El Más Bravo: An Ode to Papa
Everyone has their story.
Some a lot more interesting than others.
My dad is one those people who never misses an opportunity to re-create tales of his rambunctious youth; hitch-hiking in South American countries, partying at rock concerts in D.C. during the 60s and 70s when his hair was nearly as long as mine, and getting into squabbles with guys twice his size just to win the heart of some flaca.
Which stories were true or just an exaggeration, I will never know-- but it's beside the point. He always encouraged me to live life to the fullest; to see the world, set big goals, and always have confidence.
He was the one who helped me overcome being teased for my last name in elementary school. Kids can be such assholes.
I used to come home crying when I was five because my classmates would taunt me and start applauding around me in a circle, "Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!" ... or at least I remember it like that in my head. Pops suggested that I not let them know it got to me. "Just be cool," he advised. "Simply bow and thank your audience for their praise." And that I did. The teasing died off and my dad became my hero.
Some of my favorite memories with him are of summer nights, leaning against his old, white Pontiac gazing up at the stars in front of our home in Torrance. The earliest age I can recall of those times was about six or seven... I remember him telling me to "always remember this date: ______, 1992 ... You were with your dad talking about life and looking at the stars." He would say this on several occasions, because we had these chats quite often. Or we'd go to Avenue C in Hermosa Beach after sunset when he'd get home from work and just listen to the waves break and enjoy the salty air-- a feasible cause of my never-ending fascination with the ocean and why I always feel at home as soon as my feet touch the sand. He's taken me seaside since I was three months old.
One of the coolest things my dad ever did for me was teach me how to read in Spanish. I was raised in a Spanglish household, so my first phrases were some strange concoction of bilingual gibberish. Nonetheless I knew how to speak Spanish fairly well growing up. But what really helped me in assimilating the language was my favorite weekend activity of reading Pops' newspaper in spanish out loud to him. La Opinión had replaced my Bernstein Bears on these days, but I didn't mind- I loved the challenge. I learned about sports and practiced my spanish all in one sitting, and I really did love having his attention. I think reading with kids is one of the most effective ways to make them enjoy learning and feel loved at the same time. A great charity in southern California that I've had the opportunity to work with and highly recommend doing is www.readingtokids.org, but I'll elaborate more on that some other time. Now back to Pops:
Today was his 58th birthday.
I just wanted to dedicate this blog to him as a small token of my appreciation for all his years of unconditional love, support, and downright awesomeness.
Here's to many more years of memories and to the adventures that await us next month when we return together once more to the motherland. ¡Que Viva El Peru, Carajo!
Love you so much Papa.