Happy Father’s Day: Remembering my Papi

It’s another Father’s Day and I am fortunate enough to celebrate it with my children. But for the fifteenth year, I won’t get to celebrate it with my father, my Papi.

Everyone knew him as Pepe, but to my siblings and I he was Papi. That’s what we called him as children and all the way into adulthood. We knew better than to ever dare address him by his given name. That is simply not acceptable in a Cuban household.

Raised during the Great Depression, Papi and his brothers and sisters grew up dirt poor in rural Cuba. But that never stopped him from working to improve his and his family’s life. He moved to Havana by himself as a teenager and worked hard every day. By the time he was a young adult he had a good job and by the time he met my mother, married, and had children, he had already lifted himself and his family out of poverty and into the middle class of 1950s Cuba. He didn’t have much, but he had much more than ever dreamed he’d have when he was a child.

Then in 1959 it was all taken away by the communist revolution.

Papi and my mom fled the tyranny of socialism in Cuba and came to the United States in 1961. He began again with nothing, just like he did in Cuba, and by working hard and not giving up, he got a good job and was able to once again lift himself and his family out of poverty.

My Papi’s life was far from easy, but he never complained. All he ever asked for was the chance to make it on his own, and he was forever grateful that the U.S. gave him that opportunity. He was a man that relished freedom and would accept nothing less for him or his family. There are a great many stories I can tell you about the incredible things my father accomplished, and perhaps one day I will jot them all down. But today, I just want to say gracias Papi.

Although he is not with me today, his legacy and his determination remains. Thank you Papi for all the sacrifices you made and the hard work you put in to give us a better life than you had. You always told us that’s all you wanted to do, and you succeeded.