Tag Archives: Fathers and daughters

Roberto Duran, Tuesday Night Fights, and Late Night Cup of Coffees on Father’s Day

18 Jun

It’s the day you think about the cool Thrifty’s ice cream cone he bought you on a hot day.  It’s the day you focus on the traffic-congested-day trips to Sea World or Raging Waters he used to take you to during the summer. It’s the day you think about him driving after a long day of work to try catch one of your basketball games. It’s the day you flip through the 1970s photo albums to try and remember the posed Kodak moments that sit behind that clear plastic covers.

As an adult it’s the day you try to hold onto good childhood (and adulthood) memories without crying, but smiling and laughing instead, because they happened and you can remember them.

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day celebrates all the dads and the adventures they led you through to make you the person you are today. It celebrates the stubbornness and adventurous spirit of the dude that sat behind those tired eyes at the end of the day and listened to my stories while stirring his cup of coffee.

 

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I tried to recreate a Father’s Day Weekend he might enjoy by heading to the mecca of golf shops and looking around at things he might want to buy but knowing full well he would probably just use them like twice a year, yet still be very satisfied with his purchase. Went to Fry’s Electronics store and stared at the big screen TVs and other gadgets for a while just thinking of what he’d say.

On Father’s Day Eve I watched a couple of boxing movies he had yet to see, but I guarantee he would have enjoyed them just because they had to do with boxing and the underdog. He liked Robert DeNiro almost as much as I did, so I imagine he would have given Hands of Stone two thumbs up. I imagine in part because it was a true story, and in part because he probably saw one of Duran’s fights on television. He would have told me about the first Sugar Ray Leonard fight, and what an amazing blow by blow battle it was. He liked Sugar Ray, but I think he would have rooted for Duran because of his upbringing and rise from nothing into something. He probably would have told me about the rematch as well, and had something to say about that Don King. He would have talked about it being on the news and how people heard Duran say “No Mas,” but wondering whether Duran really said it. We would have had an all-out-father-daughter discussion over some ice cream on that one.

I imagine him liking Hands of Stone for the same reason he would have really liked The Fighter. He enjoyed true stories about the human condition, the come-back kids worth rooting for.

With boxing it wasn’t so much the punching, although you couldn’t miss the combinations in each round, but it was the stories behind each boxer he enjoyed, it was the story of the fight. He was a fan of the sport, watching HBO cards whenever the big dudes took the ring. But what he really enjoyed watching were the weekly matches on USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights.

I remember, every Tuesday night, coffee cup in hand and pillows fluffed up in the right position on the floor, because for some reason he enjoyed propping up all the pillows against the bottom of the couch and lying on the floor facing the television. He didn’t enjoy the sideways angle in which the couches were situated. So he made his own comfy space, a make-shift Lazy-Boy, although with all the excitement of the fight he’d put the coffee cup down and stand up in the middle of each round, bobbing and weaving with the boxers. And then smiling and saying … Phewwww!  That was a good round ….

So I tried to recapture some of that for myself yesterday. I tried to catch some of my Dad.

Celebrating someone who has passed on is tough, they’re physically gone and you don’t hear their laughter anymore, but you hold onto to their stories the best you can and focus on the good things they left you with, like their heart,  spirit, Tuesday Night boxing stories, and late-night-cup-of-coffee memories.

Happy Father’s Day …

 

1A

 

 

 

 

Emptying Out The Tank …

10 Apr

Now I know you’re aware that I’m not the greatest morning person, I lived with that my whole life, but climbing 63 stories in the evening wasn’t something I had in mind, especially after a 7 a.m. hockey game, 10 am Jesus class, a two-hour-visit to the school carnival, and two-hour baseball game.

Nope. Not what I envisioned.

However, the Powers That Be at the American Lung Association thought it would be an awesome idea to scale Los Angeles’s second tallest building just in time to see the sunset. You know … during epic traffic encounters on the 101, 5, and 110 freeways.

They thought that after the exhaustion of scaling 1,039 steps in claustrophobic environment with close to 500 people the skyline would be one to remember.

