“Nothing is impossible in life...
Work, study, prepare, be the best you can be,
if you can dream it, it can become a reality.
The only thing you cannot stop is death."
These are the words my dad always said to me. Today it marks one month of his passing after battling cancer. He was 64. I'm exactly half his age, so that means he had me at my current age now. Now, I am the last one of my family crest/name. Pressure is on me from my family to start procreating kids worse than bunnies in spring. Anyway... his suffering stopped and he is in a better place now. Life has been placed into a perspective for me in the past month.
My dad was “the mind”. He never stopped studying and preparing himself. He had the gift of speech, he would talk and everyone would listen. He was a professor, writer, politician and a rebel with a cause. He will read book as fast as I can eat a whole pie of pizza, and that is FAST. No wonder his name was Kleber, which in English sounds "clever". He traveled all over the world. Although my parents were divorced, he always took care of me and my education. Education was something really important for him and he make sure it was something never missing in my life. Always read and learn about the world.
He taught me how to ride my first bicycle. He taught me how to be a goalkeeper like the way he was, where he was very good at it… and I was very good at it too. He taught me how to give a public speech, although I’m kind of shy when I talk in normal conversations and even worse with girls. Thanks to this I won a contest in elementary school, and it was the first time I have ever won something in my life. He taught me how to drive, and entrusted me with his car sometimes to drive it (fast fact: stick shift cars only back home). He always said, if you learn how to drive here, you can drive anywhere. And people complain that Miami has the worst drivers... HA! They have never been out of the United States! Be skillful.
Thanks to him, I came to the USA. He thought that I would have a better life and opportunities here in the United States than back home. So far I have been 11 years here. He would always tell me that I should do something for myself. At a time when I was the legendary professional couch potato, he would push me to go with him for a run. He would beat my ass. He taught me how to cook, so I would stop eating shit outside and to try to avoid the "Standard" American Diet (ahem, McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, etc...). Take opportunities/challenges and be the best you can be.
My Dad was backstabbed several times by his friends and colleagues. I always asked him, WHY do you not get back at them for what they did to you? He would say… “Why? Just let them be. It will live in their conscience that they have done wrong. But my conscience is calm and at peace. The most important thing is to go to bed each night with a peace of mind, if not you will never be able to sleep again.” Peace of mind is the most valuable thing you can have. Revenge stains the soul.
He worked in agriculture as he was an agricultural engineer. He will name you any plant in existence and he was a specialist in banana plantations. He will tell you that bananas are the perfect fruit. He was a chemist and created his own mixed plant variation. He would always be surprised on the prices of fruit in the first world countries, while you could get a box of the same fruit back home at the same price you would get a pound of here. He taught me the whole process of how the fruit leaves the plant, gets classified, boxed, leaves the plantation, passes one last control, gets put on transatlantic ships and leaves to the industrialized countries. Stuff doesn’t get to you by magic. Everything has a way of being.
He always tried to life live without complications. A big smile was always on his face. He was beloved by his friends and loved to have a good time while having some beers. People on the streets will always greet him. A city where he lived his last 13 years made him a tribute and mourned him. They are even gonna make a stadium with his name. His nickname was Carpeta which stands for “Folder” in Spanish. The origin of the nickname came from his college days, where anywhere he will go, he will always carry a folder underneath his arm. Yup, he was a nerd big time. People will nicely call him Carpetita. Smile and be nice to everyone.
My dad was far from perfect. He was somewhat moody, loud, very impatient and really stubborn. But he had a good heart. He would always tell how poor he was as a kid, and couldn't have things that the other kids had. This affecting him as an adult. He will see how discriminated the poor people of the banana plantations were… and fight for them. He will try to make their hard work be well compensated and fair. He would send our used clothes to poor families in the plantations. He even once meet a family in one of his trip to Cuba and he went back to take them clothes. The story was that when he went to Cuba for a seminar in an university, the host family roasted a pig for him, but he saw that they were so poor, that even though they barely had food for them, they would roast a pork for him. Always be humble and reciprocal to others.
On October 13 2012, I did the Ironman World Championship, and amazingly enough, it was his last birthday. Below is a post of that day, dedicating my race to him, and him replying me back while I was in Hawaii.
It translates as following:
“Thank you my son,
I’m with you today and this is my best gift in my life,
that you have gotten to the finish line
and become what you have fought and sacrificed all these months.
I am witness of your effort and decision to accomplish an objective
that not all mortals can accomplish,
keep moving forward my son”
I will always cherish the memories I had with him, and hopefully someday I will pass onto someone everything I learned from him.
Wherever you are now, RIP Papi