Fathers and Sons

Dad with his sons I'm on the left my brother Bob is on the right. This taken around 1984.
Dad with his sons I’m on the left my brother Bob is on the right. This taken around 1984.

I haven’t posted lately, 25 days to be exact.  That’s a major no-no for a blogger.  The ideas are flowing but the words haven’t made it to the keyboard.  Writer’s block is rough, but it’s more than that, my mind is elsewhere.

Watching your parents get older is difficult.  Mom jokes about how their lives are spent in doctor’s waiting rooms.  Over the past few years I’ve spent too many hours at doctor’s appointments, following up on test results and sitting in hospital rooms listening to beeping machines after yet another procedure.

I’ve spent two consecutive Monday nights sitting next to Dad’s bed in the emergency room waiting for a room to become available.  Long Island’s hospital situation has gotten bad.  I posted about Dad a few weeks ago.  Since then I’ve spent hours thinking about the kind of father he was and wondering what kind of father I’ll be to my son.

A family picture taken when we celebrated Mom and Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary
A family picture taken when we celebrated Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary

During Esther’s pregnancy, we spent countless hours talking about how to raise Baby Priegue. Comparing values and opinions—we planned what we wanted for him and what to expose him to.

We enjoy an active lifestyle, so running and bike tours were an automatic.  Teaching him about his culture, a love of reading, museums and all forms of music were high on the list.  An ideal day will be a five-mile race in Central Park followed by a trip to the Museum of Natural History.

Cristian's first visit to a museum, when he's older, we will take him inside.
Cristian’s first visit to a museum, when he’s older, we will take him inside.

My Dad is my gauge for fatherhood, an old-school parent, who was our father, not our best friend.  He didn’t give us everything we wanted, but we lacked for nothing.  Dad taught me actions are valuable than words—when we needed him he was there for us.

A few days ago a friend advised me regarding parenting.  He said do what your parents did, and fill in whatever was missing.  That’s a tall order but I’ll give it my best shot.  I owe it to both my father and son.

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For Lola

That smile
That smile

Tomorrow morning Esther and I are running this season’s first race, a 5K in Prospect Park.  Despite running over 200 races between us, this one was different.  It’s not about goal times or PRs this one is for a cause, to honor my late mother-in-law’s memory.

Two years ago, Maria Hernandez, or Lola, as she was known to her friends lost her battle with Pancreatic Cancer causing a loss that hasn’t been replaced.  This ugly disease with an extremely low survival rate took Robert, Lucas and Justin’s grandmother and Cristian will never know her because of it.

pic for postLast year running became a family event as Lola’s children Esther, Bobby and Rose Marie, joined by friends and teammates signed up for the PanCan Purple Stride 5K Run/Walk to honor her memory. I paced Bobby while Rose Marie and a pregnant Esther walked the 5K.  We had a great time on a beautiful Saturday morning raising money for a good cause.

We’re back in Prospect Park tomorrow morning with a bigger group of friends and family to keep Lola’s memory alive once more.  Last year we got off to a slow start but Rose Marie, our Team Captain, took charge printing up T-Shirts and heading up the fundraising effort.

Although Esther is a little nervous running her first race in 16 months, she’ll be fine.  Mami will be looking down with a smile on her face.

If you know anyone suffering or lost someone to Pancreatic Cancer or are interested in donating to a good cause click here.  Thanks in advance.

This entry is being posted to both of my blogs North Queens Runner and I’m Not Grandpa.

Lola's children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby after last year's event
Lola’s children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby after last year’s event


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New Challenge—This Time It’s Personal

Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,
Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,

Parenting is full of challenges, mine started the first night.  Exhausted but elated I spent the night trying to soothe my cranky son who was on a hunger strike as he weaned off the epidural used during his delivery.  I remember him licking the back of my neck as we turned laps in our hospital room.

Each step in his development brings with it a new challenge.  This is nothing I didn’t know when I signed up for this parenthood thing—of course experiencing it is so much different than reading about it in parenting books or talking about it with other parents.

Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park
Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park

As the weather slowly starts warming up it’s time for my next challenge—a personal one—it’s time to lose weight.  I gained about 25 pounds during Esther’s pregnancy and a winter spent playing with our new baby and eating comfort food did little to help that.