They thought that because it was my fifth trip to the top of the AON Center that it would be a laid-back workout, that I knew what I was doing.

Whoever said, “it’s just like riding a bicycle,” never stair climbed in his life. Like. Ever. Let me tell you, scaling this monster for the fifth year in a row was not easier the fifth time. It’s never easy. I still felt just as suffocated in the enclosed stairwells as I did the first time around. I still felt my calves burning and my knees aching by the 27th floor. I still tried to not look up at the signs because 63 stories seemed so far away when I was still on the 31st floor. I still thought those volunteers with pom-poms were lying to me when they said, “you’re almost there, you’re almost there” because they were, well everyone was lying except for that chick on the 61st floor. I still felt like I was going in slow motion as it became harder and harder to breathe. I still felt all the heaviness, and weariness of every nook and cranny of my Ben-Gay-Icy-Hot loving 41-year old muscles. I felt it all with every step and every breath.

But one thing kept me going.

One.

I kept seeing my hands hold his hands at the hospital. I kept thinking I was the last one to talk to him before surgery and the last one to see him before he passed away. I kept seeing moments from my childhood sporting awesome polyester bell bottoms and moments from adulthood where talks and laughter surrounded us. I saw them all, and just when the exhaustion of the 45th floor hit me, when I thought I was losing the pictures in my mind I saw the poster. There it was taped on the stairwell, a picture of my Dad, my sister and me, “Why We Climb”.

Yup.

That was all I needed to pull whatever reserve I had remaining in the tank, and I pushed passed the I’m-gonna-pass-out-right-now-feeling. I ran by the people sitting on stairwells, clinging onto bannisters for dear life, and standing at the last water station.  I saw number 61 and pulled the Ninja-Warrior-Gatorade-Commercial-Worthy athlete out and stormed up those last steps.

I hit the roof running and the burst oxygen filled up my lungs as I stepped outside. I raised my hands up like Rocky and put my finger up to the sky. I got there in 16 minutes and 16 seconds and 16 seconds.

They thought the sunset would be a memorable one …

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🙂

They were right. I still remember it.

 

 

The Countdown Has Begun!

27 Mar

10 Days!

The countdown is on and my Randy Macho Man Savage quads are preparing for this battle. Don’t know if my calves are ready though. But the rest of my body seems to think that I’ve got this.

In 10 days, my vitamin-D-deficient-but-glucosamine-fueled body will be sprinting, running, jogging, walking and then crawling up 63 stories,  along with hundreds of other sweaty and out of breath climbers in claustrophobic conditions to help raise money for the American Lung Association.

But why?!

Why does this insanity take place?

I’m not a morning person.

But I see his smiling face under a Dodgers hat, I hear his hearty laugh, and I smell that Jovan Musk aftershave in the hallways … and I wake up with purpose. I wake up ready to run stairs. And what kind of elevator-loving-stair-hating person does that?! What kind of person with BenGay-Advil-Ice-Pack-loving knees laces up her Saucony running shoes to storm high school bleachers or winding staircases hidden in the hills, instead of hitting the snooze button?

 

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Me … I do it … because he’s worth it.

63 stories.

Yup.

He’s worth the trip to the anti-aging aisle at CVS.

Every year I still bake the cake, even though he’s not gonna blow out the birthday candles. Every year I tell the story of why they call him Chito 7 Pantalones. Every year I replay the messages left on my answering machine just to hear his voice again. Every year I decide to make the excruciatingly difficult journey up 63 stories, painfully possible. Every year I go in believing I’m Lindsey Wagner, putting my bionic knee to the test, climbing over 1,000 steps just for him. Every year I finish knowing full well I have nothing bionic in me.

But every year I do it because I am my father’s daughter and his spirit is still with me.

It’s with me on skydiving adventurous or beach bum days, it’s there on the passenger seat when I’m hearing that feel-good song, it’s  with me when I’m chasing dreams, and when I’m trying to be a better parent. He’s there in one of his many baseball caps that I wear with a smile, he’s my TV buddy when I’m watching The Walking Dead, Peaky Blinders, or Narcos. He’s there high-fiving me when SC wins, and he’s also a member of my Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy Support Group.

