Happy Father’s Day: Hug him if you still have him

Me and my dad.

On this Father’s Day, we celebrate the incredible Cuban fathers who gave up everything they had and risked it all to seek exile in a foreign land so their children could live in freedom. Most of them came to the U.S. with nothing and worked incredibly hard to provide for their families. I think it’s fair to say our parents’ generation was indeed one of Cuba’s greatest generations.

But as we celebrate this day we recognize that many of our Cuban fathers are not with us today, passing away before they could see their homeland free once again.

My father was one of those, leaving us in 2005. He only saw Cuba once since he left in 1961 when he and my uncle took a boat to Mariel in 1980 to pick up their sister and my cousins. After rescuing his last sibling from communist Cuba, he swore to never return again unless Cuba was free. He missed Cuba, there is no doubt. But he assuaged his longing to see his home again by working hard to provide a better life for his children.

If you’re lucky enough to have your father still with you today, don’t miss this opportunity to give him a hug and say thank you for all he’s done. They will not always be with us.

I leave you with some sage advice from Babalú’s founder Val Prieto, who wrote this when his dad passed away in 2014:

Spend as much time with your dad as you can. Listen to his stories. Let him complain about anything he wants to complain about. Watch a ballgame with him. Let him beat you at dominoes. Revel in his boasting about his grandchildren. Bring him his favorite dessert and let him eat as much as he wants. Tell him about your day. Listen to him bitch and moan about the government. Take him fishing. See your own hands in his. Understand the lifelong sacrifices hidden in his eyes. Thank him for everything. Appreciate him in his entirety. Square away any arguments.

Tell your old man everything you ever wanted to tell him. Dad, I love you. Dad, thank you for your hard work and sacrifices. Dad, thank you for believing in me. Dad, thanks for setting me straight when I was so wrong. Dad, thank you for your support. Dad, thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike. I promise, Dad, to strive to be the person you worked so hard and so long to shape. Dad, you’re my hero.

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