In honor of my dad's birthday this week, I am reposting a tribute I wrote to him last year. Feliz cumpleanos, Papi! Te queremos mucho!
When I was a kid, all my friends were terrified of my father. With his serious countenance, gruff voice, and thick Brazilian accent, he inspired fear in the hearts of all the neighborhood children. Kids would ring my doorbell and ask if my father was inside. When I said yes, they would pause for a minute, then say "Let's go play in my house."
I could never understand what they were so afraid of. Sure, my father's accent means he's almost always unintelligible to those who are not around him on an everyday basis (and even we sometimes have no idea what he's saying), and he can be a little rough around the edges, but he is also one of the most doting, kindest, generous people you will ever meet.
If you look up the definition of "self-made man," my father's picture should appear right next to it. Growing up on the small Brazilian town of Manaus, by the Amazon river, he had a fairly rough childhood. Despite his family's trials, he managed to put himself through medical school, working jobs such as driving a taxi, working as a clerk at the local parish, and being a schoolteacher to support himself and his family.
At the age of twenty-two, shortly before his graduation from medical school, he traveled to Puerto Rico to meet his pen pal of six years. He married her two years later and returned with his new wife to Brazil so he could finish his residency. They moved back to Puerto Rico when my mother was nine months pregnant. Two weeks after they arrived, my brother was born. I made my appearance four and a half years later.
Papi worked incredibly hard to provide for his family. Throughout most of my childhood, he worked two jobs. First, he would work a regular nine-to-five day at an eye center, then come home, nap, spend a bit of time with us, and head out to do the midnight shift in the emergency room. It is a testament to what am amazing father he was that, despite the exhaustion he must have felt, he always found time to play with my brother and myself. Not only that, but I cannot recall one single important moment of my childhood where my dad wasn't present. Somehow, when it counted most, he was always there. I don't know how he did it, but I will always be thankful that he did.
I have mentioned before in this blog how my mother and I are complete opposites. Well, that is because I have my father's personality. Like him, I am quiet and reserved. Like him, I have a small circle of friends and most always prefer staying home than going to a party. Like him, I love history, movies and curling up with a good book. We are both fiercely loyal to our families and will do anything to take care of them. We have our differences, of course, but we have always found a way to respect and accept each other's positions, and he always supports me in whatever path I choose to take.
One of the biggest difference of opinions I ever had with Papi was the way I chose to create my family. As a doctor, my father is a firm believer in medicine and is of the opinion that I should have pursued (and still should consider) further fertility treatments before deciding to adopt. From the moment Papi saw Dylan on Skype while we were still in Kazakhstan, however, he went GAGA for his grandson. I think I even saw him wipe a tear from his eye that day! It was the same when I sent him Liam's hospital pictures. He absolutely adores Dylan and Liam and I love watching them together. Dylan loves spending time with his Abuelito, and is constantly telling me he wants to go back to Puerto Rico to Abuelito and Abuelita's house. I hope Dylan and Liam get to see a lot of my father throughout their childhood, because he is truly an amazing role model and a man to admire.
Happy Birthday, Papi! Te queremos mucho!