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Happy Birthday, Superman

Back to work

Today is Saint Patrick's Day. It's also what would be my father's 96th birthday. I'm taking a break right now from working in my voiceover booth. Inevitably my fingers type 'breaking news' on Google and I get a host of articles, some frightening, some odd, and some just plain silly. My mind wanders and I think, 'what would my father say about the coronavirus and what would he do in this situation?'

Quique was an eye surgeon. He graduated two years early from high school and finished medical school/university in Bogota, Colombia in 5 years instead of the requisite six. He left for Spain right after World War II for his residency and abruptly switched to Hotel Dieu Hospital in Paris because the Ophthalmology program there was better. I can't imagine learning medical terms in a new language but he did it in three years then traveled to New York by boat. There, a famous eye surgeon invited him to operate at his clinic for a week and my father stayed, learning all the medical terminology in yet another language, English. On one of his trips home to Ibague, he met my mother, married her and brought her back to New York. I don't remember a time when my father wasn't studying and reading about new techniques in eye surgery: I still have some of the instruments he invented to help him operate. He wasn't interested in patenting anything, he just wanted tools to practice his craft better.

We had trouble communicating when I was growing up. I wasn't a very good student and he would chastise me when I did badly in school. I became a rebellious teenager and emotionally distanced myself from him. The relationship healed in my 30's. After his death, I went with my mom to clean out the desk in his office and found a binder full of notes on Lasik surgery. At the time it was still a relatively new procedure but as always, he was eager to learn so he could be prepared.

It's been raining a lot lately, something native Los Angelenos say is not the norm after all the years of drought. As a newbie to this part of the world, I love it. My theory is that water is nourishing the earth, making it moist with (hopefully) less chance of fires later in the year. The blankets of rain mean I'm not missing all that much, especially with the weeks of enforced isolation looming ahead.

It's easy to fall into fear. I wonder how many times my father silently panicked over his family. Living in a country that is not your own, having to provide not only for yourself but for your wife and children, that can't be easy. All I saw was my father putting one foot in front of the other, working constantly, many times seeing patients on the weekends and bringing his work home with him. He gave us a beautiful life.

Recently, while visiting a neighborhood in the valley I came across this plaque. I thought, 'it's kind of cool that a scene from a TV show in the 50's was filmed right on this spot.' Then it hit me--my father was Superman. His grace, his dignity, his sense of humor, his intelligence, his ability to admit his mistakes. The strength to stop a train. He wasn't the easiest human to communicate with but he was a hero to me. And what he would say in this moment? "You'll get through this. Back to work." So off I go to my voiceover booth. I am blindly passionate about my work, always studying, taking classes, rewriting my notes, constantly trying to improve on that elusive moment known as the 'sweet spot' of the perfect read.

And yes, I'm just like him. Happy birthday, papa.


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