I was supposed to be away today, revising an academic paper for an upcoming conference. "Don't bother to come. We're not planning anything, except maybe a nap." But halfway to the coffeeshop, I turned toward home.
I want to talk about my father. Although he rarely shows up in the blog, he hovers large in my thoughts and life. When people think of him, they often think about his life experiences:
He is from Zaculeu, Guatemala, where the indigenous people of his area made their last stand against the Spaniards during the conquest. My father was the first person in his area to receive a "modern" name rather than be named by the day's saint. Why? His mother had not named him, and a passerby from the city gave him the name "Jorge Luis." I like to think that this woman from the city was thinking of Borges. Raised by his extended family in an area of rural poverty, he grew up with minimal education.
Growing up, he was told never to dream for the future. The realities of poverty are made worse by a greater appetite, they said. He tried to gain spiritual freedom through the Catholic church and found only opression . When he did find Christ via the word of God and protestant understandings, he was punished and disowned.
My father's story goes on; it's the stuff of great stories. It makes me sit back and wonder at the great advantages I have experienced as a Christian American. It makes me wish to honor God for His generosity.
But my Dad is more than an inspiring story. He's a real person.
My father is a creative person. I can remember, even when we had very little, my father would twist together animal toys for my brother and I from the twist-ties on bread bags. Unconventional thoughts often become fruitful solutions in my father's mind. For he is also a thinking person, one trying to understand God and the world around him. I can vividly remember his English-learning experience. It is the story of my own childhood. Meals around the table served two purposes: discussing English and practicing rhetoric. Of course, I didn't understand at the time. I do now.
Once my father mastered enough English, he put it to good use. When I was young, he had a small personal drawer. A curious youngster, I would peek inside. I can remember finding copies of Nietzche and Kant and Aristotle and other books -- math, science, philosophy, religion, and literature. At the time, I didn't understand why, and my very practical mother didn't always either, but I now respect his willingness to study and understand. I recently watched my father cry in public as he talked about what God has done in his life. I have seen him actively care for the lives of other Hispanic immigrants.
I always wondered why he has been content to work in a factory. His success is already high for someone of his background, but he has so much more potential. I am partly the reason; he has passed on his efforts into building a good foundation for the lives of his two sons. But he also realized something. Like the mechanic in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, he has found the path of least resistance, a situation where he is able to be creative, has very few organizational responsibilities, and may freely meet many people from all over the factory.
My father likes to use his hands. They are worn, seared, sometimes black with grease, and ragged from many years of hard labor. He sometimes comes home sore and bruised. There is never enough sleep. These are signs of his love.
It is sometimes difficult to grow up in a home that lives in the world between two cultures. My family sometimes feels like a tectonic seam until things are explained and worked out. But my parents were never the kind of people to fit too smoothly into their cultures of origin. Rather, they were seeking something beyond the mere tradition of their environment. They dug deeper, tried harder, and have gone farther than many people I know, and they have spent the last 25 years making sure my brother and I have a head start.
That is no small committment; they have done it well. Newton said that his theories stood on the shoulders of giants. Newton referred to the scientists of the past. When I think of standing on shoulders, I think of my parents. As a youth in Guatemala, my father managed to find his feet and stand against all odds. Having done so, he has given us a solid foundation.
Now you know why I try, as best as I can, to take every moment, every opportunity, and make the best of it. I do it partly to honor my parents.
What can I say to their love? God is good. He is faithful. Praise Him.