I was born to one father, spent the first seven years of my life with another, and my stepfather has been in that role for forty years. It’s no wonder I feel strongly about him regardless of our past errors against one another.
(Picture 1) Gilberto Socarras raised me for the first seven years. He was married to Mercedes, who was my mother’s sister. In reality he was my uncle, but I would not find that out until I was seven, at which point I returned home. I immediately felt the loss of Gilberto. I admit that I missed him more than I did Mercedes. I loved when he came home from work and kicked back in his recliner. That is when I would bring his house slippers and change his shoes out for the comfy slip-ons. He would light up a cigarette and I would climb up in his lap as fast as I could to blow out his match. I became fond of the smell of a burnt match as a result of this daily conditioning. Once I went home I never got to see him again. I got to spend some time with him when I was twelve and then I wouldn’t see him again until I was in my thirties. Gilberto has since passed and when I look at the only photo that I have us together I can still smell that burnt match.
(Picture 2)Luis Pedron was my natural father. I had known him my whole life, but he came into his role when I was seven. That is when my whole life was ripped out from under me and a new life was prepared for me without my consent, consult or participation. I had left the quiet home where I was an only child to a noisy, conflicted and chaotic world that my mother had created. I went from having my own room, to sharing with Lola. I had to share everything with Lola. That included my father. Needless to say I was an emotional wreck. I had difficulty with my origins, my identity and worth. I had panic attacks and had trouble sleeping. I would run to my new father and express the fear that I couldn’t explain. Luis always took the time to try to give me some peace of mind. I came to him because I had discovered a mark on my pinky that I had never noticed before. I was afraid of things showing up on my skin because I was afraid of what was inside me was about to come out.
Luis showed me the same exact mark on one of his fingers. He told me a story about how he had been lost at sea for many years and when he returned home safe and went to his mother’s house she told him that her son was lost at sea, but then he showed her this mark and she realized this was her son. Now that story was longer and more detailed about his survival on a deserted island, but the just of the story was that I belonged. He was my father and he proved it. Even if it was through a phony story, it made me feel like I was where I belonged.
(Picture 3) Bill Schermerhorn would come into his role of father just three years after Luis took over. My parents divorced when I was ten and my mother soon married Bill. I never called him dad, as much as my mother tried, I just couldn’t do it. Bill was Bill. When Bill first came on the scene it was all about my mother. He was mad about her. Whatever she said is what was done. He adored her and it was obvious in those first years. It was never uncomfortable. I didn’t ever feel that he had invaded our lives. At least for me, I was used to the fluctuation at this point in my life. Bill was a victim as we all were that loved my mother. Sometimes that is what brought us closer, sometimes it was what drove us apart. I can say that he never abused back. He never disrespected the girls. That was true of all my fathers. Bill was an educated and intelligent man. He taught us vocabulary daily. It was important to him because we were so behind in language since we had learned Spanish first. Bill may not have played the role of father that was traditional, but his role was to care for my mother. To this very day I don’t know what would have become of my mother if she had not met him. Actually, I do know. It would have been disastrous for all of us. He is her rock; as a result, he is our rock. He holds this role silent of any acknowledgement for what he does.
So to my three fathers, I say Happy Father’s Day and thank you for taking part in what my perception of a father is. It’s a good perception, thanks to you all.