By Helena Rodriguez
As a child, nothing was more comforting than hearing the thumping of Dad’s boots in the wee hours of the morning, reassuring me he was home safe from another music gig.
Even as an adult, I would wait for that familiar thumping in the night when I stayed with my parents. Only after I heard those thumping boots down the hall could I sleep tight. There are many other small things about Dad that have comforted me over the years. It’s little things like this that makes all of our fathers special in their own ways.
I remember Dad rushing to my bedside once when I was a little girl and was shaken out of my sleep by a scary dream. I rarely had nightmares that shook me up so much, and when I did, there he was. Dad made it all better with a glass of milk and a reassuring hug. I don’t know why I cried for milk. I hated milk, but he brought me some without a complaint, even though I took only a few sips.
I have many other stories to tell of my dad, who, gracias a dios, is still with us today. Now, they are not all storybook memories, but they’re each special in their own way because he is my old man, my papi, mi jefito.
Dad has been a nurturing father over the years, but also a very impatient one at times. And I am just as thankful for that, especially the time he tried to teach me to play the guitar. Dad dreamed of starting a family band, but I had my own dreams of becoming a writer. Dad quickly gave up. I’m sure my long fingernails, which I refused to cut, didn’t help.
Thanks Dad, for not trying to live your dreams through me. You did, however, manage to pass on to me your love of Spanish music. I feel enriched by it.
I had my share of spankings over the years, but once, when I thought I was in for a much-deserved lickin’, I got a pleasant surprise. Dad walked into my bedroom that I shared with my sisters, Becky and Julie, and lifted me up. I was expecting the worst because I had been into Mom’s nail polish again despite previous warnings and had made a big mess. But Dad took me down the hall and into the kitchen where my family surprised me with a birthday party. That’s the only surprise party I ever had and I remember it well.
I didn’t realize, until after I had graduated from college and moved away, how poor we were growing up. Our eyes always lit up for the little things, like when Dad bought us Cracker Jacks on Saturday nights or took us camping in the summer.
I also didn’t realize how spoiled I was by Dad’s smooth guitar playing, which kept me up late on some nights and rocked me to sleep on other nights.
Dad formed different bands throughout the years and his last group held some promise. They were getting area radio play. They recorded a CD in San Antonio and opened up for some big-name Spanish bands. But it put a strain on family life and Dad eventually quit. I admire him for that. These days, his gigs are occasionally playing with John and Crystal Pritchett at church or helping out a fellow musician once in awhile.
Dad’s most emotional performance was singing at his own father’s funeral, but it wasn’t before an audience. It was afterward, after everyone was leaving the cemetery in Lubbock. Dad and my mom and his cousin sang Grandpa Chico’s last request, Cornelio Reyna’s “Te Vas Angel Mio,” a song about a little angel that had gone away that Grandpa Chico always said he wanted sung at his funeral.
I know that when Dad gets into his quiet moods and goes out to the patio by himself, he is thinking of Grandpa Chico. Sometimes I want to go comfort him, but I never have the right word to say, so I just watch him from the back door. And at other times, Dad’s guitar strums festive songs and we celebrate.
Whatever the occasion, Dad has continually added music to my world with his never-ending melodies. With Father’s Day on Sunday, here’s to him and to dad’s everywhere who use their God-given gifts to inspire us in their special ways.
Helena Rodriguez is a staff writer for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: