latino lingo

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Speaking of "trabajadores"

My father turns 58 today. Born in Colombia in 1947, he did something I don't know if I could have ever done.

In his mid-20s, he set off to the "promise land" to build a better life for his wife and two young sons, both of whom were under 5 years old. For about 2 years he was here away from us working essentially two full-time jobs to save enough money to bring us to the States. When we finally joined him in 1974, he and my mother became factory workers at the same plant.

To ensure my brothers (Jeff came in 1976) and I always had a parent home to send us off to school, and a home-cooked meal to welcome us back, they worked separate shifts at the factory. One worked second shift and the other the dreaded third shift for many years. I still remember my father waking us up at 11:30 PM to drive with him to the factory. At about 1 minute before midnight, he'd leave us in the car to go "punch in." By 12:01 my mom was in the car ready to drive us back home. Today, they'd call that child abuse or abandonment, and I'd likely been taken away from my careless parents to be raised in foster homes.

We realized the American dream when we moved into our first home in the 80s. It wasn't the biggest house on the block but it was our casa and we were proud. We always had a family vacation, always had nice gifts as Christmas and always had what we needed. When we needed supplemental income, my dad got a job driving school buses on field trips. He was that "cool" bus driver everyone wanted, and the first to have speakers and a tape player in the bus. Granted what he often played was "Proud Mary" from Creedence Clearwater Revival, but it was fun.

He and my mom were pretty strict with us. We were spanked oh, my God, call DCF! deservingly-so, and taught discipline and respect. I remember telling him when I grew up I wasn't going to be like him.

Today, as a husband and father, I thank God that I am a lot like him, save for the corny jokes. For an immigrant, I'm not doing too bad. My brothers are doing pretty good, too.

All we have, we owe to him and my mother for having the courage to leave their homeland, separate for 2 years, and working their butts off so I can be here comfortably writing a blog from my corner office.

Gracias, papi.

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