MY BILINGUAL DAD
Another nostalgia posting, inspired by an email from my cousin.
My dad was an old man all his life. When he was fourteen, in high school, his father died,leaving his mother with few resources. His grandmother convinced his mother that she should place three of the six children into the Masonic Home, at Fort Worth. The youngest, who was not quite three, went to live with his grandma, and the two oldest boys, my dad and Uncle Charlie, went out into the world to make a living. This action, while it was resented by the “middle” kids, was about the only option available, in order to allow my grandmother to be able to make it without her husband.
Uncle Charlie was a college student as a result of having a full valedictory scholarship at UT, but he worked in spare time and during summers. My dad was a high school dropout, because of the circumstances. My dad was never the playful type like those uncles who were married to Mom’s sisters. I often wondered about that as a young child. Life was serious business to Pop. On very rare occasions, he’d start singing “Cuando, sali de La’Havana, valgame Dios, etc”.
My dad could speak Spanish, however poorly. I sometimes walked with him on his postal route, and he often would converse with residents on the route, using words that I did not know. He was not afraid to express himself among people who knew little English.
One summer, when he was traveling with Uncle Charlie, Uncle Charlie had dropped him off at the border, said “I’ll pick you up here in a couple of weeks”, and proceeded “sur del bordero” to court a girl down there. Pop (he wasn’t Pop then, just a young boy) found that in order to survive (he was a traveling salesman, whose only wheels were Uncle Charlie's car) he must learn how to speak to the local people and sell them a magazine which was published in English. My dad was always a good salesman, and salesmanship was a life he dearly loved.
My dad finished high school, at Mckinley High School in Honolulu when I was fifteen, two and a half years before I got my own diploma.