We sat in his office at the Eisenhower building adjacent to the White House and chatted. We talked about this blog, how it came to fruition and why. We compared our childhoods and lives here in the Cuban diaspora. We spoke of our mothers and how the raised us and we talked about our fathers and how they worked so hard to provide for their families. His dad, he told me through teary eyes, had passed away six months ago.
I offered my condolences and assured him that he must have been – must still be from above – very proud of the son he raised.
As we left his office, he offered me a small token – a pin of the Presidential Seal of the United States of America in a small regal blue box – from him to give to my father. I thanked him profoundly and placed the small treasure in my suit pocket.
When I arrived back home, at my parents house, I sat down with my father and mother and wife and recounted the story of that short meeting at the Eisenhower Building. I handed the small blue box over to my father and told him this was especially for him, a small gesture from another son of Cuban parents from the White House.
My father’s cumbersome and calloused hands trembled as he fidgeted the box open. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity he managed to remove the lid and see the small treasure inside.
“When I left Cuba,” he said with tears running down his aged cheeks. “We had nothing and noone. I was scared. And back then, I could never have imagined that one day my son would be a guest at the White House.”
We all sat there – my father, my mother, my wife and I – in complete silence for a few moments, contemplating the efforts and sacrifices and hard work of life in exile and the absolute privilege of living in freedom.