Archive for January, 2013


Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

My father died in 2001, shortly after 9/11. He died of pneumonia, but that was really just the malady that finally proved too much for him. As a child, he’d suffered both typhus (yellow fever) and polio – diseases that often killed children of his era. I believe the lung damage from polio is what led to oxygen deprivation (he had only one working lung), dementia and, ultimately, pneumonia. Beyond the physical, my father suffered an abusive father, poverty and the Spanish Civil War. As aspiring art student while in his teens (he was a good illustrator and sculptor), he had to give up these dreams when drafted into the Cuban army. By the time he arrived in New York in 1949, all he lived for was to earn enough money to escape the problems of his childhood. He worked in steel mills then in construction. When he and my mother moved to Florida, he did some real estate development. When they moved out to Washington, he was smart enough to invest a few dollars in the company I was working for at the time (Microsoft, in the early 90s). By living an extremely frugal life and investing wisely, he essentially became a blue-collar millionaire, if only briefly.

As a teenager and early adult, I lamented how my father had been transformed from art student to workaholic. I distinctly remember him admiring a wooden box that a friend had crafted for me then asking “does he make money selling these?”  He’d lost the notion that someone could build something driven only by the mere love of creation.

So I was astounded when, rummaging through my father’s papers after his death, I found two poems that he’d written. I made copies of them and sent them to my sister and family then, sadly, lost them after a hard disk crash. Fortunately, my sister kept paper copies. I have transcribed and translated, as best I can, the first poem below and leave the second for a future post. Both are in Spanish and untitled.


En el camino apuro mis pasos
Con el alma erguida hasta la frente
Pensando en ver en su rostro una sonrisa
Y al no verla presiento que se ha ido para siempre

Miro al cielo, en circulos, de miedo
Ausente de alguien que me ayude
Me siento solitario y olvidado
Come ciervo perdido en el desierto

Me siento inconforme con la vida
Como si estuviera atravesando una cañada
De tierra humeda y helada
Que se agarra a mi como tumba de la nada

Pase mi vida al lado de los mios
Con un pensamiento de ser eterno
Cuidador de mi raza y mi familia
Para hallarme solo en el vacio


 On the path, I hurry my steps
My soul bursting from my senses
Imagining a smile on her face
And upon not finding her, I know that she’s gone forever

Scared, I look to the sky, in circles
With no one to help me
I feel lost and forgotten
Like a deer in the desert

I feel uncomfortable with living
As if I am crossing a valley
Of earth, humid and cold,
That pulls me like the tomb of nothingness

I spent my life beside my own
With thoughts of living forever
Defender of my people and my family
Only to find myself alone in the emptiness

I am not sure whether the first paragraph refers to an actual “her” or is simply a metaphor for lost opportunities. The second and third speak to his loneliness. While my father was an extrovert and had many acquaintances he also had few close friends. Having rarely received any affection from his own parents, he was not one to openly express his feelings or his personal thoughts. Having been a sergeant in the army, he was a tough guy who could admit no weakness.

The last paragraph, I read as one of disappointment. He spent his life exclaiming the greatness of the Spanish people (he grew up in Galicia). He devoted himself to assuring that his family would not suffer the poverty of his youth. And yet, having realized his mortality, he notes that neither country nor family can keep him from the emptiness.

I sometimes note that men don’t truly feel like adults until their fathers die. I loved my father and always sought to make him proud of me, but also had my list of grievances. When he died, I was happy that my mother would live her final years with tranquility. Years later, though, I still miss my father and occasionally dream of him. Being a lucid dreamer, I always take the opportunity to hug him; something that I wished I’d done more often while he was still alive.