A year without you

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A year ago today we said goodbye to me dear dad. I was a daddy’s girl and had the great fortune of having a GREAT dad. In his memory, I am publishing the eulogy I wrote for his funeral for which I was unable to attend due to my pregnancy.

My father was an stoic man. He reserved his emotions for the pen and paper so perhaps it is not a coincidence that I am not present at his funeral and the last words about my father are written in a letter.

Those who really knew my Roberto knew that his intransigent personality was only a shield for his immense heart. He always expressed his love through grand gestures and few words. Loyalty and generosity were his core.

Dad didn’t take regular steps, he leaped ahead. Whenever we walked together I always struggled to keep up his pace, and I do not believe I was the only one. That’s how he lived 68 years on this earth. Leaping forward with big ideas, big dreams, big feelings.

While my brother and I have traveled and lived in different places, our world was ample even before leaving the nest, thanks to the imagination and grandiose personality of our father. As a child, I used to complain that if I asked him how much was 2 and 2, he would start by explaining the origin of mathematics.  This is who he was, always challenging us to see beyond what was immediately there.

My father always had incredibly high expectations of all those around him. And his presence and influence made us live with intensity by seeing new experiences, migrating to new places, learning, new things, working hard at everything. When my mother was faced with the end of a career, my father pushed her to reinvent herself and start over. Today my mom not only has a new and successful career, she has developed and grown so much as person, a journey that made my father love her and admire her even more Many of his former students told me that Roberto was the hardest professor they’ve had but also the best one. Well, I had him as my professor for 36 years!

Roberto Gil lived an intense and passionate life. As a young politician in the Argentine Communist Party as Beto. As a rebellious engineer student in Hungary where I learned he was called Robie. As a world traveller with Schlumberger, which landed him in Maracaibo to steal my mother’s heart in a red Maverick. As a beloved college professor and a petrochemical engineer known as El Che. As an entrepreneur who built a successful company that has provided for many families, including mine, for over twenty years. And as Ro, an exceptional father and companion. Papi had many nicknames, but as I got to know different people who shared different phases of his life, it became clear to me that he always projected an intensity that was unforgettable.

This is how I want you to remember him. A handsome, smart, strong, brave, loyal, intelligent, romantic and passionate man. A man of conviction – one that if faced with something he didn’t like would say that it was not a matter of opinion, or taste, it was simply wrong.

Until his last hour he showed his strength. He fought cancer for the last seven years. He fought epilepsy all his life. If there is anything we can learn from my father, is that not even health difficulties are an excuse for not living life in full. Now that he is gone, we should not forget his advice. We should keep making efforts, keep dreaming and moving forward. He would have wanted it this way.

Goodbye Beto.

Goodbye Che.

Goodbye Robbie.

Goodbye Roberto.

Goodbye Ro …

Goodbye …Papi.

Rest in peace you will always be present in our hearts.

* * *

Mi padre era un hombre estoíco y nosotros tendemos a modelarlo. Tal vez es un secreto para algunos y nó para otros, a papi le gustaba mucho escribir y sus sentimientos más profundos los expresó a punta de pluma. Por tanto, es possible que no es mera coincidencia que me toque estar lejos y tener que expresar las últimas palabras sobre mi padre a través de la escritura.

Quien conoció a mi padre sabe que su personalidad intransigente era sólo escudo para proteger un corazón tan inmenso que se le salía por las mangas de las camisas. Y que a la horas de las chiquitas Roberto demostraba su amor con hechos categóricos. Su generosidad y lealtad fueron su temple.

Papi caminó con altitud. Con grandes sancadas. Cuando era niña tenía que ir al trote para mantenerme a su lado y creo que no fuí a la unica que le tocó hacer esto para seguirle el paso. Y así fue por la vida durante 68 años de vida. Roberto Gil, fue un hombre de grandes pasos. De grandes sentimientos. De grandes ideas. De grandes logros. Con Roberto Gil no quedaba nada a medias.

Vivir con un personaje como Roberot, te cambia el mundo. En realidad te da mundo. Si bien mi hermano y yo hemos viajado mucho y vivido en diferentes sitios, nuestro mundo fue amplio desde antes de salir del nido. Eso gracias a la imaginación y la personalidad de nuestro padre. De chica me quejaba que si le preguntaba a papi cuanto era 2+2, el empezaba a explicarme el origen de las matemáticas. Siempre nos hacía ver mas allá.

Papi siempre tuvo expectativas increíblemente altas de todos los que lo rodeaban. Y su presencia e influencia nos ha hecho llevar vidas intensas, experimentar, avanzar, educarnos, eforzarnos. Cuando mi madre se enfrento con el final de una carrera, mi padre la apoyo  la aupó para que se reinventara y volviera a comenzar. Yo hoy mi mamá no solo tiene una carera nueva y exitosa, sino que se ha desarollado y expandido como persona lo cual solo hizo que papi la quisiera y respetara mucho más. Más de un ex-alumno de él me dijo que Roberto fue el professor más dificil, pero que fue el que más le ayudó a avanzar ¡Imaginense que yo lo tuve de professor por 36 años!

