Papi’s Father’s Day Legacy to Me: Love and Practical Jokes

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The Original: My papi singing for my grandmother Micaela on her 90th birthday.

I chose the “Papi” part of PapiBlogger’s name in honor of my late father Santos Antonio “Tony” Ruiz who at the age of 60 passed in 2005 from smoking-related cancer.

My dad was a hardworking, blue collar type of guy with a sharp sense of humor and a fervent sense of patriotism for both Cuba and the United States.  When I think about my real “Papi” this Father’s Day, there are numerous legacies he’s left me but there’s two that have particularly served me well.

The first notable legacy Papi left me was his love and affection for me.  It was not just that my dad loved me (many fathers love their sons and daughters); it was that he constantly SHOWED me affection.  I think many of us struggle with father figures in our lives who never showed or expressed their love for us in any way.  That was definitely not my dad.  In fact he was clingy affectionate with me.

On most weekends, which is when I was usually with him because I grew up living with my grandparents from my mom’s side, my dad was particularly fond of kneeling next to my bed to wake me up with very tight, suffocating hugs and kisses.  He did this in a mischievous manner that almost always got me mad but guess what?  I loved it.  Today, in part because of my dad, I do the same, exact thing to my son Jonathan when he’s with me on weekends.

The broader impact of my dad’s affection towards me is that today it is very easy for me to express affection to my children and my wife.  I do it naturally and I can’t help myself.

The second major legacy my dad gave me was a sense of humor.  My dad loved to constantly joke and was always pinning for an opportunity to play jokes on me and other people.  One time, when I was 12, I was rushing to answer a call from a little girlfriend when I accidentally crashed into the corner of a wall running with my head.  The result was that I opened a bloody gash in my forehead (it later required stitches) and forced me to lie down on a sofa for hours with a piece of meat covering the wound.

Do you want to know what my OWN father did to me, his nearly passed out son?  My dad got one of his cigarettes, put it in my mouth and took a polaroid photo of me wearing a slab of meat and the cigarette.  When I woke up and saw the photo, I was beyond livid that my own dad orchestrated such a thing did but today it brings a warm smile because that was my dad being what Cubans call “un jodedor”, a practical joker.

My dad would live long enough to regret being such a practical joker with me because when I grew up I rewrote the book on being a “jodedor.”  I like to play professional-level but wholesome jokes on everybody.  One of the more famous jokes I played on my dad one day involved a skit where I pretended during my college days and during an upcoming presidential election that my political views had changed to embrace Communism, every Miami Cuban’s worst nightmare.

There would be many more in-depth jokes that I would play on my dad (including one about me brokering the sale of a white, polar gorilla that I recorded) but the biggest one is the one that I saw the day we interned his body in the cemetery.  My dad, Mr. Loving Practical Joker Himself and Avid Bird Watcher, rests in a section of a Miami cemetery called Mockingbird.

Happy Father’s Day Papi!

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