5 years ago today, April 1st, my papi passed away. He was not sick; he was 74. He mowed the yard that morning, took a nap, awoke saying he didn’t feel well, and then had a heart attack.
My mother was at their home, called a neighbor, who in turn called me. I raced over to their home from mine, 10 minutes at most, to already find paramedics, who had known my father personally, working on him on the floor.
I turned my attention to comforting my mother and thinking of all the things I needed to do to help. Everything was racing through my head, but everything lining up in perfect order of what needed to be done. It’s weird how you focus in crisis.
They did their best, kept him breathing, and took him to the hospital into intensive care.
He was put on all sorts of machines; I guess it is procedure, hoping for the best, or a miracle.
We were let in to see him; my mother and I went in. When you first see your father or loved one attached to countless machines, it’s not a site you want to remember, but I remember it clearly. It drives me everyday.
Of course we cried, but I tried to stay strong for my mother, and I knew my father would want that. My brother and sister were out of state, so them getting there anytime soon was not a possibility. But the Cuban phone chain went into action and one after the other, my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends started showing up to the waiting room.
My papi always taught me about honesty, truth. We were never ones for lies, don’t like liars, they do no serve anything well. So when I kept asking nurses or anyone for answers, they gave me textbook answers, lets wait and see. Of course we prayed for a miracle, but we are also very realistic family, no matter what faith.
Then came our family doctor, who is a straight shooter. I looked at him, he looked at me, and just told me, there is no chance for your father to survive. He was without oxygen for too long. He told me the machines were standard procedure for the next 48 or 72 hours. To me, once I heard his honest answer, I knew anything else was pointless.
It was his time to go. No matter what amount of consoling I got from family and friends, it made no difference, I knew he was gone.
Finally came the time to stop the machines, he kept breathing on his own for some time, but it was just the body, the machine, that was just still ticking, until he stopped.
Of course I was upset, so were the hundreds if not thousands who showed up to his funeral, all saying to me, your father was a great man. The most kind and HONEST man they had ever met.
Knowing this is what keeps me going.
My father never got to see my boys. Alison and I had told him the day before he died that we were pregnant with our first child through in vitro fertilization.
When Alison walked, my dad and I were standing on the porch of his home; I told him they had implanted 3 embryos, that we could possibly be having triplets if all took.
The last thing I ever heard my father say to me was, “Now you are going to know what it’s like to be a father.”
When the casket was going into the ground, I felt a nice breeze come across my arm. I felt at peace, I knew I had to step up to provide a good home for my new family, like my father did, coming to this country from Cuba with nothing except my mom and sister and brother, who were 3 and 5, and had to start all over again with nothing, but his 6th grade education and his skill as a mechanic, and did his best to support his family.
You see, he had to prove himself all over again. At a car dealership, he was given a challenge by the owner, to fix a diesel truck that none of the other guys could get started in the past year. Get it started and he would have a job. 2 days he worked on it alone, him and his tools. Then came a huge roar of the engine, white smoke filling the mechanics bay. When the owner came to see the commotion, my dad walked out of the smoke covered in grease, handed the owner a wrench, and got the job, all with his year’s of experience and his tools of his craft.
So today, in now our second home together, Alison and I have 2 beautiful boys, Carson Ramon and Cameron Alexander who are almost 4 ½ and 3. So every time I hear their voices running around the house, I wish my dad could be here to hear whatever sound they are making.
I know I am making him proud through my hard work and doing my best to be a good father and husband, but more importantly, that I am a man who is respected, honest, and truthful.
Papi, I miss you, but I know you can hear our boys.
My papi was Ramon Baez.