Feliz Dia de Los Padres!
(Father and son moment - LaCret 378 Santo Suarez, Havana 1950)
Or: Happy Father's Day! Almost did not write this post in time - hard to blog when you're on the road, staying in different places...that is what vacations are all about, but now time to take vacation from my vacation. It would have been unforgivable to forget the man who used to take the little Habanero kite-flying - he'd find an empty lot somewhere, and away the kite would go. Not one of these fancy manufactured kites you can buy today, to indulge your flights of fancy with dragons, dragonflies, Red Baron triplanes, and all kinds of fantastic kite-forms. No, just a simple, wood cross-member, tissue paper, or "papel de china" kite with a tail. I still remember - this was when he still smoked, a bad habit he gave up about 50 years ago, thankfully - when he took the inside foil lining from a cigarette pack, punched a hole through it, threaded the kite string through the hole, and sent the silvery foil to join the kite high up. Maybe you laugh at this, but I through it was, well, neat. Once he told about jousting with kites - tying razor blades to the tail of a kite, and taking on similarly armed opponents to see who could cut the other fellow's kite string first...or demolish the thing altogether.
And on one of those kite flying trips dad lost the keys to his '55 Chevy Bel Air...and bravely tried to start it by pulling the ignition wires and crossing them. But something failed, and we wound up returning home via taxi to get spare keys and retrieve the good ol' green-and-cream top Chevy. Dad has not lost his car keys since then.
And there were other fun things I remember doing with him. Flying gas-powered model airplanes; a little fishing...car rides...going to amusement parks - not all in Havana. Remember when we'd go play miniature golf at Fun Fair in Miami Beach during some of our vacation trips to Florida dad? That was fun. I still remember winning a free golf game because this unskilled golfer somehow managed to get the ball right into this miniature windmill with a small trap door, easily blocked by the windmilling blades. The ball, on that occassion, went right through the trap door - a buzzer rang and - free golf game! Did not need fancy video or computer games to receive a real thrill, back then.
But I think the most fun I had with dad was playing with the electric train set - an American Flyer - which he lovingly put together, building a nice little town on top of an old ping-pong table, grass and all. Fake grass, that is, which he glued onto the table using a sticky concoction he mixed - must have been fish glue, 'cause in the recesses of my mind a fishy smell lingers. Hours of pleasure were had with this train set, which included a diesel and a steam locomotive. Silhouetted passengers could be seen through the windows of the silvery passenger coaches, lit from inside. There was a town news stand; a searchlight - where we expecting an air raid, I wonder? There were tank cars, cargo cars, log carriers, the whole works. The transformers used to run the set were a little tricky, as the aspiring train engineer usually managed to speed things up too much, causing more than one derailment. No harm done, however; no one was ever hurt. The passengers continued sitting right were they were. At least their silhouettes did.
Like many other things of childhood - but not the cherished memories - the American Flyer set stayed behind when we left Havana, initially in the custody of my good uncle Manuel, the one who saved the memories preserved in our photo images. Where it is now, is hard to say. Hopefully it is still giving pleasure to someone, although with Havana's frequent power outages, it would be hard to make the train run on time...if it runs at all.
And as I think of these happy times spent with dad, back then, and since then, cannot help but think of others who are not so fortunate and do not have the freedom - as most of us do - to celebrate and remember Father's Day, whether from the perspective of a father, or that of a son honoring and cherishing his father on this day.
I am thinking of men like Guillermo Farinas...and Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet...
Biscet's image comes from the Cuban American National Foundation's website - www.canf.org, if you wish to do some reading and research there.
These two men suffer in Cuba due to a capricious man, a bad son, a bad father. We know who he is, and no need to repeat his faithless name. The important thing is to remember these fathers, these sons, who unlike you and I are not free to celebrate and enjoy a happy, blessed Father's Day. Remember that if you are fortunate to be in the company of your dad this Father's Day, Anno Domini 2006. Pray these gentlemen and others who suffer unjust persecution and imprisonment for merely wanting and fighting for the normal things free human beings wish for and have in more fortunate parts of the planet will share the same gifts of freedom, justice, and the right to live a dignified life when Father's Day 2007 rolls around. And to the good fathers of Havana and other places in Cuba...a warm, heartfelt, Feliz Dia de Los Padres. If not a happy one, at least a blessed one. God be with you.