I believe that one of the most important lessons I have been taught is to not take anything for granted. When I was younger I thought that meant just thanking my dad for the material things he gave me. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the thing I should be most thankful for is my actual father and everything he has done for me and taught me, because when he’s gone, that is what will stay with me.
My father was six years old when he came to America from Cuba in 1960 and only eight years old when his father died, leaving my abuela with five children and thirty dollars to the Vidal name. They had been extremely successful in Cuba, owning a lumber yard and two canning factories, but when they fled their homeland in fear of Castro’s reign, they had to leave everything they had ever worked for behind and start over.
When I imagined my dad as a teenager, I thought of the hot surfer dude who was the biggest wise guy in his class at Chaminade with a cute blonde beach bunny, my mom, for as girlfriend. I didn’t know that almost every day after school he rode his bike down Sheridan street to his uncle’s new business, Sheridan Lumber, and work till close to pay for his and his younger sister’s private school educations. He spent his summers in New York cleaning chimneys with his older brother while his uncle tried to strike deals with big South American lumber suppliers. Everything he worked for went to his family, he didn’t even have a car till he was in Grad School at the University of Miami, both of which he paid for himself. On top of all that, he suffers from diabetes and is at risk for every type of heart disease which has already taken his younger brother and almost his older brother.
Knowing all of this really helps me appreciate all he has done. It also helps me understand why my father is the way he is, frugal, appreciative, and humble. I’m going away to college in the fall so I’ve been spending as much time with him as I can. We watch TV together every night, talk about our philosophies on life, listen to his old Pink Floyd albums, or just sit on our dock in silence and watch the sunset. Every morning when I wake up, no matter how much I hate the sound of his voice nagging me to get to the breakfast table, I thank God that he’s still here, still happy, and still healthy.
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