Friday, June 18, 2010

Honoring Father on Father's Day

By Roy Ortega

On this Father’s Day 2010, my thoughts are focused on the two things that have shaped my moral center as a father and a son. The first was witnessing the births of my three sons. The second was witnessing the death of my father.

My father died on November 1, 2007. Since then, I have spent a considerable amount of my time and emotion trying to make peace with his spirit. To my eternal regret, there were many things left unresolved between my father and me. There were many things left unsaid.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my father dearly and I have many happy memories of him. When I was born in 1953, my mother said he was so happy he ran down the street inviting all of the neighbors to our house on Kendalia Avenue where everyone drank Falstaff Beer and smoked cigars all night.

By all measure, Salvador was a hard-working, dedicated family man who provided well for all of us. The happiest I ever saw him was when he was on his boat on the Gulf Coast casting a rod and reel into the water. Fishing was my father’s passion and his escape from the drudgery of everyday of life.

My father had a fleeting ability to be a friendly, affable man. He had a capacity for being kindhearted and generous, especially when it came to his six children.

But there was also a dark and brooding side to his personality that strained my relationship with him from the time I was a teenager.

To my family’s dismay, my father carried an inexplicable life-long anger and hostility in his soul. Where it came from and why he carried it has never been fully understood by any one in my family. I often wondered what single event or series of events in his life could have caused his anger. Thank God my father was never physically violent. But his words were just as hurtful. His hostility often manifested itself in a distinct form of mean-spiritedness aimed mostly at my mother. My father’s anger seemed to be constant - and for no reason. It’s the same anger I have witnessed many times in one of my nephews.

As an adult, my relationship with my father was tentative at best. Most of my visits with him often started out fine, but quickly deteriorated into angry disagreements over the most trivial of things. I lived in El Paso. He lived in San Antonio. We simply agreed to disagree.

Despite the strain, I always knew my father loved me. After a lifetime of watching my father, however, I vowed never to treat my loved ones so harshly.

When I married Jo Anne in 1979, I couldn’t wait to be a father. But the excitement of pending fatherhood was devastatingly dashed one day when our first pregnancy failed through miscarriage. Dazed with grief and disbelief, I called my mother from a pay phone in the hospital lobby and cried almost uncontrollably.

But a year later, Jimmy was born and I was so elated I couldn’t contain my happiness. Two years later, Justin came into the world and five years later Jared arrived.

Watching each one of my sons being born changed my life. It gave birth to a certain kind of spirituality in me I never knew existed. The birth of a child is nothing short of a true miracle. To me, It defies empirical logic. It is something I still cannot fathom. How is it possible for a human life to exist where it did not exist before? Understanding the biology behind conception and birth is easy. But understanding its spiritual meaning is way beyond my own comprehension.

As a father of three sons, my life has been highly fulfilled. My favorite times were when Hughey, Louie and Dewey , as I humorously referred to them, were little kids. Hanging out in the garage or the backyard teaching them about simple things and complicated things alike made me the happiest. I played the ultimate role of a father. Soccer, baseball and tying shoestrings were the best of times for me. First days of school and removing tiny tennis shoes from the toilet bowl made my life well worth living.

But in the midst of enjoying daddyhood while growing a journalism career, I regrettably made little time for my own father. In his waning years, he often asked me when I was coming home.

A few years after my mother died, I came home and found my father sitting alone in the dark. A deep sadness surrounded the empty house. I tried to chat with him about the family and his health, but the long and confusing stares told me I would never again have an opportunity to make things right between us.

As I watched him take his last breath, I again found myself trying to understand the spiritual nature of what was happening. I couldn’t fathom his death. How was it possible for my father to exist one moment and not the next? Once again, the mysteries of life and death were well beyond my capacity to understand.

One of my mother’s favorite inspirations during her life were three simple words: “Dios es amor” - God is love.

Surely, if there is a God, this is what He is. God is life. God is love. There is no other way to rationalize it.

On this Father’s Day 2010, it is my hope is that I have succeeded reasonably well as a father. I also hope that my sons and I continue to enjoy our strong bonds together in a happy relationship that is based on love, mutual respect and understanding. My vow on this special day is to never leave anything unresolved or unsaid between us.

It is my way of honoring my father on Father's Day.

Roy Ortega may be reached at