The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Superman!

My favorite picture of my Dad c. 1948

Today is what would have been your 84th birthday. I can't quite put into words what I'm feeling.

The word "bittersweet" comes to mind as memories flash before my closed eyes. Memories like: 

How awed I was the day you told me you were Superman; how you and I did our homework assignments together -- you with your English lessons, me with my elementary school lessons.

I remember you teaching me how to dance merengue, guaracha, guaguanco and even a bolero. I remember how you kept emphasizing that I needed to let the man lead me in a dance and to stop trying to lead. I have always loved music and you saw that in me as a very young child. Oh, but I LOVED dancing with you! Whenever I hear Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father," I lose all semblance of control and I break down and I do the ugly cry. You know the one -- that's the one where every orifice in my face leaks! 

I should be stronger...  

Bittersweet. Yes, the word aptly describes what I am feeling today.

I vividly remember July 29, 1969, the day man first landed on the moon. I was an innocent 12 year old Daddy's girl. You had a cold. The sun was shining brightly through the living room window and you were sitting at the end of the couch watching history unfold on television. I got up into your lap and laid my head on your chest. I can still smell the Vicks VapoRub Mami had rubbed there. You scolded me saying I should get off; that I would get sick. I wrapped my arms around your neck, breathed in deeply and said I didn't care if I got sick. Then, I set about trying to breathe in tandem with you; get my heart to beat in rhythm with yours as we watched the astronauts stick the American Flag into the surface of the moon.

I remember the summer before I started my second year at Junior High School. I was no longer going to be bussed to school. I had to learn how to travel via public transportation, so you rode the bus with me back and forth that summer making sure that I not only learned the direct route, but that I also learned alternate routes in case there was a problem and had to find another way home. Needless to say, that was before cellphones :)

I remember the first time I got drunk. You were really angry, but you let me sleep it off. As soon as I was up, you sat me down at the kitchen table, set a bottle of Bacardi between us and said: 

"You think you're a man? We will sit here together and drink this bottle. I will show you how it's done." 

And we did just that.  To this day, I can't stand the smell of Bacardi or any rum for that matter!

I remember my first love and how pissed you were at me for how that whole thing went down.

I remember high school graduation. How you beamed when my name was called!

I remember my wedding day and how, as we walked down the aisle I whispered,

"I don't really want to do this."

You said I didn't have to but I couldn't bear the embarrassment I knew you would feel -- or at least thought you would feel -- if I didn't go through with it. Needless to say, the only good thing that came out of that marriage was my daughter, Mari.

I remember you polishing my toe nails because I couldn't bend over to reach them as I was so swollen with pregnancy. You did it lovingly because I asked you to, promising to buy me a car if I had a boy.

I will never forget your face when you first laid eyes on a newborn, chinky-eyed Mari. You immediately began calling her your "Little Ms. Piggy." I didn't get the car, but you gave Mari the down payment for her first car. By the time she was ready to buy a car, she had given birth to a boy. So, in essence, you did, indeed buy one of your female descendants a car after she had birthed a son -- even though she paid you back  :) 

And the list of memories goes on. As I got older, we bonded on a different level. You were always the one I went to when I had man troubles. I would start those conversations with: "Papi, as a man, can you please explain to me why.....?"

You would smile and you'd say, 

"You have time?"

That line still brings a smile to my face to this day.

As I write this, I realize how lucky I was to have had you in my life for as long as I did. I have 48 years of wonderful memories. I miss you so much. I miss our chats, our debates; how you always challenged me to learn something new -- everyday.

You were not only a father to me and my brothers and sister, but you were a father to my daughter. She misses you probably as much, if not more, than I do. Dayne, your great-grandson, still talks about you. He calls me "crybaby" when he and I talk about you and I tear up. I can't help it. 

In a weird way, I want him to know that I am not Superwoman. I want him to know that I am human and that I have vulnerabilities and faults so that it doesn't hurt so much for him when I'm gone. But I also think that if he has just half the love for me as I do for you, then, I don't know...

I already feel badly for him and Mari. You have no idea the impact you had on so many lives.

I love you Papi. I still want to pick up the phone to call you and ask:

"Papi, as a man, can you tell me why.....?"

Papi in his later years

Happy Birthday Superman ;'(

~~ML

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Joe! He is the man against whom I measure all men :)

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