The Pure One

My father, El Puro, isn’t an intellectual or an academic. He’s not a doctor or lawyer. Doesnt do people’s taxes or invest their monies. He won’t find a cure for cancer or be elected to any office. He cant explain E=mc(2) or calculate the arc of a baseball. He’s not a famous actor or athlete.
Children have never asked for his autograph.
He’s also not a rich man, my father. He never gave me a million toys for Christmas. I never dressed in designer clothes as a child and he never physically handed me the keys to a brand new Porshe or Mercedes.
Yet my old man, el Puro, being your average blue collar guy, a welder still at the age of 75, provided for me the most bountiful of gifts any father could give his son.
My old man left the only country he’d ever known, the only culture he’d ever lived in, for me. He left his mother behind. He left his brother behind. And he left his sister behind whom he never got to see again. All for me.
That spectacular gift he gave his three year old son didnt come in a box with fancy wrapping. It wasnt given me with much fanfare or along with candle-laden cakes. The gift itself cannot been seen by the human eye yet every waking breath I take is full of it.
My old man gave up everything he’d ever known because he knew that without that sacrifice his son, and daughter, would never be afforded that gift.
Half way through his life, my old man, awash in determination and having an understanding of human nature that most people believe is reserved for those intellectuals mentioned above, brought his wife, his daughter and this son to this country. On his back were the only clothes he owned and the burden of his decision.
From nothing but sacrifice my old man gave me the greatest gift any father could give a son: freedom.
So today, this Father’s Day, I give my old man, el Puro, the greatest gift any son can give a father: my everlasting gratitude and my unyielding respect.
Gracias, Papi, for all the sacrifices, for all the sweat, and for always putting my life and my needs ahead of yours. And thank you, most of all for this greatest gift of all: the freedom to grow to be a free man.
Happy Father’s Day! And to all those fellow American fathers out there, thank you for your sacrifices for this great country. And thank you for so graciously accepting my old man, el Puro, among your ranks.

12 thoughts on “The Pure One”

  1. Val,
    Your father’s day gift is well written and thanks for sharing that with everyone.
    Not to make this political but is your father pro-Embargo? Has the travel restrictions kept him from returning to Cuba or was he prevented from returning to Cuba?
    This is a genuine question from me and not intended to start a political discussion on the Embargo.

    Not while you are living under this roof!”
    “When you get to be older than me, then you can tell me what to do. Until then, listen to what I say.”
    “Son, the only time you start at the top, is when you’re digging a hole.”
    “If a job is worth, it’s worth doing well!”
    “When I was a boy…”
    “Children should be seen and not heard!”
    “I can’t wait until you’ve got your own house and your mother and I can come around and spill things on your carpet.”
    “In my day we had respect for our elders….”
    “Now you know how I feel.”
    “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.”
    “It’s all very funny till someone loses and eye.”
    “When I was your age, I had to walk 15 miles in the snow with bare feet everyday just to get to school….”
    “Don’t ask me, ask your mother.”
    “I’ll play catch after I read the paper.”
    “A little dirt never hurt anyone-just wipe it off.”
    “I told you, keep your eye on the ball.”
    “You call that a haircut?”
    “Turn off those lights. Do you think I am made of money?”
    “You call that noise music?”
    “We’re not lost. I’m just not sure where we are.”
    “Shake it off. It’s only pain.”
    “Don’t worry … it’s only blood.”
    “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll live by my rules.”
    “I’ll tell you why. Because I said so. That’s why.”
    “What’s so funny? Wipe that smile off your face.”
    “You want something to do? I’ll give you something to do.”
    “You should visit more often. Your mother worries.”
    “I’m not sleeping, I was watching that channel.”
    “What keeps those jeans of yours from falling off?”
    “I’m not just talking to hear my own voice!”
    “You’re going out like THAT?”
    “Eat it! It will grow hair on your chest!”
    “Don’t forget to check your oil.”
    “If your friend jumped off a bridge would you?”
    “Stop crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry.”
    “What part of NO don’t you understand?”
    “I don’t care what other people are doing! I’m not everybody elses father.”
    “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
    “Enough is enough!”
    “Don’t make me stop the car!”
    “What did I just get finished telling you?”
    “Do it to make your mother happy.”
    “Were you raised in a barn? Close the door!”
    “You didn’t beat me … I let you win.”
    “Who ever said life was supposed to be fair?”
    “‘Hey’ is for horses.”
    “Don’t give me any of your lip, young lady.”
    “What do you think I am … a bank?”
    “I hope I’m alive when your kids turn sixteen.”
    “If you break your leg, don’t come running to me.”

