A Christmast gift
Don’t give up, hija!
It was the fourth time I tried to take my father’s blood pressure and I still could not hear the beating of his heart, which grew weaker as the days went by. My father was dying. Every inch of his body ached. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt him. And though he tried valiantly to disguise it, I knew that each time I squeezed the bulb of that apparatus and the cuff inflated, he felt pain.
“I can’t” I cried, and removed the stethoscope from my ears. “Let’s wait for the nurse.”
“Yes you can!” he said firmly, with rasping voice. Talking had become a courageous effort. ”Keep trying. You will learn even if my arm falls off.”
How often I had heard him say those words! "Don’t quit!” Since I was a child he would pound them, harshly, but always confident that I would solve whatever challenge I was facing. His faith in my abilities was often the last thing I wanted. It would have been easier to get a sympathetic hug, a look of pity or even a slap and be relieved from that impossible task. Today I understand that the real legacy that my father left me (among many others) was this: the virtue of perseverance. A gift he conveyed not through his will, or with a paternal sermon, but by example.
I wrote the story of my fathers' life in my first novel, Los Hijos del Mar. It is the story of that man who stood by his principles with a tenacity possessed by only a few human beings. It is the life of a handsome and bold young man, who became a doctor and not a pharmacist (a more lucrative career in Mexico) against his parents’ wishes; the story of a man in love who married and started a family, even though he could not support them; it is the life of a small town gynecologist who gave his life to his patients, rich and poor and then became a widower, disabled, with six children, and had to fight back to regain his health, his practice and his children.
My father died in April. I have here, in my office, a wooden crucifix I found the day we went to his medical office and packed his belongings. That was, perhaps, the most intimate and beautiful moment of duel with my siblings, together in that space with the tools that assisted his soft, healing hands. The cross was in his closet, hanging between his white coats, always clean and crisp. Now here it is, on the wall of my own office. Every morning before I start work, I blow it a kiss.
Los Hijos del Mar is my own legacy for my children and grandchildren. The example of my father written on paper. Every day I try to follow suit facing the challenges of life (blissfully few compared with what he faced) with perseverance. Perhaps this is why I keep writing. Perhaps this is why, every time I get another rejection letter, or lose another contest, or receive a sales report that will not pay the bills, I blow a kiss to my crucifixt and keep writing. I don’t quit. I know that the real, fulfilling riches I already possess: the love and health of my loved ones and the vivid memory of my father.
This is the first Christmas after my father’s passing. In his honor, I will try to enjoy it intensively, as he would want me to do. To you, my dearest reader, I offer as a gift the same words of advice I had the good fortune to inherit. Whatever obstacles you may be facing today, however great and small, “Do not give up!”