There were a significant number of conversations with my father that most people would agree usually occurs between father and son when the son reaches 20 or so. They are the first man-to-man conversations where sire and offspring bond and where the proud papa gets to transfer his “wisdom” to his son(s), you know – man stuff.
I began these conversations, and the relationship that accompanies them much later; in my late 30’s. It gave me and interesting perspective on parenting and living with other people on a planet and being a man. This one, by far, is my favorite of all time.
I was maybe 40 or 41 years old and my Dad was visiting my house. Suddenly he says to me: “Let me see your wallet, son. Please.” I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for that question. I asked him why he wanted to see my wallet, to which he replied: “If I don’t see your wallet, I won’t be able to share a particular thought with you that might be useful.” So I handed him my wallet. He looked into all of the slots and pockets or whatever they are called until he was satisfied and then gave me my wallet back without saying anything at all. He then took out his wallet; a brown bi-fold leather wallet; simple, classic and practical. He opened it wide to expose the two pockets that one accessed basically from the inside middle of the wallet. A common place for business cards and such that one considers “wallet-worthy” but don’t require quick access. He opened up one of those pockets and began to pull out a folded piece of paper, or at least that’s what I thought I was seeing. Suddenly the gesture became familiar: I’d seen him do this before; the folded piece of paper was money, usually a $100.00 bill. He pulled out the bill and unfolded it, indeed it was a nice crisp $100.00 bill. Then he looked at me and his eyes became those of a mischievous little boy and he smiled his irresistible smile – whatever was coming next was going to be, if anything, fun.
Even though we were alone, he looked to his left and then to his right and lowering his voice a bit, said to me:
“Now listen up Son, and listen well. This is what’s called “mad money” you should always keep a C-note in your wallet for mad money. It’s important. Do not forget this, okay?
I simply had to ask, so I did, I said: “What for, pop?” He grinned and let out a slightly sinister giggle as he looked at me and put a hand on my shoulder right before answering my question. He winked at me and said: “Because;… you never know!” and skipped out of the room, giggling all the way out the front door.”
As usual, pop was right. I carried my “mad-money”, as my father taught me until we destroyed the function and concept of money, but during the years that I did, on more than one occasion, it saved my ass, got me out of a mess or was that which allowed me to ask the gorgeous blonde sitting on a buddy’s couch looking bored after everyone else lost their pocket money playing poker if she wanted to have dinner, or drinks. Dad always said: “Never use mad money for anything that you should cover out of your pocket. It will let you know when to pull it out of your wallet. It most certainly did.
Mad money. I would have never, ever calculated the enormous importance of that concept in my life if my father had not passed it down. It may be one of the most useful tools I’ve ever had, because: you never know!
That’s my pop
My father, born Mario Francisco Vidal on October 4, 1923 in Key West, son to Victor Vidal and Dolores Lopez Mayg, also of Key West, FL, passed away this past July 6th, three months shy of his 90th birthday. You may have even ready my post of the day he passed and perhaps even been one of the countless well-wishers who crashed my e-mail server with e-mails! My father loved his home town and carried that love, and the name of Key West, to the 18 countries that he would live in during his career as one of the world’s top hoteliers. Before passing away, the only request he made of his wife and his five sons was that Key West be the final resting place for his ashes. Our family’s commitment to honoring my father’s last request is what is at the root of this message, but it can be much more than that, if we choose as much.
Our plan is to drive to Key West on Friday; October 4, 2013, what would have been his 90th birthday, and together with friends and other members of the family we will do as he instructed us to and spread his ashes out on the water from the Reynolds Street Pier, the very place where he learned to swim as a child. My father was a man who spread a great deal of love during his lifetime and that love was returned and has manifested in the multitudes of people who will join us on October 5th to bring a Native Son of Key West back home to rest and pay our last respects. We need your help to do this; How? We need a tiny bit of financial support in order to make this happen and you can be a part of it! I am asking for you help by contributing whatever you can. There are many of you and even though we only have 24 hours, I’ve never known you to back down or not step up. This is a chance to do better, between all of us, we can give my father the only this he asked all of us for: to go back home to rest in peace. I invite you to participate in what is a truly human event. I will be posting on the events of the upcoming weekend and everyone who was a part of this journey will have their name listed in the honor plaque that I will post next weekend; never forget – what any one of us can do, two can improve on and many of us can make it happen! Thank you for your support! Just click on the Donate button below to join the caravan and bring a native son of Key West back home!
Now this is what I call doing better!
Just click on the link below to be a part of this grand homecoming! Thank you!
“This is the first of a series of posts with the same title: “Conversations with my father”. I like the multi-function use of the title: It’s the title and the content. Each post’s title will have the subject of that particular conversation with my father at the end of the title. Enjoy!”
