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June 17, 2006

On Father's Day

Topics: Human Interest

He rolled up his sleeves and gently picked me up from my crib. I opened my eyes to see the handsome, youthful man my Father was at the time and I would say "papito."

At 3:00 AM he had just arrived from work at the Capri Hotel in Habana. He was, and remains to this day, Cuba's greatest trumpet player. The crisp, unmistakable sound of his instrument has not been duplicated since; no matter all the elaborate finger work, or the high pitched notes reached with more restricted mouthpieces by others, which he reached with ease in his Olsen trumpet.

The youngest of five children, he endured abject poverty and privation during the "Great Depression" and he would later tell me of the many times he saw my grandmother cry because grandpa had no work and she had no food to put on the table; he would recall the many times grandma would boil some rice and split one fried egg amongst them all to feed them.

From this poverty he rose through hard work, tenacity, and the excellence he achieved with his instrument, to become Cuba's premier trumpet player in the 50s, and he played and recorded with the likes of Cuba's most prestigious Big Band "Los Hermanos Castro" (with which he toured the world), the "Riverside Orchestra," "Orefiche," the "Benny More Orchestra," Cuba's immortal composer Ernesto Lecuona (whom he befriended), Cuba's Diva Rosita Fornes, the Salsa Queen herself - his dear friend Celia Cruz and her husband Pedro, and hobnobbed with the rich and famous and the Hollywood Elite in the playground that was Cuba at the time, with the likes of Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Ginger Rogers, Errol Flynn, and others. I treasure the photos he took with them; a testament to a bygone Era.

Yet each night after the show he would come home, shunning the notoriety and the fame, his fellow musicians and friends that wanted to party, or the chorus girls like the "Conejitos" (who was head over heels about him according to malicious gossip), and he came home to my mother and I.

My mother was a frail and apprehensive woman, and to calm her fears, my grandfather Vicente (my grandparents on my mother's side lived two doors down the street), would stay over until my father would arrive from work.

Air conditioning was not as commonplace at the time as it is today, yet we were privileged, and in the master bedroom we had air conditioning as well as a queen sized bed upon which my grandfather would repose alongside my mother awaiting the arrival of my father. My crib was also in the room.

Mindful of his repose, and respecting his rest, my father never awoke my grandfather when he arrived from work, but rather went over to my crib, picked me up, and took me to sleep with him, by his side, in the other room that had no air conditioning, but was blessedly wafted by the incomparable trade winds of Cuba.

When he picked me up, half-asleep, I would look up at him and mumble "papito" - daddy.

He would press me close to his chest where the rhythm of his breathing and of his beating heart comforted me, and carried me with him to sleep by his side in the other room. Never have I felt more at ease and secure than by the warmth of his side!

In the morning he would wake me to feed me my bottle of milk. He would then cook me breakfast, and by 10:AM every day he would take me to the park to play.

When I was sick, foregoing his sleep, he would stay up all night with me playing, as we battled our armies knocking each other's toy soldiers off with a pin-pong ball across the floor of the dining room. He built me the most incredible Marx Train layout ever. He made me a humongous kite that was over seven feet tall that would make the Chinese indignant with envy. He introduced me to Jules Verne and his "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," Mark Twain and "Huckleberry Finn," Emilio Salgari and his "Black Corsair," Duma's unforgetable "Count of Montecristo," and Voltaire! I recall hearing for the first time of that "exotic" wondrous land down under, Australia, as he read to me an epic adventure by Salgari taking place there, and learning for the first time about Kangaroos, aborigines, and dingos.

He infused me with a wanderlust to see what lay beyond the horizon, and he often told me of the scenic wonder of the Giant Sequoias, and the Grand Canyon in America which he promised one day we would visit; a promise he kept.

He would make me lunch, and bathe me, and cook me dinner before he left for work, and we would stretch a bed sheet over two chairs and pretend with my toy animals that we were in a circus.

He would take me to the movies to see his hero, Errol Flynn, in "Captain Blood" or the "The Adventures of Don Juan" or his idol Kirk Douglas in one of his many performances.

He was my playmate, my friend, my Hero, my Father!

Men's lives are often colored by their mothers. I love my mother greatly, yet my life was colored by my Father; even theologically.

Unlike those who must recur to praying to the Virgin Mary to intercede for them before the Father, I have no such compunction, and would rather pray directly to Abba (Aramaic for daddy), even as I would approach my Father (in his love and mercy, what could I possibly fear from him?!?!). I suspect Jesus had a similar predisposition.

In this day and age, where "Fatherhood" has almost become a bad word to the leftists, liberal, feminists, secular progressives, I would sing the praises of all those men who have sacrificed their lives that we may live, who have enriched our lives, and who are the quiet, unsung Heroes who have molded our lives! God Bless them!!!

Thank you Dad, I only wish I would be half the man you are. I love and honor you!!!

Posted by Althor at June 17, 2006 9:02 PM

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