The epilogue

One of the most difficult and painful situations of my life, I faced it at thirteen, the day I visited my father in the municipal jail. Even today, so many years later, I cannot find the precise words to describe the accumulation of emotions and feelings that flowed in my mind at that time; it was a strange experience, like a macabre and meaningless entelechy whose echo from time to time visits me.

A debt originated from a business failure and the mercilessness of someone he once considered a friend put him behind bars; it was the same day that he buried his fifth stillborn child in a white box. Two agents of the missing and sadly notorious Administrative Department of Security led him like any criminal, from the cemetery to the jail. It was a family tragedy that fortunately was solved in a few days, but that would change many things in my life forever.

I remember as if it were today, the moment almost at the end of the day when I entered that smelly and musty place, the surprise on my father’s face when he saw me and the hug we gave each other. His hands, which have always been firm, were trembling as he wiped my face streaked with tears that overflowed alone, silent, spontaneous.

That scene was unbelievable. My father has always been the most important and decisive man for me, a tireless fighter, who not without mistakes, devoted his life to forming and keeping the family together, perhaps because he himself did not grow up in one.

His mother died during childbirth and his father decided to give him up for adoption to a single lady who raised him and loved him as if he were her own, although that love could not free him from the contempt and mistreatment of some of her relatives who resisted receiving in their bosom a motherless bastard with whom, one day, they would have to share their accumulated fortune and the ancestry of a surname that gave them luster and a feeling of superiority.

In reality, my dad’s options were always slim, very slim. Despite the love that his adoptive mother lavished on him, he was always the target of harassment and abuse. For the others, he was always the child without a mother or father whom they wanted to reduce to a servant; his great opportunity was to be a loser, a failure, but he decided something different for his life.

Any day, he packed his suitcases and went to the capital of the country. The strength of Bogotá, which was in full expansion in the fifties, seduced him. He left behind the sugar cane fields, the sound of the sugar mills and the neighing of the horses, the monophonic sound of the accordion whistles and the idiosyncrasy of a provincial society that did not represent him.

He carved out his own future with efforts. He studied journalism, entered the National Conservatory and was able to integrate, without major difficulties, the cultural spheres of the city that at that time gathered in cafeterias, concert halls and theaters, the most distinguished people of the plastic arts, music and letters of the country.

 

 

He directed a radio program that achieved unusual prestige, collaborated with newspapers and magazines, directed his own lyrical choir and married my mother, perhaps his most significant achievement, because together they formed a family and a team.

He returned to her hometown when her foster mother fell ill with cancer and lovingly accompanied her for her last years. He bitterly mourned her death for a whole month, after which he carried on; it was a new beginning, now back in the town where he was born. He did not adhere to any inheritance and worked hand in hand with my mother, usually in agricultural work. He was manager of several stations in the region and founded the first newspaper in southern La Guajira. With effort, he built his big house, with gardens and a terrace, inside which they built their home. It was another world.

Whenever I talk about my dad, I do it in exaggerated and very enthusiastic terms. Someone once said that I have idealized him; actually, it is not like that, I know how to think of my dad in the right measure. I recognize that my admiration for the old man is great and evident, but I am also aware of the areas of him, say, less illuminated.

He is as stubborn as a mule and over the years, he has perfected that condition. He has lived eighty-four years on his own terms; sometimes, he can be irreverent and rebellious, without fear when it comes to telling the truth, even if it is uncomfortable. He is a hypochondriac; for as long as I can remember, I have heard him say that he has all the diseases. Once he was attacked by an insistent sore throat and he self-diagnosed throat cancer; of course, the next day he was as if nothing had happened, but immediately he invented another discomfort. On one occasion, he made a call to my office to say goodbye, he had a common cold but he gave himself up long-suffering to the will of death, I believe that I will not survive this, I am dying, he said. Of course, two days later he was recovered and for not to lose the tragicomic style he pointed out with a tremulous voice: this recovery is very suspicious, I have heard that sometimes the patient suddenly gets better only to die later; in any case, I am in the epilogue of life. That was over twenty years ago, I do not know of a longer epilogue.

He has very few friends and is a protestant whose faith does not correspond with most of his acts. He is the most imperfect son of God, that is why I have seen tons of mercy fall on his life.

Though, he is noble, behind his repellency there is a big and generous heart. He is happy sharing his bread with the needy. He is educated and cultured, knowledgeable about the classics and has always instilled love for art and literature into us. His consecration to his home has been exemplary and he takes care of the family unit with zeal. He is already old, but the only one who doesn’t know is him. At his age, he rides a bike, fixes electrical circuits and roof leaks… Yes, he still goes up on the roof. He is a formidable carpenter, an exquisite cook; he has survived three heart attacks, an open-heart operation and the envy of some. The coronavirus could not subdue him, although it gave him some very bad days and he still believes that I, at fifty-six years old, am a child.

Every two days he comes to my house in the morning and knocks on the door so hard that our fright is inevitable; he always brings with him guavas that he grows in his yard, he looks out of the corner of his eyes at everything and just rides his bicycle, old like him, and says goodbye not without first asking me when I’m going to visit him, something I do almost every afternoon. He prepares his birthday cakes, spends a good time every morning playing the piano at home, writes current articles on his computer that he publishes on the town’s station, he is anti-government regardless of the government in power and he is planning to travel to Venezuela to verify that the Colombian media are lying about the crisis in the neighboring country. For him, Venezuela continues to be the paradise in which he lived in his youth when he studied theology in San Cristóbal, Táchira State.

I have seen him, throughout life, fall and get up, always with faith, with optimism. From his example I learned that the greatest duty of the head of the household is to always put wife and children first. I remember seeing him, whenever he returned from a trip, excitedly carrying a box with beauty supplies for my mother and gifts for us. But perhaps the memory that I cherish the most about him is the image of him every afternoon around three o’clock, sitting on the interior terrace of the house reading the Bible that he has had since he was seventeen and highlighting some passages with colored pencils. He still does, all his life he has clung to that book, in good times and in hard times, when he has had and when he has not. For me, he is a genius and like any genius, he is misunderstood and out of date.

That distant day in jail, while he explained to me the reasons that reduced him to the status of a prisoner, he taught me that in life it is possible to receive unpredictable, ignoble and painful blows, but there is always hope that justice will shine when you have acted well and in the meantime you have to know how to keep your gracefulness and maintain your dignity.

I was just a child, I do not deny that the blow was strong, devastating, but after hearing him speak with such calm and security I returned home proud and in peace. Since then, I have learned to walk with my head up no matter how difficult the circumstances are, everything is temporary: sadness, pain, defeats, even life itself, all that counts is what we do in the here and now to make the moment more pleasant and the burden bearable.

My father’s life has been inspiring to me in many ways. He is the main character in several of my works published by Papel y Lápiz publishing company. It has been a way of honoring him in life and perpetuating his name.

Today July twenty-seventh of the year twenty twenty-one, my dad is celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday and from what I see, the old man plans to continue in this part of the universe for many more years, which makes me very happy.

I must stop writing now, he is knocking down the door, he has just arrived…

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