Papi would’ve been 78 years old today. Really not that old at all. Unfortunately, Papi passed away unexpectedly late September 2006. He died of a heart attack while he slept; not a bad way to go, but not a consolation for his absence either.
I never really thought about Papi not being around. For sure he’d be around when I graduated from my Ph.D, or when I got my first academic job, and even to see his first grandchild. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
I was lucky enough to have had him for 36 years of my life; and doubly blessed that he was there to give me away when I married Alan. But I was not prepared for his absence.
Papi’s passing was very hard to deal with; it knocked more than the air out of my being and changed me forever. When a parent dies, part of your identity dies with them. You are no longer a daughter and you’ve know become an orphan. It’s a painful process and not for the emotionally challenged.
It took everything I had, and everything Alan had, and some other things, to get my life back on track, to push forward with my Ph.D. and my life. But his absence is still very painful, even after barely 2.5 years.
Papi was a very humble person, and as such a very humble father. He didn’t expect anything from me, he never demanded anything from me either. It made him enjoy my visits and my calls so much more, and I’d get to see and hear the happiness in his voice because I had thought about him. I had taken time out of my busy schedule to see or talk to him, he thought. It was something truly amazing.
So much so than when I told him I was moving away to Miami, he hugged me tightly at his house and whispered in my ear:
“Muñeca, I don’t want to lose you now that you will be away”
“Dont’ worry Papi, you won’t” I responded
His humble ways also made him an emotional support rock for me. He shared all my good news with glee. He was always proud of me. And even if he didn’t agree, he’d ask “Is that what you want? Is that what makes you happy?” And if your answer was yes, then he’d support you 100% on your endeavor.
That is a void that is not easy to fill. He wasn’t perfect and I’m not romanticizing his memory, but today on what would’ve been his 78th birthday I want you all to know why his void in my life is so big and why it was so easy for me to love him.
Papi also has a great sense of humor. The last time I saw him was on 2005 (picture above). In one of our 4 lunches at Metropol that year (we always went to Metropol), I believe it was the second, we sat at a darker side of the restaurant. Papi was baffled that he couldn’t read the menu, when the day before he could.
“Viejo, es el cambio de luz, give it some time for your eyes to adjust” I said
So he ordered himself a Dewar’s on the rocks, and we talked for a while. After about 15 minutes and a whiskey, he opened the menu again and chuckled like a little kid.
“Que pasa Papi?” I asked
“No wonder I couldn’t see the menu…. all I needed was un trago!”
After his whiskey he could see the menu! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so genuinely in my life. You had to be there to see the mischievous smile on his face as he said it.
Happy Birhday, Papi. Feliz Cumpleaños Viejo!