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