I’m a newbie dad (about 7 years experience so far). Each day that goes by I am reminded of the strength and determination of one man: My father.
He started out as a newbie dad once. He had five kids in all: 3 girls and 2 boys. He was poor, but I didn’t really know it or feel it. He worked his ass off in a factory. His children could have gone to public school for free, but he knew the value of education, so each one of them attended private schools through high school. His income went to food, rent, school, and clothes.
He was also a young father. He wasn’t perfect by any means (but in my memory he comes damn close), but still he worked for all of us: Mom, Grandma, May, Jess, Thani, Alan and I. I see his sacrifice in retrospect and frankly, it floors me.
Then one day he was told by a doctor that I had cancer. I imagine this must have been the day he became the man I so admire now. Because from that point on, he was my rock. No, he was the mountain that is now my base. He never showed me any sign of fear or worry. When I heard his voice I felt reassured and calm. During painful procedures, I would cry and hold his hand. It was often calloused and rough, but always warm. I’d look at him in the eyes and feel his empathy and this deep well of strength that seemed to come from him. I know now just how powerful that strength was (and is). How many days was he exhausted from work and stressed with bills? How worn must he have felt with such a large responsibility on his shoulders? But I never knew it. I only knew that when Dad was around, I felt a little less scared and a lot safer.
It’s one thing to experience cancer as a patient. But to experience it as a father watching your child get sick is something that must be absolutely unbearable. I can’t imagine that kind of pain. As helpless as I felt, how must HE have felt? But no matter how worn or stressed he ever was, my dad was always stern, patient, and calm with me. Again, he sacrificed his own tears and pain in my service.
There were times I felt lost at sea, in the middle of a storm. But I also felt that my dad was my boat. Even though he may not have been able to stop the storm, he sheltered me as best he could.
Dadda, I look up to you (literally!). I respect you so much. You are the fuckin’ man, you know that? I haven’t expressed this before verbally, but remember the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”? Here’s how much you have influenced me:
- I like science and nature shows
- I love learning new things and am naturally curious
- I like technology
- I like rock music (I still listen to Creedence and The Beatles. And guess who else likes the Beatles now? [My daughter]. How cool is that?) even though I grew up with a classroom full of rap/hiphop fans.
- I am messy, but yet I know where everything is
- My last priority is worry
- I have inner strength
- I’m creative
- I like mixed martial arts
- I am calm under pressure
- I like to write
- I love to question things
- I can be extremely patient (if I try)
- I can be stubborn and arrogant (but in a charming way, of course!)
- I am always right! (okay, ALMOST always)
Sound familiar? It should. I learn from the best. I know you have often called me “strong” but guess where that 7-8 year old got it from, Dadda? You. That has been your number one gift to me. For that, and for knowing that I will never give up, I thank you. You saved your son with your strength. You were never helpless. You helped all along.
Something that amazes me is that you haven’t shriveled up by now. You fed me so much of your strength, will, and determination it only makes sense that your tank should have exhausted itself. But no, the amazing thing is that today you are even stronger and more a man than you were then. You gave me a mountain to stand on, able to face challenge after challenge. You are, in the truest sense of the word, my hero.
You also gave me the best advice ever to cope with the rough times. During recovery after the second major surgery, I was in real stress and you leaned down and gently said, “Mi hijo, before you know it, this hospital bed and all this will be just a memory.” To this day, I use that advice. Whatever may be troubling or ailing me, I know at some point I will find balance. And one day it WILL be a memory.
You deserve to know you helped your son battle cancer and win. I didn’t do it. WE did it.
No te pantochorbes. Eres el mas chipocludo dad en existencia.
I love you.