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To my Dad
To my Mom

July 29, 2006

To my Dad

Holding firm onto one's principles

My dad was never a man of words. I have no memories of him giving me lectures about any subject. He was the typical provider for the family: was out of the house most of the time, working to earn our living. Still I remember when he drove me and my brother to school in the mornings. One of my favorite things to do was to count how many Volkswagen Beetles we encountered on our way. With the passage of time we made bets on the numbers. I have no clear memory about the trip back home from school. I don't remember whether it was he or my mom who picked us up.

Although I had sufficient toys, and in general, all I needed for a happy childhood; my dad was not a spoiler. I had to take care of my things or else I would be waiting for a long time to get my hands on new things. It was its way to show us the value of things. Like any other normal kid, when I was old enough I had a temporal job to get some extra luxuries.

One of the things my dad was (and still is) proud of, is his integrity and honesty. Because of his position in the armed forces and his civilian job he had some influences that almost all his friends who also had them, were using it for personal advantage. And I am not talking about great things, but rather smaller fringe benefits such as free utilities service, expedite government services, etc.

If my teenager years had continued like my childhood, I probably would had a view of dad like many kids of today. You see, he was very strict and swift to administer penalties. Most of the time it would be my mom who would punish me (and that included the now-forbidden belt); however when the matter was serious enough, it would be my dad the one to administer it.

Our system divides school in 2 parts: Primary School (grades 1 through 6) and Secondary School (grades 7 through 11) When I was in Primary school I was an exemplary student, always one of the top 5. Then, all of a sudden, things turned for the worse to the point that I was en route to get the lowest grade possible in mathematics, a subject I always was ahead of my peers in Primary school! By that time going to school was not something I was looking forward to. I went because my parents made me go. I had no choice. I would rather watch TV and play with my friends. My parents even hired a private tutor, but it was not a lack of talent, it was a lack of will. Somehow, I managed to get by with good grades in some subjects and barely passing grades in others. But 1979 changed our lives forever. My mom, my brother and I fled the civil war that enraged Nicaragua and located in neighboring Honduras, country in which we had lived for several years before 1974. My dad could not come with us because he was part of the government armed forces. When the government fell, he was captured and thrown into prison. Save for some money that my mom had been sending to Honduras in anticipation of the worst, we left with almost no resources. Up to that date my mom had always been a stay-at-home wife. Our financial situation was very tenuous. I was 13 years old

Life as I knew it ended on July 19, 1979. We fled Nicaragua several weeks before that day, but I always had the hope that we would go back, like we did after our brief escape in late 1978. However, this time was different. When I hear on the radio that the rebels had captured the government bunker I realized that we lost everything, included my dad. I was not certain I would ever see him again.

Like other military officers, he also had a chance to flee before the fall, however he didn't. His trial was a mockery of justice. They never could accuse him of anything but being a member of the prior government armed forces. However, for them that was enough to prove that he was a "genocide". The reality was that he never held a command and his only military duty during the civil war was to serve in an intelligence unit in a non combat area (although, in guerrilla warfare there is hardly a "safe" non combat area).

Anyway, during his prison term he was constantly subject to degradation, intimidation, coercion, etc. We were aware of his woes from letters he could send to us from time to time; and from word of mouth by relatives that could visit him sporadically. He was offered premature liberty if he admitted his crimes, appeared in revolutionary propaganda and worked in the field collecting tomatoes. He NEVER buckled.

From the darkness of the dungeon, and unaware of it, my dad forged my character in a way that could not have been possible if he had been at my side.

Despite the events of our flight from war and re-establish ourselves in another country, I hardly missed school days.

Realizing that my brother and I were seriously worried for our financial situation, my mom tried to calm us by telling that everything would be OK. That material things, could be recovered. In my tribute to her I will tell details. For now, it will suffice to say that I now knew why my parents were always "pestering" me with this school thing. She told me the story of my dad, a poor boy who made himself through education. From that moment going forward, I didn't "have" to study... I WANTED to study. 1979 took its toll however, and I had to repeat 1 course next year while I was studying the 10th grade. Of the many troubles my mom had, I was never one of them. No more policing me to make sure I did my homework, or prepared for my tests. I knew WHY I was in school and few things mattered more.

Of course that my classmates, living in a peaceful country, still had the same mindset I had before. Therefore I was an outcast. To further complicate matters, they resented my good grades (a foreign kid getting better grades than them). If that was not enough, some of my professors were leftists, sympathetic with the revolutionary forces that overtake my country, and essentially said to me that my dad was receiving what he had it coming. I was the son of a "murderer", a "thief", worse, a "genocide". Not quite a recipe for academic success: Without a father, in poverty, ostracized, ridiculed. But that was peanuts compared with what my dad was going through. And he NEVER EVER buckled. He knew he did not commit any crime and was determined to act accordingly. I knew who he was, I knew who I was and where I was going and decided to pay whatever price was required to hold my ground. From the prison, my dad taught one of the most important lessons of my life and gave the strength to push forward.

I graduated from high school in 1981. Went to college in 82. Attained my degree in 1986 at age 21. I graduated Valedictorian.

In 1989 (I don't remember if it was in April or May) my dad rejoined us. He left prison with his head high and his conscience clear. Although life had changed him in many aspects, he continue to be a man of few words. While it would be pretentious for me to say that he has not taught me anything since then, I will always remember the lessons he taught me while has away from us.

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