The Blessing of Fatherhood

By: Armando Vazquez

My father, Pedro Serratos Vazquez, was by any standard a great man, a caring loving father, a devoted husband and a loyal servant to relatives and countless extended village friends from Mexico that depended on him for his unwavering help, gringo dollars, and assistance to get them all to El Norte. My father was a quiet, pensive and unassuming man. He let his “hechos” speak for him. As far as I can remember my father worked seven days a week, year in year out; never a vacation, a sick day, a day away from his Godly duty of providing for his family. My father along with his brothers worked as orchid growers, glasshouse campesinos, for over 50 years, never earning anything much over minimum wage.

My mother and father raised eleven children, five girls and six boys, and when it was time for the children to marry and start their families my parents provided all of us with a $10,000.dollar down payment on our first home purchase. Not only was my father a great man, sometimes I thought that he was also a curandero, a miracle worker.

And then one day the miracles stopped and my father was enveloped in a diabolical catatonic dark fog and emerged sometime later completely “mad”. He was struck down with a very aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease that completely ravaged his mind. After a few months of the onset of his illness my father was rendered incapable of taking care of even his most basic needs. My sisters, God bless them, took turns taking care of him for the remainder of his life, for 15 years. Our “God” that we had revered all of our lives was reduced at the end of his life to a babbling, incoherent “incorrigible child” one moment and then a violent demon possessed stranger the next, who did not recognize any of his family. He prowled like a madman around, the barricaded “security” home that we had created for his and our safety, searching for God only knows what. He never found it. I know in heart that he was in constant mental anguish throughout his protracted illness.

No one knows for certain the specific cause of Alzheimer’s, and no one has developed an effective cure or treatment, and there are precious few mental health resources available for those who suffer from the ravages of Alzheimer’s. The mind of an Alzheimer’s victim often begins to shrink (die), causing atrophy, inflammation of the brain, and a progressive breakdown of normal brain function and chemistry. It is a disease from hell.

We had no way of communicating with my father as the Alzheimer’s disease progressed. Sometime, when he had a brief moment of calmness and peace I would look into his eyes and I could tell that he wanted to say something to me, but then the madness yanked him back to his hell and he would lash out at the world in his feeble deteriorating state. He died an incredibly lonely and lost man, taking all the horrific secrets of his disease with him to his grave.

He is at peace now.

While there is not conclusive evidence, there appears to be a genetic link to Alzheimer’s, and tended to affect the elderly in highly disproportionate numbers. Yet I have friends and acquaintances much younger than me who now suffer from the disease. So, yeah, life is a celestial crapshoot. We just roll the dice and play out our hand to the best of our abilities. We really never know what is store for us from one moment to the next; we all know this to be the universal law as it affects us all!

I am reminded by the great Satchel Paige’s sagely advice of “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” That is how my father lived his life maximizing the moment and making his considerable material limitations (born in oppressive poverty, raised by a widowed mother, lack of formal education, and imprisoned by a cruel suffocating caste system), into spiritual strengths. He had the discipline of a monk, an unbreakable faith of purpose, the resiliency and fortitude to take life’s small gifts and cruel beatings and learn from them; never losing sight of his purpose in life; to provide, care and love for his family. That was my jefito.

There is never a day that I do not “talk” to father asking for his advice and his blessing as I begin my day, he has been with me throughout my life. His simple blueprint of let your “hechos” speak for you guided me. Today I try to follow my jefitos blueprint to life more than ever. Like with all families we have had our rough times, but we preserve and move forward in love.

Father’s Day is really special this year. For the first time in years my entire family will gather together. My independent, well educated, and scattered, children have been working hard, overcoming adversity, reaching their lofty goals, starting, nurturing and strengthen families and careers. I am blessed to have the wonderful family that I have, and I give thanks and praises to God for the blessing that I have had throughout my life that could never have happened without the love, guidance and loyalty that my father gave to all of his children.

Life is a glorious mystery, tomorrow I don’t know if my life will end as tragically as my father’s, but today I know that I am the luckiest man in the world. I have the memory of the greatest man I have ever known in my heart, and a family that loves me. What more could a father ask for on this very special day?

Alzheimer

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Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez is Executive Director of the KEYS Leadership Academy at Café A as well as being is a retired CEO, Executive Director, Business-Owner, teacher, community builder, group leader with demonstrated work history designing and implementing a variety of business, management, educational and vocational community support programs. Successful organizer of activities designed to promote and advance individual and community. Well-disciplined consensus builder.

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