He’s there when I’m climbing stairs.

I got 10 days.

The countdown is on.

 

 

You Still Make The Cake …

30 Jan

I woke up knowing he’d be the first thing on my mind.

Brown eyes, black and silver wavy hair, usually covered by a hat. The very same blue Dodgers hat I wore all day today. Go Blue.

Tired and exhausted from the night before, the night of thinking of tomorrows and tomorrow already here, as evidenced by the sun peeking through the blinds. Staring at the ceiling, knowing that the closest I’d ever get to him today was just a memory or two. Pictures, left over voicemails, hats hanging on hooks, shirts folded in the closet, and half a bottle of Jovan Musk  in the cabinet. They were all waiting for me this morning, like every morning.

But today was different.

Today was his 69th birthday and the cologne smelled a little different. I think it was losing its strength, but I could still smell that aftershave scent. It still lingers in the air, reminding me of how I wished I had more memories.

It’s always a tough day, knowing someone isn’t going to blow out the candles anymore. But you still make the cake, you make it anyway. Today I made it with my daughter, who’s named after him. Listening to jazz as we measured and stirred the flour and sugar, dancing to his favorite tunes in our aprons as the smell of chocolate filled our small kitchen, I smiled. I thought he’d be watching and smiling as we twirled around to his favorite trumpet and piano tunes.

Jazz was on all day today. Running through the park this morning. At the stoplight. In the kitchen. And as I write this piece. His calming happy music surrounded me as I remembered him driving his silver Toyota Tacoma, with the station tuned into KJAZZ and him strumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

Yup. It was on all day. Reminding me, giving  this purpose, making the baking experience a little better.

And for some reason, during the taste-testing process perhaps, we didn’t have enough frosting to cover the entire cake this year, and that was O.K. It wasn’t a disaster. We made a head pastry chef decision and thought layers upon layers of frosting would be just fine. Like a chic bakery.

He’d probably get a kick out of it, and we’d make our own story about it. In fact we probably already did. I’ll probably think back , when all my hair has that silvery fox color, and remember how we baked the chocolaty chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and chopped almonds, how we danced in the kitchen thinking about my Dad turning 69 and how he’d enjoy a piece of cake, or two, along with a cup of coffee.

We took our picnic and visited him. I told stories as my daughter had one piece and my son two. Large cups of milk, and one cup of coffee for pops. Sitting there talking about life and wishing he was there to blow out the candles and make one more wish.

My Dad … the Dreamer, the Adventure Seeker, my HBO-Watching-Buddy, the Owner of Over 70 Baseball Caps, the Jazz-Listening-Beep-Bopper, Pay-It-Forward-Patron, Awesome-Date-to-Opening-Plays at the local theater, Spirit of My Spirit, Heart of my Heart, Laugher of My Jokes, and friend … turned 69 today. I wish him well, send him light, love, and laughter.

And I miss him.

 

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My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

 

 

 

Dia De Los Muertos Inspires A New Conversation

1 Nov

I think about the clicking-clocking sound he used to make when his tongue would hit the roof of his mouth. NUK! He’d knock-knock-knock my forehead simultaneously … you know during one of my McFly moments. My Uncle Erick.

And I think about my Dad and how he used to call me Canela  and how he’d start smiling even before I told the joke.

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My Dad and Uncle Erick back in the 70s

The two most important dudes in my life growing up, with the exception of the tallest Texan I know, he hails from Lubbock and has his own story, which I’ll share later. But today … today I talk about My Dad and Uncle Erick, today I talk about their stories because Dia De Los Muertos celebrates their spirits and everything they brought to my life.

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They’re on my mind every day, especially when I feel how life could have been so much better if they were still around. And after surviving my Halloween Hangover (why was Halloween on a Monday anyway … KitKat overload) I took a moment to celebrate their lives by sharing some vintage Polaroids and Kodak moments with my kids, accompanied by the stories and adventures behind those pictures.

Whether it was hiking waterfalls in Guatemala, road tripping that had multiple detours, watching SC football on Saturdays, toasting pumpkin seeds on Halloween, or listening to the Bee Gees, Billy Joel, or KC & The Sunshine Band, each adventure added something to my life.