This was the last complete, coherent and contiguous conversation I had with my father; it was not that long ago.
While visiting one Sunday, my father approached me and asked if I could spare him a minute or two. My father was always the living example of courtesy and chivalry. We sat in my study and he said;
“Son, I’ve come to realize and accept that you are a fully grown adult and have earned the right to be called a man. That means that my job, the one I accepted as your father is complete and I am satisfied with the job I’ve done. Your job; the one you accepted, whether you like it not, is different, but that’s your road, not mine. I’m just letting you know that you can start yours whenever you like, you’re ready.”
This was not not a typical conversation to have with my father and he was not one to say something like this as a prank, so I did what I usually did with anything my father told me: I took it at face value and gave it due consideration. Our conversations were not humorless, however; I took a moment to comment on how timely his announcement of my manhood was, after all, I was only 50. We laughed for a moment and then I knew that he expected a reply from me.
I began to do some furious math in order to reply properly; there was not a single moment during his life that passed without my wanting to make him proud of me. After considering his statement as carefully as I could, I had a reply for him; I said;
“You know, pop, that’s a very important issue for me. I know I have a job to do. I’m not scared and I’m confident that I am well prepared for whatever it may be, but it is somewhat unsettling at times to not know what is expected of me.”
My father jumped right back into the conversation with a combination of wisdom and mischief in those hauntingly blue eyes of his. He sat upright and said:
“Excuse me. What did you just say? Did you say you didn’t know what is expected of you? That isn’t even a coherent sentence in English – and you’re supposed to be the smart one! There cannot be any expectation of any person without another person to hold that expectation; it’s a strictly human concept. Oh, shit! Now I’m beginning to talk like you! He giggled and continued. How can you tell me that you don’t know what is expected of you without knowing or mentioning WHO is the owner of that expectation? Only people can have expectations of other people, so who were you referring to when you said you didn’t know what was expected of you, perhaps Society? Society isn’t a person, it can’t have expectations of you or anyone else, but we can choose to believe it can and if you do; you’re fucked. So, Mr. Smarty pants, would you like to try that again?
I said, quickly: “Wow, Pop, that’s good” Because it was. It left me pondering (a dangerous thing to do.)
After a few minutes, I turned to face my father, who was sitting patiently, immensely enjoying the opportunity to watch me squirm and said. You are, of course, right Pop. I have to re-do all the math on that. Thanks, Pop, if you hadn’t brought the point up, I could have easily screwed the pooch when the time came! Then I had a thought a with it the hope of redeeming myself from the hole I had so easily fallen into during that conversation. Almost immediately, I said:
“Hey, pop, may I ask you something, since we’re here and already talking?”
–“Of course!” He shot back.
I looked him square in the eyes, which was not an easy thing to do with him, and asked him:
“Indeed, you have completed your job and have declared as much, but you are still my father, so I ask you; Father; what do you expect of me, Sir?”
I thought I had him for sure, but then I saw his mischievous grin begin to form and he sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, put his hands on his lap and very calmly and very matter-of-factually answered:
“Me? I expect for you to change the world.”
What else can be said and what else can any man hope to know beyond what his father expects of him.
That’s my Pop.
Today is my birthday and I turn fifty-two.
So what does that mean, for me or for you?
There’s not much about age that the math can provide,
Save the count of our years and its sting on our pride.
Here’s a little math trick on which you can chew,
‘Bout the momentous occasion of turning fifty-two.
The math is sound, and it is also quite true,
That at some point in time this math will apply to you.
Today is my birthday, and I turn fifty-two,
So what does that mean for me or for you?
Not much save that regardless of who you might be or what you may do,
The math at this point probably yields that I’m the older of the two.
In everyone’s life we arrive at a place,
Where we can no longer prevent wrinkles on our face.
We can no longer assume that with everyone we meet,
We are always the pup, the youngster on the street.
52 is the point where the odds shift the norm.
And they accomplish this with such curious form.
If we pay attention and listened while still being weaned,
At this point we’d savor the knowledge we’ve gleaned.
And if we’ve become wise and learned how to love,
We can share what we’ve learned and what comes forth thereof.
My twenties ran by, or rather they flew.
My thirties fit me like a comfortable shoe.
My forties made me ask if I’d learned what I thought I knew,
So, I leave you with this: good advice – served up in a tasty word brew:
Today is my birthday and I turned fifty-two.
So what does that mean for me or for you?
I choose to share what I’ve learned and hope that it’s true,
That you’ll do the same, when it’s your turn to be the older of the two.
We are all we have.
We can do better.