to be a hundred and that still would have been too soon.
During one of our last conversations, a good while before the doctors told him he had cancer; he spoke to me about his love for life; his love for his family. Perhaps even then he knew that his time on earth had been measured already. But when he talked about life you could see the glow in his face and the sparkle in his eye; as his love came pouring out.
From him I would learn that we do not need to live life as if we are rushing to a fire; at a hectic pace. From him I learned that no amount of worry and anxiousness will change the course of our lives. In him I always saw serenity.
In his hands I saw a talent to make others feel better.
Towards the last few years of his life; he achieved his goal of helping people feel better and feel better about themselves; after he became a certified massage therapist. I would always admire how he would come home after a long day at work and hit the books. I saw what it took to accomplish what he set out to do when he was in his 50’s.
Determination; dedication; steadiness; they were there in full view.
I was fortunate enough to spend time with him and my sister when I left Washington, DC in 2000 and relocated to Texas. He opened his home to me; he was also generous.
He impacted my life more than anyone will ever know. It is still too hard to tell them.
On May 23; I remembered him on the fourth anniversary of his death.
So I leave it you to reminisce about your own fathers and your own father figures in your lives. As someone who is always searching for life’s answers; I often wish we could all do a better job of being fathers. We hear the stories all the time; dad’s who have mastered the art of abandoning their responsibility after their child is born. That is not good; and it happens way too often.
But I did not write this to preach or judge your fatherhood; but rather it is just my view.
I was blessed with 2 wonderful; healthy and beautiful daughters. And although they live far away; they are never far from my heart. They know what they mean to me; I have shared that with them and I know what I mean to them. They have made it a point to tell me because they know I will leave them too someday.
I just pray they do not leave me first; I don’t know if I could survive that like so many other fathers and mothers have had to.
And we too have gone through and thankfully weathered the storm; as all parents and children do.
For us we are trying to make sure there will be no regrets. We are making sure that even though we have gone through some rough seas together; just like any other kids and dad; we never forget what we mean to each other. And we are trying to pass along that to my 2 grandkids Katrina and Jacob; and the future ones to come if God so chooses
Katrina was born shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans; and she definitely has her hurricane moments from time to time. But that’s ok; the “terrible twos” will be gone soon.
And when they are old enough to understand; they too will know the meaning of the love of their fathers and grandfathers.
Happy Father’s Day to all the other “Cunados”; brothers in law; fathers in my family; Lu; Dave; Eric; I love you all.