  3. Tall or short, thin or chunky, healthy or sick, plain or colorful, adoptive or bio — quiet, talkative, shy, outgoing, serious, fun, cheerful, moody, homely, good-looking, hairy, balding, hard-working, faithful, consistent, here or gone (like mine) …. we’ve all had one: HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all.

  4. Happy Father’s day to you and to your father. Marta is right, you should have put the kleenex warning at the beginning. I too could have inserted my father’s name in your write-up, except that mine was turned back just before we boarded the plane. I remember his words to us “keep on walking and don’t look back, I will always love you all”. My mother, my sister and I did not get to see him until four months later. I was only seven years old, but that day has been burned into my memory. My dad is now 82 years old and we celebrated at my sister’s house today. You could see the happiness in his eyes by having us all there. It is fathers like yours and mine that will give us the strength to rebuild Cuba after the tyrant dies (let’s hope soon) and Cuba is a democratic country again. Their willingness to sacrifice all for us is a debt we must repay.

  5. As admirable as your story is, many non-Cubans still don’t know, don’t understand, don’t believe or won’t believe that it is a very typical, extremely common story in our community. Even those who know and believe it often don’t grasp the true nature and magnitude of the sacrifice involved. To some extent, they can’t, because they’ve never been through anything of the sort and can only see it as a kind of abstraction, or like something you read about or see in a movie but doesn’t REALLY happen to regular people in real life.
    My parents also gave up their way of life, family, friends and possessions in Cuba, and they only did it to save their children. My mother, who was very Catholic and a grade school teacher, resigned from her job when she realized she would be required to indoctrinate children to believe perverse lies and propaganda. She knew her own children would also be indoctrinated, and the idea horrified her. My father said she became obsessed; she would have done anything to get us out. It took 3 miserable years to be allowed to leave, during which my father was put through hell at work, and all the comings and goings at our house were closely monitored by the official spies of the neighborhood “committee to defend the revolution.” My parents lived in fear that they’d somehow sabotage our leaving the country, and they came close. Every time Castro gave a speech, my mother listened in terror, fearing he’d say that people would no longer be allowed to leave the country at all. Finally we got out, but my parents had only begun to pay the price of saving their children. They had to face an alien culture, language and circumstances, restart their lives from scratch, and deal with the loss of everything they’d known and held dear, except their kids. They never saw their parents and other close relatives again. In some ways, especially material ones, it got easier with time, but in other ways it got worse.
    My father had a harder time of it, because he’d been perfectly adapted to life in rural Cuba. He was very happy there, and here it was never the same. He was never really at home. He didn’t say it, but I think he never stopped wanting to go back. About a decade before he died, he was incapacitated physically and mentally by medical problems. He was confined to a wheelchair, everything had to be done for him, and he couldn’t be left alone. It wasn’t as bad as Alzheimer’s, but it was bad enough. Yet his memories of Cuba never left him; he kept talking about it all the time, and frequently asked me if I’d gotten the plane tickets for the return trip. I will never forget that, and I will never forget those responsible for robbing him of the life and place he loved.
    So when people have praised me for not putting him in a nursing home and instead looking after him personally in his final years, it honestly sounds kind of odd to me, because I feel like saying, How could I have done anything else? I only did what he fully deserved, and it still wasn’t enough to repay him for what he did for me. Happy Father’s Day, papi.

  6. I too, thank my father every day for all the sacrifices he made just so that we would grow up as free men and women. My dad was lucky enough to have most of his family join us. My mom was not that fortunate. She lost her family and her homeland so that we would be free. Sin patria y sin familia. I have grown in the shadow of her sorrow, and it is her pain that throbs inside of me.

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