And I miss it, I miss them. I miss the conversations and the reminiscing that brought laughter.

As always it hit me in the pit of my stomach. I celebrated them, and talked about their lives, but was also sad in the end. So I was glad to have come up with a new story about them. A piece based on their lives, inspired by my Uncle Erick.  It’s a conversation. My piece is about a conversation they probably had while my Uncle Erick was growing up. It’s about the advice my dad would have given him and the interesting way he’d go about doing it.

It’s a comedy, of course.

And although this conversation never took place I can totally see it happening because I can hear their voices. I can totally imagine them going through this exchange.

So, on this very special Dia De Los Muertos celebration, I was inspired to write a piece about the two men in my family who I learned from the most.

I’ve even submitted it somewhere … so hopefully their conversation, their story, their journey continues and makes other people laugh in the process.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

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Extra Cherries …

16 Jul

It never gets any easier, people say it does. But it doesn’t. It hurts just as much today as it did six years ago and you just have to live with it.

It’s been six years since my Dad passed away and it’s always a tough week as I celebrate my daughter’s birthday one day and remember my Dad’s passing the next. I try to celebrate his life instead of agonizing about his death and why he got sick, but I end up just missing his presence everywhere I go that day.

In smelling his last bottle of cologne he left on the bathroom counter, or hearing the few messages he left on the answering machine, I still feel a sense of closeness. But most of the connection I get is from the stories and adventures we had together.

Like when I used to visit him at work back in my elementary and junior high school days. I’d have to sit in a booth, or at the counter while he was picking up his check or something. He worked two jobs a lot of the time. This one seemed more fun to me since I was able to eat all the cherries I wanted.

I’d wait for him, checking out the tiki torch lamps, totem polls,  the pink, green, and yellow drink umbrellas hanging out by the green olives, and the rest of the Hawaiian decor that filled the dimly lit room.

 

 

Their specialty was the the Hawaiian-style spare ribs, which were pretty awesome but not my favorite.

I’d sit down and look at the menu pretending I was a customer. I’d say hi to the manager and everyone setting up, and he’d ask me … “You want something to drink? A Shirley Temple?”

I’d smile.

“Yeah,” I’d say.

He’d smile and then walk behind the bar to fix it up. It’s a simple drink really, but I’d always thought it was super special concoction he had created just for me. He’d bring it out in a tall glass, with an umbrella. He’d put a small napkin on the counter, place my drink on it, and then tap the counter.

I’d smile when I saw it.

Extra cherries.

He’d always put extra cherries in it. We’d talk for a minute while I sipped my drink, and most of the conversations escape me at the moment. I don’t remember whether we talked about my day, his day, or if I needed money for sneakers. I don’t remember if he gave me any advice or if we cracked jokes, but we must have because it feels that way.

But the one thing I do remember were all the Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers I shared with him.I remembered the Hawaiian shirts he had to wear as part of his uniform and how he hated them years later, how he never wore a Hawaiian shirt ever again. Even when we went to Hawaii. He said he had worn enough of those to last him a lifetime. I thought they were cool though, I still have one of his in my closet.

We’d sit at the counter or in the booth and it felt cool just to hang out with my Dad for a minute.

When I finished my drink and we had to be on our way, he’d ask if I wanted another.

I’d smile because I knew extra cherries were part of the deal.

That was my Dad, he was an extra cherries kind of guy, and these were the things I thought about all day, and a sadness and hurt filled up my heart that night because he was gone and things would have been so different if he were still here, and my kids missed out on getting to know their grandpa.

But I guess that would mean that I would have to be the extra cherries kind of person in their life.

My Dad was great at it. Me? I’m working on it.

Buen Camino …

 

 

Introducing Me To Clint Eastwood

18 Jun

On quiet nights like this I miss seeing his briefcase by the door, his white butcher coat and shirt laying on the armrest, and the smell of the coffeemaker percolating the night’s brew. Night time coffee and HBO on a Saturday night. That was him.

