The best thing I ever wrote was about my Dad …
Many people called him Don Julio … or Juuuu-lio. They saw him as a nice, hard-working man who wore white pants, a white collared shirt, a long white butcher’s coat, a baseball cap, and a smile. They saw him as a man who cut chicken for over 25 years and carried a black Samsonite briefcase with what he said held his most important papers.
But for me … it was different.
He was more than just that good guy, with a briefcase and a smile, who was nice to old ladies that complained about their chicken. To me he was my Dad, and he loved to laugh and joke around. He was my friend whose life was cut short because of this terrible lung disease, which cause was unknown. At 62 years young, he lived an unfinished life. The grandpa years had just begun and he still wasn’t done being my Dad.
To me … my Dad was … Chito … Chito 7 Pantalones. No one in my family ever asked me why I had started calling my dad that. They would just roll their eyes thinking … look at this chick. His name is Dad, not Chito. But when my abuela, Dona Julia, told me the story as to how he got the nickname, I believe it captured his essence. And when he was sad, or wasn’t feeling well, I wanted to remind him of who he was …
The story dates back to when my Dad was a little boy in Guatemala. He loved playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. But most of his buddies didn’t have a lot of money and couldn’t afford soccer shorts or pants. They just had their school clothes.
My Dad had extras, but his mom was pretty strict about letting others borrow his clothes. So in an effort to be a good friend and a good sportsman, my Dad would run back to his house and put on seven pairs of shorts and a pair of pants on top of that in order to camouflage the evidence. Then he would sneak past his mom — Mission Impossible style — and sprint back to the soccer field. He would take off all seven pairs of shorts and pants, then lend them out to his friends.
They would play soccer until the sun went down, and I imagine he would score goals, laugh, and stretch his arms out like an airplane. Zig-zagging on the field and high-fiving his friends. This story often reminds me of his kindness and willingness to do whatever he could to help his friends. He had a big heart. Big. This was my dad … This was Chito.
He laughed at my jokes and thought I was funny. He played soccer with my son, and baseball with my nephew. He watched my sister and I play sports in high school, and supported our dreams when we went to college. He would often call us for no particular reason at all. Just calling to say hello, even though we had seen him earlier that day, he would call just to say hi. He welcomed multiple family members from Guatemala to live with us for many years until they were ready to live on their own.
Throughout my childhood, he sacrificed things that were important to him so that we could have a good life. Most people didn’t know him the way I did, and for those people who just saw him as the guy with a white shirt and white pants missed out on knowing a great man.
He enjoyed watching The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, and 24 with me, in addition to watching novelas with my mom. He liked Charles Bronson, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Robert DeNiro movies. He constantly loved to debate with my cousin, El Huero, about the significance of a particular scene or line in the movie. They would argue for about thirty minutes saying: How much? How much you wanna bet? How much? Then they would rewind the movie only to reveal that they were both wrong. And we would all laugh.
He taught us that hard work and perseverance in life paid off. He was a big believer in dreams and made sure that we followed ours, no matter how crazy they might have seemed to others. He had great spirit in everything he did, especially when playing with his grandsons.
He enjoyed Haggen Daaz Milk Chocolate Almond Bars in the summer and diving into my uncle’s pool, even though he couldn’t swim very well. He would spring off the diving board, no floaties.
“Life’s an adventure, sometimes you just gotta jump in.”
He was stubborn and passionate about his point of views, no matter how big or small the issue. He always believed in the goodness of other people. He was a good man who taught me a lot about being a compassionate human being.
And this Samsonite briefcase, in which he carried his most important papers, was found in his office after he passed away. And when he carried it, we would always tell him to be careful.
“Don’t have too much money in there, Dad.”
“Watch where you’re going, it’s dangerous.”
“Be careful at night.”
“Awww. Don’t worry,” was his reply. “I’ll be O.K.”
And it wasn’t until we were planning the funeral when we discovered that those important papers were not stocks, bonds, titles, or deeds. What he carried in that Samsonite briefcase was 35 years worth of Father’s Day cards signed in crayons, fingerpaints, pencils, markers, and pens. This was my Dad; he carried a briefcase of his daughters’ love at all times.
I miss him very much.