by Marvin Ramirez
This passed father day I heard people going to Father’s Day parties; at the supermarket I was wished a happy father’s day by the cashier.
“Well, he died a few years ago,” I said.
“Oh, you’re not a dad yet!” she responded.
“No, not yet,” I said, while a few people hearing the conversation looked at me.
While driving, I heard radio shows dedicating their programming to fathers, some callers recited poems honoring their old man, and others saying eloquent words, remembering the positive roles their dad played in their lives. I heard a man telling young people how they are taken cared of by their fathers while we grow up until we become fathers ourselves.
Every year in the calendar, as Father’s Day nears, my heart saddens. Four days before that day, my father, José Santos Ramirez Calero, left me. He passed on June 12, 2004, in San Francisco. In his agonic state, just before he passed, I was told that he called my name, and then he died. He was gone. I wasn’t there, I didn’t see him part to say good-bye for the last time.
During his funeral, Piero’s song, Mi Viejo, immortalized the memory of my father with his song in my mind and soul. The lyrics and its music will always remain in my heart and will remind me of him until the day when I also have to leave. I can see my father walking slowly and heavy as he went by, just like the song says.
This song has the key that makes me feel the presence of my papá, and makes me cry when I listen to it. It is originally played in Spanish, but you can read the lyrics in English with this translation or listen to the song from the link below. It’s a beautiful, very touching song. I am sure that everyone who listens to it, will also be touched.
/It’s a good guy my old man, who walks alone and waiting/ he has long sadness, for so much walking/I look at him from afar, but we are so different; is that he grew up with the century, with trolley car and red wine/ My old beloved old man, now he walks shuffling, like forgiving the wind/He has benevolent eyes and a heavy body, the age overwhelmed him, with neither carnival or comparsa/I have young years, and the old years, the pain he carries it inside, and has timeless stories/ My old beloved old man, now he walks shuffling, like forgiving the wind, I am your blood my old man, I am your silence and your time.
You can listen to the song with English subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rnisy3nTYl8.
When I was a child, maybe 2 or 3 years old, he took me to the Men’s Procession (La Procession de Varones), a traditional Catholic Church walk attended mainly by men, carrying me on his shoulder. But I was so small, that when he put me down to take a rest, I couldn’t see anything, so he put me back over his shoulder and said to me: “Son, you’re heavy. Let me rest for a while,? and then put me back down.
Those were moments that I really loved: being with my daddy, just him and I, surrounded by thousands of people who attended the walk. He was a very well-known journalist, especially in Managua, a city so small both in size and in population in the 1960s, that he was always greeted by people. He used to tell them: “This is Marvin, my son.” I felt so proud when I shook his friend’s hands, so proud of having a well-known father, and also happy for being his son.
Although he was usually quite, he told me great stories, the kinds that impacted me for the rest of my life.
Smoking was starting to be a fad in my city of birth, Managua.
I saw people smoking very often, with style and with an arrogant face. But I noticed that my father didn’t smoke. And I wanted to know why.
“Papá, why don’t you smoke, too, like the other people?” I asked him. He looked at me, and then up to the ceiling for a minute, and then back at me. He then took a pause and responded to my question, very calmly.
“Son, when I was about 15 years of age, I used to smoke a lot. I liked it. Every night, I couldn’t go to bed without smoking. Money was not easy to get, so it was hard for me to get cigarettes.”
I could see the images of my dad: young, a handsome young man, sucking from a cigarette, like an addict, sitting on the sidewalk of his house while my grandmother was already in bed, for someone to give him a cigarette butt.
“Every evening, at 11 p.m., I waited for this man to pass by, sitting on the sidewalk. Street lighting were pretty dimmed in those days in Managua. The street looked solitary and dark those days at that time. Only people returning home from work would walk that late. It was in the late 1920s and early 1930s, not too long from the day when the U.S. Marines disembarked in Nicaragua and Sandino was about to start his guerilla war against the invaders.
“He would gave me the butt of his cigarette, and I that would make me so delighted: having the last smoke before going to bed. Sometimes I spent my only change to buy cigarettes.
“But one day, I realized that smoking was bad for my health, and saw how my hard-earned money was being burned up in smoke.”
His story was so amazing, that he was practically making me a disciple of no smoking.
“Your money just burns up in the air,” he said, “and do you know how hard it was to make money to live, then?” he asked me. “And on top of that, your mouth and your clothes stink…”
Sometimes people who know me notice that they have never seen me smoking, and sometimes they ask me if have I ever smoked. Inside of me, I know why and laugh. And sometimes I say, “it was a story that my father told me when I was a child that made me a nonsmoker.”
Father, I will always love you and you will always be in my heart. I wish I could turn the clock back and be the best son that I was not when you were alive. I missed you on this Father’s Day.