So I recently realized that my last five or six blog posts weren't published properly. Grrrr. I know, you're all disappointed and you've written angry letters to Obama. I'm sorry for letting you down. Gees. I'll re-post this week. Today however is not about me, it's a day for all the fathers out there. I happen to have a pretty fabulous one so I've decided to pay him homage on this humble little blog.
Alejandro Farias Diaz was born on December 23, 1959 in the gem of all cities of Tijuana, BC Mexico. He was pretty much jipped out of a proper birthday for at least the first third of his life, getting hit with the "this present counts for both your birthday and Jesus' birthday!" bit on far more that once occasion. I would have been bitter as all get out- I mean I get it, the birth of the Messiah is kiiiind of a big deal. But when you're a kid, all you know is you're getting 50% less presents and a whole lot less hooplah on your alleged special day.
My dad is the oldest of five immediate siblings not counting his older half sister. He's almost 15 years older than his youngest sister and has become somewhat of the patriarchal head of that side of my family since my grandfather's passing 30 years ago. That being said, my dad is also... what's the proper word here... Oh yes, weird. He is without a doubt living out his repressed childhood.
See, a lot of parents like to tell you tell you this epic lie to make you feel like an a$$h*le when you've done something wrong, and that lie is the suggestion that your parents never ONCE in their youth made the mistakes you did. They'd like you to believe they were always well behaved: they ate their vegetables, avoided swear words, drugs & alcohol, had their first kiss on their wedding night and never EVER wore white after Labor Day. Well, guess what? My father really was the perfect child and teen, and that's not by his own admission so much as everyone else's.
My father did what he was told from a very young age and became the poster child for self-sacrifice. On top of being raised in a rigid household, his upbringing was dotted with tragedy and disappointment that I have only come to understand as an adult. I remember the first time I realized that I didn't know my father as well as I thought I did- I was in high school when Dad and I went for a drive and ended up at UCSD where he'd been taking a few extension classes for work. As we walked around the campus, there was a nostalgia in his expression, a sadness even, that I couldn't quite grasp. He then began to speak, not necessarily to me but to the universe; "I was supposed to go here, before. I got accepted. I had a scholarship, actually. A full ride. I was so excited, I even toured the dorms and everything."
Whaaaa? How didn't I know this?! As far as I knew, he'd graduated from high school then enlisted in the Marines. He served his four years, married my mother and then had me. He'd been a carrier in the US Postal Service and worked his way up to management. I thought that had always been the plan. But it hadn't- he'd wanted to be, should have been the first in his family to go to college. Instead, he enlisted in the USMC because my grandfather wanted him to. I don't expect any of you to understand the dynamic shared by my father and grandfather- let it suffice to say that it was complicated. Very, very complicated. So even though it killed him to do it in, my daddy cancelled his enrollment at UCSD and left for boot camp. The regret in my father's eyes that day affected me profoundly- I vowed then to go to college and let my dad live his dream through me.
And I did. In May of 2006, I received my Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. I donned my cap and gown and got ready to walk the stage at the Shrine Auditorium with one of my best friends Daisy Gonzalez right behind me. I was standing behind the curtains in a waiting area of sorts while hundreds of graduates in front of me were slowly called by name when I noticed a rapid succession of flashes just to the left of me. This area was closed off to photographers, press and parents alike, but I could have sworn I just saw- FLASH FLASH FLASH!!! There it was again. I was still trying to make the spots in my eyes go away when I heard Daisy laugh out loud- "V! That's your dad!!!" Sure enough, there he was- his prized SLR with extended lens in hand- taking dozens of pictures when he wasn't supposed to be- having crossed several security guards and red tape to get there. He'd been doing this all my life at school plays, Christmas pageants, dance recitals, etc. and it had always been so embarrassing. That day, however, it made me cry. He was proud, so proud. I got flashbacks to those stressful nights at the dinner table when we didn't think we could afford to send me to school; the trips to the many schools he hauled me to when I insisted on touring their campuses; my interview at USC and the first photo I ever took with my Dad in front of Tommy Trojan- how my dad hugged me and kissed the top of my head and said "This is your school. We'll figure it out;" the traditional trip to the school bookstore whenever my parents visited because my Dad was clearly trying to amass every last piece "my kid goes to USC" memorabilia in the joint. My dad had worked his whole life to get me here, and I couldn't have been more thankful.