Tonight it’s quiet, no briefcase, no white coat, no baseball caps, no coffee percolating and no HBO talk. Just me and some laundry.

I passed by the CVS the other day and saw all the Star Wars Father’s Day cards, I saw the funny ones with pets, the ones with fishing poles, golf clubs, and cartoons. I still read them, but it hurt. It hurts to buy cards he’s not going to read or keep in his briefcase. It hurts missing out on conversations about life and Father’s Day dinners.

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At times like this when breathing becomes hard because you miss someone so much, I find comfort in storytelling. Story remembering, really. I try to write as much as I can now so that my kids will be able to see how I saw my father and how I felt. So that my kids will know their grandfather had a good heart, that he had problems too, but that he tried. He tried and he kept his heart in tact during the process.

He suffered the loss of his Dad too, just when he was 10, and his life couldn’t have been easy, but he tried his best. He battled depression during my youth and adulthood, and often felt like giving up, but he still tried.

Adventures. Staycations. HBO marathons. Superbowl games. Boxing matches. Supermarket trips. Baskin-Robbins outings. Movie discussions. Costco adventures. Theater excursions. Joke telling stories. And talks. Lots of talks.

Sometimes the missing out is the worst part … my kids missing out on him, missing out on creating their own adventures with grandpa. So I’m hoping the storytelling will create a good picture. I’m hoping they’ll get to know him through my stories and through their grandpa’s adventurous and humorous spirit that lives inside of them.

He liked Westerns. He liked Clint Eastwood. So I found it interesting that Clint would be on TV the night before Father’s Day.

I found it comforting to know that I was watching one of his favorites, while folding laundry in the night time quiet. I figured he might be having a cup of coffee. Black. Two sugars. And remembering stories about me, remembering my dreams, remembering my laugh, remembering all the Father’s Day cards in his Samsonite briefcase, remembering how he introduced me to Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood … he turned out to be all right.

Happy Father’s Day …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Orange Dictionary and One Page Left

16 May

I remember taking a moment and thinking I should keep it. I should keep it.

And I did.

But in my early 30s, after having moved for the third time in four years, it didn’t survive. It got tossed around in boxes and then eventually tossed in the recycling pile. I remember pausing for a moment, thinking I should keep it. It was Erick’s. I should hold onto it just in case, but I didn’t and I remember feeling a little twinge the next morning when it was gone.

That orange hardcover dictionary with the word DICTIONARY in bold white courier font. He used it during his high school years to look up words he didn’t know, then look up those words in his Spanish-English dictionary, and then finally have an A-ha! moment after twenty minutes because he had finally figured out what they were asking him. He could finally answer.

My uncle Erick … he was more than just an uncle, he was the brother I never had, my role model growing up, my compass when I lost my footing. He showed me education can definitely create change. He was the first one in our family to graduate from college. He was there for me when I was learning my ABCs  and stood by me when I crossed the graduation stage myself. I knew when he had his own family he would be a great dad.

And he was …

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Uncle Erick … very proud of the pumpkin skills that took place here with his daughter.

So when he died of cancer, when his daughter was only 10 years old, it broke my heart. I knew he was scared, not of death, but of not being in his daughter’s life, watching her grow, dancing at her quinceanera, and clapping for her as she crossed the stage in her cap and gown.

I knew he wanted to be there. So I made sure a part of him would be there with her for all those milestones. I interviewed him and made a scrapbook for her. Quotes, advice, stories, pictures. Messages and things he’d want to say to her when life happened, he was able to do that, to say some of those things.

I’d been giving these pages to her throughout the years, and now 11 years later, after her college graduation I only have one page left. One, and I so wish I still had that dictionary, because it was more than just a book of words, it was a part of his road to success. It was part of his work ethic.

But I didn’t know he was going to die when the dictionary got thrown away. I didn’t know he was gonna get sick. Nobody did. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink. He got the cancer just because he got it. And now I only have one page left.

I gave her the college page this weekend, followed by a hug and the I’m-proud-of-you speech, and the I-know-your-dad-is-proud-of-you-too whisper in the ear.

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My uncle, who helped raise me, was there that day too, sitting in the audience with me. His words were there, in black ink, scribbled in his slanted handwriting written during the last days of his life. He wanted to make sure he was there, and I was glad to have made that possible, because he was always there for me.

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Morgan Freeman Knew My Name

18 Apr

The smell of Ben-Gay no longer lingers in the air and my left knee is miraculously still in tact.

Wobbly and weary, but still in tact. Like the rest of me.

I felt the same heaviness in my legs. I knew the burning in my calves very well. The tightening in my chest as I tried to catch my breath was something I remembered. I was familiar with these ailments that accosted me on the 27th floor. They couldn’t even wait until I hit the half-way mark of the race. They stalked me all the way to the top of the AON Building.

Bastards.

I was sweating and working as hard as those athletes in a Gatorade commercial, but I sure didn’t feel like one of them. I felt like a 40 year-old mom climbing stairs. I tried listening harder, but couldn’t hear Morgan Freeman narrating my journey. All I heard was the heavy breathers trying to drown out my music.

But among all the breathing and stuffiness and claustrophobic drama of the Fight for Air Climb I remembered my sister’s words.

The old man will be waiting for you at the top.

I got a little choked up as I read the text before I started the race. I was nervous, and I really don’t get too nervous before races. But I did for this one. This one wasn’t for fun or for glory or for Bucket Lists. This one was for him. It meant something more.

She was right. He was watching, probably smiling.

So I had to make it.

No matter what.

I had to.

Nervous. Exhausted. Running out of air. Ready to stop. I was feeling it all. But the stubbornness and Guatemalan will power pushed and dragged my ass to the top of those 63 flights.

I heard the bass and boom, boom, boom of  Tucanes de Tijuana, Mr. World Wide Pitbull, Venga Boys, and the Charlie Daniels Band. The rhythm took over and my body responded. The Gatorade-Commerical-Worthy Athlete was busting out of me and Morgan Freeman knew my name. As I looked up I couldn’t believe it. I saw the 60th floor sign … Dude …

I ran up those last three flights, crossed the finish line, and smiled because I had made it.

16:28.

That was it.

The toughest sixteen minutes this year. But definitely worth it.

 

 

 

Yup … It’s Worth It

2 Apr
Duuuuuuuude. There is a lot you do for the people you love.
Travel, sacrifice, work, fundraisers, sleep …the list goes on and on.
For me?
It’s stairs.
I’ll be taking the stairs. And in fact, I hate stairs, I hate the StairMaster. It produces nothing but pain. I hate whoever invented it. They should be thrown off a cliff. I’m more of an elevator enthusiast.
So it might sound strange to say that in two weeks I’m going to be scaling 63 stories 1,391 steps. The Ben-Gay and ice pack will be waiting for me.
In two weeks  it’s gonna happen … It’ll be claustrophobic. I won’t be able to catch my breath. My muscles won’t be getting enough oxygen, and I’ll feel like I need an EKG. And it will only be the 37th floor.
Everything in me is gonna be like … duuuuuuuude you need to stop. The music is not even helping. This isn’t funny. Every muscle in my body that thought it was 20 years old is gonna be like, ‘C’mon now, stop playing these games, you’re 40, this is what 40 feels like.’ My left knee will be aching and my calves will be ready to give out, just hoping for an Achilles Tendon mishap. Every part of my body will be asking … is it worth it?
I’ll close my eyes and see my Dad …
Dad

My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

My best bud, and the Wingman to my dreams …
Yeah, he’s worth it.
I’d do anything to get him back. So I do this in his memory. I do this for him. I do this to help find a cure. I do this so that someone else won’t lose their Dad.
Yup.  It’s worth it.
In about 15 days I’ll be one of the masses, climbing to the top of the AON Building in Downtown Los Angeles participating in The American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb to honor my pops.
My yearly ritual to honor the man who rooted for the underdog, who believed in random acts of kindness, who paid it forward, who carried my pictures in his wallet and my Father’s Day cards in his briefcase,who loved his family and sacrificed so that we could have a better life.
Yup. My body will be in desperate need of Ben Gay, and my knees will be out of commission but he’s worth it.
Buen Camino, my friends.