Author’s Note: I published this entry on my father’s birthday for the first time in 2009. I still miss him and not only on his birthday, so I post it again today. This is the one post that gets picked up most by search engines. Other folks who missed their departed dads come here to read about mine. If you’re reading this, I wish that you were as lucky as I was in having known someone like my dad Gilberto. Blessings to yours and mine.
If my Dad was alive, today would have been his 81st birthday. He died in a car accident in Cuba in 1979. He was 47 years old. I almost died with him.
On a day like today, I am remembering his courage and his grace.
I would love to tell you a little bit about both.
We were in Cuba visiting the family we had left behind a decade earlier. Ours was one of the first groups to travel back to Cuba under the Family Reunification Act. This was a recent agreement of the Cuban and American governments that allowed family members living in the US the opportunity to visit relatives on the island.
Like a lot of Cuban families, ours had been split along political lines. After supporting the Revolution from its infancy, my Dad broke with it in the early Sixties. He felt the original promises of the Revolution — a return to democracy after Batista, with the Constitution of 1940 as guide — had been betrayed. He called the Castro gang the real counter-revolutionaries. After the nationalization of private property — including my Dad’s humble-single pump Sinclair station — and the declaration by Castro that communism, not democracy, was the future for Cuba, Dad filed the necessary paperwork for our family to emigrate to this country. I can only imagine the pain Dad must have felt leaving his family and friends behind to move to a country that spoke a different language and lived a different culture. He was only allowed to take with him the clothes he was wearing.
About a quarter of my family did the same thing. The other three quarters stayed behind with different degrees of involvement in the Castro government. Some close relatives, believers in and defenders of the Revolution, were high up in governmental circles. I loved these people as much as I loved the ones that made it across the Florida Straits. My Dad taught me that. I never heard him say one negative, unloving thing about any family member that had chosen differently than him. He had a big, accepting heart.