The years have gone by and I've moved back in with my parents since moving to San Diego after my eight year stint in LA. And with each year that passes as my dad gets closer and closer to retirement, I see the screws in dear ol' dad's head loosening further and further. Several of you know that one of our prized possessions is our Vitamix blender: some of you also know that months before pulling the trigger on the purchase, I was roused most unceremoniously from a nap to the sound of what I thought was our home being broken into by a chainsaw-wielding murderer. How are the two related, you ask? Because my dad couldn't bring himself to buy the damn blender but instead made a pastime of watching YouTube videos of the freakin' thing cranked on high volume. I stormed into the hallway to see his guilty face and his hand on the mouse looking like a kid who'd been caught red-handed looking at dirty pictures. And it doesn't stop there- we've had to have many tough conversations about my day's habit of blending his smoothies at 5 am on the weekends and screaming out "yeeeeeehaaaw!" all the while. He apparently feels the need to goad the thing on while it shreds through his spinach, carrot and oranges, and also feels like Vitamix is a reincarnated cowboy.
His list of eccentricities goes on:
- At least two or three times a month, he puts on a blue lucha libre mask before opening my bedroom door and whispering "One day I will reveal my true identity!" Why? Hell if I know.
- He gets a wild hare up his ass at the most random times and decides to do random things. Like when he walks into a room, plants one foot on the ground then pushes off with the other one over and over so it looks like he's going round in circles on an invisible scooter. Or how for no good reason and always when I'm eating or drinking something, he runs at me from across a room and side-tackles me. I go flying, he often cracks a rib... No big deal. Then we go on with our day.
- He insists that my mother and I give him too much food for dinner, not because he can't finish it or the portion sizes are obscene but because he refuses to be too full to snack on tortilla chips or peanuts afterwards. It would be like a day without orange juice if we didn't hear the pantry door opening followed by the familiar rustling of plastic wrapping after dinner. And he wonders why my mom started calling him Snacky Gonzalez.
- Speaking of tortillas, don't serve that man a meal that doesn't have at least two out of three of the following: rice, tortillas and beans. He's the one guy I know that has a mild panic attack if there are no tortillas warmed up when we decide to get Shakey's Pizza, Fried Chicken and Mojo potatoes to watch a sporting event together.
- When we watch sports, my dad is the quintessential jinx. It's maddening when in a tight game where my team desperately needs to make the next shot or get that first down, Dad chimes in with "He's gonna blow it, he's gonna blow it. See? He blew it."
- Then there's his expert commentating: "Man, if we don't win this game, we're gonna lose." Howard Cosell, Marv Abert, John Madden... And my dad. Prolific sports commentary at its best.
- My dad sings in the shower... Ok fine, you might argue that a lot of people do this. Yeah, we'll not at ungodly hours of the morning on weekdays and weekends alike. And the songs themselves are a constant five or six songs from what I call "Dad's Greatest Hits," which is a complication of one liners from verses or choruses (always the same parts, but never entire songs) that he has been singing since my brother and I we were kids. Our bathrooms share a wall, so I get the second loudest concerto in the house after my mom. I'll be brushing my teeth and hear "IIIIIIII'VE BEEN CHEATED! BEEEEEN MISTREATED!!! <gargles mouthwash, spits outs mouthwash> SAID IIIIIII'VE BEEN CHEATED!" Other favorites include "My momma once told me, when I was a baby!!," "God bless America, laaaaand of the freeeee!" (Yes, I've corrected him), and some Spanish selections from Vicente Fernandez.
In short, the man is an odd bird sometimes, but I love him just the same. I've seen the true identity behind that creepy blue mask, and what lies beneath is a model son, brother, uncle, husband and of course father that I'm proud to call my dad.