For me this isn’t a new challenge—it’s an ongoing one.  Over the past 15 years I’ve lost 200 pounds, 20 pounds 10 times.  I’ve tried the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet and several others, they all worked for a short time but weren’t the answer, so a few weeks ago Esther and I joined Weight Watchers.

If you are unfamiliar with Weight Watchers you probably think it’s a room full of fat middle-aged women swapping recipes for low-fat muffins.  I did.  However the program works it you follow it.  I lost 45 pounds in 2013 before getting derailed by family issues.

When I joined in the past my goals were simple, lose weight and be healthier.  They still apply but there’s more to it now.  I’m the 50 year old father of an adorable son. Facing the challenges needed to raise him will require energy.  I owe it to him to be there.

My latest challenge is me against the scale.
My latest challenge is me against the scale
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For Dad

My Grandmother holding my Dad when he was 3-years old.
My Grandmother holding my Dad when he was 3-years old.

Becoming a father has made me a think a lot about my Dad. In my mind’s eye I relived memories of him seen through the eyes of a small child, teenager and newly-minted Dad. He turns 89 tomorrow so I decided to write this post about him.

In his prime Dad was a small energetic man whose childhood was so much different than mine.  Born in 1926 the youngest of five children in El Freijo, a small town in rural Spain.  Since they were able to grow what they ate the family survived.

Dad and his older brothers Manuel and Francisco became carpenters out of necessity.  Building and selling rowboats enabled the family to buy food and other necessities to survive. Through this difficult time my grandmother Mama Maria fed as many hungry children from other families as she could.

In 1936 a Civil War broke out in Spain taking an estimated 500.000 lives, including both brothers, I was named after Francisco.  His father died a few years later, apparently of a broken heart.

Twenty years old with little opportunity or future in post-World War II Europe Dad joined the Merchant Marine. When he left my grandmother told him, go and try find a better life for yourself but remember if things don’t work out you always have a home to come back to.

My Brother Bob and I during our 1970 family vacation in Spain. I'm the little guy on the right.
My Brother Bob and I during our 1970 family vacation in Spain. I’m the little guy on the right.

In 1956, after ten years of travelling the world on merchant ships Dad settled in Camden New Jersey.  I remember the colorful stories of his experiences shared with family sitting around a table usually with a glass of wine or cognac after holiday dinners. It took a few years and some of our own life experiences until my brother Bob and I truly appreciated Dad’s stories of Pre-Castro Havana or arriving in Argentina the day after Juan Peron was overthrown.

Dad moved from Camden to Spanish Harlem, and then to Brooklyn where he married.  After starting a family Mom and Dad moved to Queens.  He built the house I grew up in and where he still lives in 14 months of weekends and vacations.

Working hard to provide for his family, he rarely took a vacation, but when he did he made them count.   We took us to Puerto Rico or Spain for six or eight weeks.  If you asked him he would say his favorite was taking us to Spain in 1970.

I was six-years old so most of my memories consist of my brother and I running through corn fields, feeding chickens, and riding in an oxcart El Carro de las Vacas with my aunts.  I also remember meeting my grandmother, Mama Maria and how much she spoiled us.  He always said bringing his kids to Spain so his mother could get to know them was the best gift he ever gave her.

Dad blowing with his three grandchildren getting ready to blow out a pre-birthday candle.
Dad blowing with his three grandchildren getting ready to blow out a pre-birthday candle.

Dad became a grandpa when my niece Katie was born, he waited 74 years.  Two years later a second granddaughter, Jenny was born.  Bob and I immediately noticed he was different as a grandfather than he was as a father.  This wasn’t our strict old-school father, he was a doting grandpa.  He adored his granddaughters spoiling them like our grandmother spoiled us but one thing was missing—a grandson.

Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.

Collecting thoughts for this post I realized we have more in common than I originally thought.  Besides being engaging storytellers, we are both the youngest child, share a sarcastic sense of humor and posses a stubborn streak.  Don’t believe me ask my Mom or Esther.  We also are the child who moved the family name forward another generation.

Dad doesn’t like receiving gifts, Christmas, Birthday, Father’s Day—his response is always the same.  Why did you have to get me that?  So last year on his birthday, I gave him a gift he could appreciate, I told him, the grandchild we were expecting was a boy.  Words weren’t necessary, the Kool-Aid grin on his face spoke volumes.

That memory is special but it’s no longer my most precious, it was replaced when I placed Cristian in his arms the first time.  Seeing his smiling face I truly understood how special a gift it was.

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