Sunday, June 20, 2010

To My Father

Today is Father’s Day. And since it is Father’s Day I should say that, counter to what the mass media and the most extreme elements of radical feminism want to make us believe, people need fathers (and I say this with pride: people need us fathers).

Mine, don Vidal Guzmán Hernández, was a Puerto Rican peasant, or “jíbaro” as we say, who in his young years worked in agriculture, cutting sugar cane even, and when he became a man came to the United States, as many other Puerto Ricans peasants did in the 50s, to Gary Indiana, where he worked in the by then flourishing steel industry. There, as many other Puerto Ricans, ceased to be a “jíbaro” to become working class, a transformation or tragedy that marked the pathos of XX century Puerto Rican culture. My mother, a housewife (as was expected from Puerto Rican women of her time), used to tell me how he, man of the Tropics, arrived home exhausted and literally frozen, in such a way the she had to heat water to unfreeze him (“…Borinquen is pure flame and here the cold is killing me...” says the illustrious poem by Virgilio Dávila).

When he got used to the life in Indiana, he had to return to Puerto Rico to take care of his father, my grandfather Félix, whose health was deteriorating fast.

I remember his exhaustion. Since he returned to Puerto Rico until his premature death at 54, he was door-to-door fabric salesperson, dispatcher at gas stations, security guard, worker at the garbage trucks, in summary, everything he could be to sustain his family. When the moment required it, he had two full time jobs and went home to sleep.

I remember his tenacity. We Guzmans have the reputation, good or bad depending on how you see it, of dragging our hatred until the moment of our death and of being incapable of giving up. It is said that we never forgive and that we always have vengeance crouching deep inside. I learned with my father that what is said about our hatred, it can also be said about our love. I also learned that, at least my father was incapable of getting scared, much less surrender. My family has told me many stories that exemplify that quality of his character.

I remember, above all, his commitment to us, his family. He loved my mother since the day he fell in love with her until his death, and he adored us, his children.

And I also remember that when he died, people in my neighborhood attended his funeral as if it were of a high dignitary, and how they came to tell my brother and me what a great man he was, how honest and honorable he was.

Three decades alter his death, I still miss him and I, following the Puerto Rican tradition of asking for our elder’s blessing when we meet them, still go every morning to his picture and ask for his blessing.

If God grants me something, let that something be that I could be to my daughter the father that my father was to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment