My Father.

One is not defined by a single aspect of their life. Sure there are insanely important moments, bombastic events, but no one makes a man (or woman). I owe who I am and the way I do things to many people and things throughout the years. A couple of near death experiences, some heart shaping (and shredding) relationships, hurricane Andrew, skydiving, all these things provided years of personality in a single moment but none of them had the impact of my parents.

5 months ago, I lost my father. Our relationship was complicated but I think I’m finally getting a grasp on why it was the way it was.

Much to the surprise of anyone who knows me now, I was a rather pleasant child. My parents would tell you that I wasn’t much of a crier and as I developed, one of the bigger problems they faced was me interacting with random people all the time. I would often wander off and quiz total strangers on ridiculous things just to see what they were about. I was personable, as a complete contrast to my adult self.

I was active in sports and so was my Dad. He never liked sitting on the sidelines idly, so whatever sport I was playing, you could bet he was the coach of the team. I took well to American football, although I was the smallest person on the team, I somehow wound up playing center. According to my father that was because of my energy and presence. He also coined the nick name “Mighty Mite” for me.  I’ll go with the fact that it was flag football and I couldn’t get leveled by any of the bigger kids but why split hairs at this point.

He was an athlete to the core. There are scores of medals and plaques sitting in boxes of his various achievements in sport. In his younger years he was a swimmer but as the years went on he found his passion in running.

I used to think that I was a result of my surroundings. Key Biscayne was a very strange place to grow up. There was an odd juxtaposition of social orders which led to a wide variety of mentalities interacting which wouldn’t normally do so. Mainly those who sought to have and those who had too much. The mixing of those two groups ended up creating what I consider some of the closest things to criminal masterminds that my generation will get to deal with and incarcerate, or elect senator. I now know that my surroundings were only so effective in shaping me and could only do so within the boundaries set by my parents. Those boundaries were set very clearly and let me expand without destroying myself, sure I tested the limits every now and then but I was quickly brought back down to earth every time.

When I was younger I’d mention a place on earth and he’d say “oh yea, I had an apartment there” or “I was on business there for a few months” and I would remark “you haven’t lived long enough to have done all that stuff Dad!” Now, I hear myself talk shit at bars and realize, not only, that he could have, but that he did.

I recently had the good fortune of meeting up with my cousin Adolfo, who was just 10 years younger than my father and grew up seeing him as an older brother in Chattahoochee when the family came over from Cuba. There was one very humorous moment when he started to say “your Granddad always said ‘a real man is measured from here up’” while pointing to right between the eyebrows and then up. “The motto of a clan of short men who have no recourse but to rely on their intellects” I thought. But all three de Cespedes men at the table, Adolfo, his son and I, pointed to our foreheads then up at the same time as to say, pretty definitely, that his is a thing we’ve all heard for our entire lives. Passed down by generations, the motto of not too tall men who have needed to use their brains to survive. 

Something happened in my adolescence where I didn’t look up to my father as an idol anymore, I saw him as a rival. I wanted to beat him in everything and that probably led to our issues over the years. I didn’t just want to be good at something, I wanted to be better, faster, stronger than him and to anyone who knew my father, that’s a pretty high bar for some things.

My cousin told me of a time when he lived with my Grandparents and my father would come to visit. He said my Dad was the fun one who always brought a good time but inevitably he’d get into an argument with my Granddad about his hair or the clothes he wore (my Dad was big in the anti war movement when he got back from Vietnam) and would storm off. This hit so close to home considering that the greatest battles I ever had with my Dad were over my tattoos and how I chose to look. The fact that this man could endure years of warfare with his father over this subject then continue the cycle with his own son for years says a lot to the stubbornness of this family.

I left in January, not really too sure of where I was going but knowing that I needed to move to clear my head. The way things happened I wasn’t granted the peace or solitude to mourn and take in all that was going on around me. This trip was mainly to deflate, to do away with the day to day and reflect, consider and absorb. I’ve done a great deal of thinking while on the road and have come to some conclusions.

My father was not an easy man. He was one of the greatest people I’ve had the good fortune of knowing. Thanks to him I am who I am. I owe my wanderlust to him as he always spoke of distant places and the life treasures that they held. I know now that he sacrificed our friendship to be a disciplinarian because anyone can be a  friend, but it takes real strength to tell someone you love when they’re fucking up.

I love you dad, rest in power.

One Response to “My Father.”

  1. I love you son!!

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