Sunday, August 03, 2008

Don Samuel

This is how I really started my entry on Bucket List. What a good movie. I've always liked Jack Nicholson. The roles he has chosen exude manliness and for some reason he reminds me of my dad. A man's man. Dad had the same laugh, decidedness, and determination.

So yeah, Bucket List became a connection to my dad, one of the most intelligent, challenging, enigmatic persons in my life. Mom was a complicated open book and dad, a question mark. And I loved him. I loved him with all his failings, rusty nature, paint on his shoes, stained shirts and shorts for mowing the grass, and starched military uniforms for work, with sweat on his brow.

I have so many memories. I would cry when he would leave or get angry at him when I asked him a simple question and he would answer me in a foreign idiomatic phrase in my native tongue. I hadn't quite mastered my Spanish yet. Everything I remember about him is mostly intense. But with all the emotions, the questions, the incongruencies, I knew without a shadow of a doubt he loved me.

He showed me that love in ways that still surprise me. My first Easter dress that I can remember was in Norfolk Virginia. Maybe I can dig up a picture. Self conscious, lacking a full set of teeth, like many eight or nine year olds, that dress meant the world to me. You see Mom and Dad had a very rocky relationship, off and on all the time. Not more than six months earlier, we had been living in a project in Virginia Beach and he with his mother in Norfolk. For us it was the time of arroz con ketchup, rice with ketchup. If those were our meals, can you imagine our clothes? Mine at least were hand me downs. So to get a new dress, with matching hat and shiny shoes, was a big deal.

Later as I grew up, I wrote him letters while he was stationed in Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan. Letters he always answered. I can't remember what he said but because he loved me, I made a real effort to raise my grades. Later when he moved back with us he gave me rides to school while I was working on my BA and he on his Juris Doctor at the University of Puerto Rico where we graduated together. On those long rides to school full of back roads and side streets, while hanging his left arm out the window with a handkerchief drapped over his open hand he unrelentingly drilled me like a professional debater. I was trying to convert him to Christianity; (I know that sounds silly now) he was a Catholic and I a Jesus Freak. About twenty years later when he had his big encounter with Christ, I realized he had been a Christian for a long time, just a big messed up one. But God, allowed me to have those precious precious moments with him that I will never forget. Five minutes behind a veil to listen to him talk to God.

Those precious moments came about as a result of a shoot out. He had opened a check cashing business when one day when he was coming back from the bank two men assaulted him and my brother in law. My brother in law and the two assailants had bullet proof vests, but not my dad. A bullet caught him in his spine, and immediately left him an invalid. Papi, a man who had been a long distance runner and competed in the Masters was now fighting for his life. They told me I would not be allowed to see him, but I protested that my family had been allowed to see him and that I had been informed that the next nine hours were crucial. They called the supervisor, I explained and she ordered that I be dressed to go in. When I reached him he was very angry, stating "esta gente me esta tratando de matar," as if they were trying to kill him. I felt so helpless to ease his pain, I said, "Daddy, can I pray for you?" And he said, "No!, I have some needs here of this earth!" So I asked what I could do for him and he said, to move some things away from his arms, and I did. Since time was pressing on my five minute visit, I asked him again if I could pray. He said to go ahead. So I was praying a simply prayer, in fact I was about to wrap it up when he said, "No nena, siento una paz tan grande cuando estas rezando." So I asked him if he wanted to put all his cares at the feet of Jesus on the Cross and he shouted, "Yo quiero!" That was the moment. He began to pray fervantly and confess himself before God, both of us with streams of tears coming down our faces. I was asked to leave, my five minutes were up, but he was still talking to God when I left. He did not die that night, but about five months later after he reconciled with all of those who would accept him.

So yes, my Dad, was and is a pivotal person in my life. A man of depth. I am still unraveling the enigma but now with understanding.

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