Friday, November 30, 2007

A tribute to my father

Ignacio Rene Campos
June 24, 1957-November 27, 2007

He never told you that he loved you, and part of the deal was that you didn't say it to him, either.
But even though the words were not there, the actions on both sides of the fence said plenty.
He worked married his high school sweetheart, my mother, very young, and started a family. He could have walked away, but he didn't. For 30 years, he stayed. Taking care of her, and making sure she could stay home to take care of us, were his top priorities. For 20 years, he worked 80 hour work weeks between a factory and the restaurant he met my mother at in high school, to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.
Money was tight, and for the majority of the time, we were too young to realize that we tended to ask for too much. But instead of yelling at us, my father would get that pained "why did I do this to myself five times over" look on his face, give that dramatic under-the-breath sigh of his, and look at us in the eye before telling us it was time to start working.
As the oldest, my turn came when I turned 13. And before I knew it, my weekends were spent in Mexican Village black and red, bussing tables as my father waited on his longtime regulars. I quickly learned from my dad that work meant work, unless he said otherwise.
It was slow one night, and I was standing around talking to the other bussers. I literally had nothing to do at the time'; everyone had chips, waters were filled, tables cleaned. But my father wanted me to know the true meaning of responsibility. He walked right up to me with a smile on his face, and put his arm around my shoulder, and proceeded to tell me in Spanish that I was here to work, not talk.
"Pero no tengo nada que hacer," I told him, explaining that I was caught up.
"It doesn't matter," he told me. "Yuu are getting paid to work. Not talk. Encuentra algo que hacer."
And just like that, I found something to do, whether it be helping the other sections, helping the bartender with filling ice, or anything else I could do to stay busy. My father had spoken, after all.
During those years of two jobs, little sleep, and not many chances for Daddy-daughter time (for me or my four sisters), he never let us lose sight of the importance of love and respect for the importance of family.
I think, because of the long weekends at our aunt and uncle's house and the resulting Sunday family dinner for my parents to pick us up and take us home, we always knew that family was more important that anything. He gave up his only day to sleep as long as he wanted and go fishing on his boat or do something for himself so we could all spend time with our Tias, Tios, Guelo, primas, and primos.
My father was always giving of himself. Even if he grumbled about it, he was all bark and rarely bit. He'd get really mad at me for saying this, but my Dad's gruff, "Mess with the bull and get the horns" attitude, and surplus of machismo did more than just scare our friends...that tough exterior also protected a very generous, forgiving, and soft heart.
My father was a good man with a strength of character others cannot claim to possess. Honor and loyalty defined him.
I didn't tell him I loved him before he died, and I'm okay with that. We both knew.
We all knew.
And we'll remember him always.

(My dad wasn't one for pictures. This is our only formal photo together since I was 13. It was my wedding in 2002.)

1 comment:

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