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My father, Roberto, turns 90 on Inauguration Day



My father called me the other day from the Assisted Living Center where he lives in Corpus Christi. He says he wants to die. This coming Tuesday, he will be 90 years old.

My father is lonely, he's almost deaf, halfway blind, and he has a white manx cat, Blanca. He left us when my brothers were little, and there was so much crying. My parents divorced when I was in graduate school, so I wasn't at home when it happened.

In the years despues, I tried to set a good example for my brothers, but it wasn't enough. My father went to live way out in the country after the divorce, the land he loved, and he never came to visit. Not for graduations, not for weddings, nothing. Still, my brothers made pilgrimages to visit him, and it made him happy.

His anger at my mother was such that when my brother Charlie died suddenly at age 30, he refused to give her the Pesame at the funeral. It was like he pretended she didn't matter, even when I know he could barely walk from the grief.

I have been the most absent of the eight of us, enjoying my solitude, wishing I had my own rancho in the country.

The solitude has been good for me, I'm a writer. But it's made me very poor, and I've struggled to visit him, especially now that he can't drive his like-new truck, sold years ago. Daddy misses his old five dogs rusted with mange on the day he left the country. He misses the good smell of dirt, the whispers of animals feathering, chasing, hiding from each other. He misses the moon that seems to talk to him as if he was the most important man in the world. He always wanted to be, that's for sure.

I think he has regrets about the way he didn't love us very well and what happened because of it. I think he has been afraid of dying. I'm probably going to miss the Inauguration because of his birthday. My father has changed. He's proud that he voted for Barack Obama.

I hope I learn from his life.

photo credits: my nephew dressed up as Obama at Halloween.

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