Pues sí, Roberto Gil vivió una vida intensa y apasionada. Desde formarse como un jovén politico en el partido comunista Argentino como “Beto”, luego al dejar su Argentina para estudiar en Hungría – donde descurbrí le decían “Robie” y recorrer el mundo con Schlumberger, al llegar casi que por accidente a Maracaibo para robarle el corazón a mi madre en un Maverick rojo. A ser professor universitario y hacer carrera en Estizulia como El Che. Y luego a armar una empresa de la nada que a sostenido muchas familias por mas de veinte años. Y con todo esto siendo un padre  y compañero excepcional . Papi tuvo muchos apodos, pero a medida que conocí a gente que compartió diferentes fases de su vida,  fue claro que siempre era el mismo espíritu intenso e inolvidable.

Asi quiero que lo recuerden. Al hombre buen mozo, elegante, fuerte, valiente, leal, inteligente, sentimental y apasionado. Un hombre de convicciones – al que le parecía que si algo no le gustaba no era cuestión de opiniones y gustos sino que sencillamente estaba mal.

Hasta su última hora el demostró su fortaleza. Peleó el cancer estos últimos siete años. Peleó una epilepsia toda su vida, aunque sólo detectaron a los treinta años.  Si algo podemos aprender de Roberto, quien en vida le tocó una salud dificil es que no hay excusa para no vivir… en Mayúscula.

Adiós Beto.

Adiós Che.

Adiós Robbie.

Adiós Roberto.

Adiós Ro…

Adiós…

Papi.

Descansa en paz que siempre estarás presente en nuestro corazón.

Mirrors: Talking death over Skype

My best friend just told me that her father has terminal cancer. I know why she tells me this. We no longer have much in common. We rarely talk. But she knows I understand. It’s been almost a year since I lost my own father to cancer. And yet, I sit there staring at her, on Skype, unable to find a reassuring word.

Kenny was always the light one. I remember her coming to me in third grade, holding her Barbie, inviting me to play with her group of friends that had been together since Kindergarten. I was sulking, feeling embarrassed that I could not remember the word ‘sentence’ in Spanish (my native language). Not only was I the new kid with an unfortunate Argentinean heritage, perhaps the most hated country in Latin America, I was a fake-Gringa. I couldn’t speak well my own native language. All this drama was quickly dismissed by her. Come play. We’re 9.

This is going to suck, Kenny”

“How can I get prepared for something like this?”

“There’s no way to prepare.”

She cries. I look down to my keyboard. I mutter,

“I wish I could hug you. I’m sorry.”

I try to run through the catalogue of condolences, words, advise and support I got last year. I cannot recall anything I deem remotely helpful. Is she expecting me to generate some incredibly long winded analysis of the situation as usual? Rationalization is the best antidote to emotions, in my book.

Take care of your mother. No matter how hard this is for you, it’s way harder for your mother”

“Yes, I know. She’s not in good shape. But she’s so strong; researching, looking for options, medicines, treatment, diet. I tell her to be strong in front of dad.”

“That was the only thing dad asked me to do. To take care of my mom.”

“Your mom will fight till the end, she won’t accept it. She’ll fight for his life. You and your brothers need to fight for his death”

Kenny cries in such a composed manner. When we were little, her father put her in modeling school so she would ‘learn to be a lady.’ I begged my father to enroll me too. He said he would not be paying money to make me into a prostitute. Our fathers were perfect opposites. So Kenny has a perfect pose. All the time. In every picture she crosses her legs, she arches her back, she turns to her better side. I slouch.

I’m so angry, this (^#!^*!&!(#(^!*&&### illness”

“I know. It’s fucking unfair.”

“Take care of the paperwork though. Turns out dying is a crazy bureaucratic process and if you want your mom to be ok, make sure your dad passes all his assets to you. If you don’t do while his alive, even bank accounts can get frozen. Even if they are shared with your mom.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’ll talk to my brothers”

I don’t tell her about the screams. Or about the psychotic breakdown of the last weeks. I don’t tell her about the absolute destruction I felt when my dad stopped recognizing me. Will it help her? Would it have helped me to know? There’s nothing —NOTHING— sublime about this dying process. I get so fucking angry when I see movies/people saying that cancer gave them some sort of enlighten sense of being and fuller last minute life. Sorry, I know people need hope but I am passed that. It’s horrible. It’s torture. My dad was tortured to death by cancer.

And also take care of his pain. Get pot, vicodin, morphine, everything. The doctors in Venezuela were reluctant to give pain relief and pain is the worse of it all. One of you need to advocate for the most humane death possible. Only the nurses were more compassionate, because doctors are not caregivers”

I have been wondering why don’t feel compelled to run marathons or donate money or take pictures of myself saying things like, ‘end cancer.’ There’s only one thing I feel like saying is that we need to have more support for humane deaths. When dad was lucid he told me he was afraid of the pain and that I had to help him find a honorable way out. I failed, dad. Turns out we are more compassionate with our dogs than with our family.

Remember when we got drunk for the school christmas party and we both got grounded and your dad decided you were not allowed to be my friend anymore because I was bad influence? In spite of my bad behavior, my dad went to talk to yours and he convinced him to let us play together again.”

“Hahahah, I remember that! How old were we?”

“13, maybe 14. Do you know what my dad told your dad?”

“No idea.”

“Me neither.”

Suddenly Kenny drops off Skype and I get a text message: “Lights are out in this shit hole.” She’s referring to the recurrent electrical outages in Venezuela.

I have to put Alma to sleep. Talk later?”

“About death?”

“Yes. I love you.”

“I love you too.”