I really dread Father’s Day. Why? Ever since I can remember, all around me kids at school with fathers talking about what gift they’ll get their dad, the great times they’ll have. And me? I don’t have a dad. You see, I’m a zombie without a dad. So what am I supposed to do?
Early on, I think I was seven years old, I decided to ask my mom about my father. “Is he still alive? Where is he?” I asked. “Why doesn’t he come by to visit?”
“Porque es un sinverguenza cabrón!” She replied. Suddenly she was more angry than I had ever seen her. “We will NOT talk about your useless father who ran out on us when I needed him the most. You are lucky NOT to have father like him! Sinverquenza! ”
After that I didn’t task any more questions about my father.
Nonetheless, every year, come the beginning of June and I would start hearing my classmates all conferring on what gifts they would be getting their dads, and how the family would go out to the beach or on a picnic or have a special bar-b-que to celebrate Father’s Day. And they would always ask me, “Hey Lazo, what about you? What are you getting your dad and where will you go?” Of course, I was embarrassed to admit I had no dad. Before long I had invented my own version of my dad walking out on my mom and me.
“He’s in the military.” I would say conspiratorially when asked about my dad. “Special forces, can’t really talk about it–secret assignment. Yeah, he’s out there defending our country and he’s not going to be able it make it back for Father’s Day this year. A tough job but someone’s got to do it.”
That usually shut everyone one up. No more questions. Which is exactly how I wanted it.
The hardest part came on Father’s day itself. It always fell on a Sunday and I would wake up knowing that somehow I had to get through the day. Since my resurrection from the Evergreen cemetery, my mom had gotten very religious–she went to mass every morning and twice on Sundays. Fortunately for me, she didn’t want to raise any questions about me since some of the brothers and sisters at the Parish had also been at my funeral. So I got to stay home.
When I was ten years old, my mom could see that I was really struggling with the Father’s Day thing and a few days before Father’s Day that year, I overheard her on the phone talking to my Uncle Chepito, her brother.
“Cheppy,” she said, “Please. En el nombre de Díos, take him out to a movie or to Disneyland or something,. The poor child needs a father figure. I’ll pay for it all.”
I was not surprised when the dreaded day finally came around and my mom woke me up early, a huge smile on her face. “Mijo, get up! Get ready, brush your teeth, put on your make-up and deodorant! You’re Tio Chepito is going to take you to a movie!”
Gotta say, it really put me in a good mood. I got dressed quickly, scarfed down some raw liver festering in the frig and was ready when my Uncle Chepito knocked on the front door.
Okay, my Uncle Cheptito is no great father figure, let me tell you. I’m grateful that he agreed to show me a good time–problem was his idea of a good time and mine were totally different.
He drove us to the cinemaplex at the local mall and we had to wait in line for twenty minutes before we could even buy the ticket. He bought just one ticket and gave it to me. “Look,” he said, “I’ve already seen this movie. Just go in and when the movie’s over, you come find me at that building over there, the one with the sign.” He pointed to a building across the mall with sign over it which read , “O’Reilly’s Bar.” “Come for me and I’ll take you home.”
Hey, I was getting a free movie so I wasn’t going to complain. So I went into the theater and found a seat. As the movie began I imagined that my Uncle was there sitting next to me, or perhaps the father I had never known was there with me, or, heck, anybody but the young couple who were making out all through the movie.
When the movie was over, I went to find my Uncle Chepito at O’Reilly’s Bar. He was sitting at the bar counter with a woman I didn’t know. They were drinking and talking loudly and having a good time. I could see from his expression when I walked up to them that my uncle was not all that happy that movie was over. “Mijo,” he said., “I’ll be ready to go in just a minute. Horetencia, this is my nephew, Lazaro.” The woman smiled at me with big teeth, one of them capped with gold. “Oh, what a darling!”
My Uncle Chepito motioned to the bartender. “Sammy, get me something for the kid, will ya? “ he added with a wink, “He’s older than he looks.“
The bartender brought over a foamy mug of a kind of coke I had never tasted before. It was a little bitter at first, but after a few sips it got to taste really good. I don’t really remember too much of the rest of that afternoon. My uncle and his lady friend had a great time and after a while I was laughing right along with them, though I didn’t really get the jokes.
I do remember getting sick when my Uncle finally took me home. I was trying to hold it down but didn’t quite make it to the front porch. I barfed all over the front lawn of the house. About that time my mom came out and ran to me. She took a long at me as I continued to barf on the front lawn. She gave my Uncle Chepito an angry look. He tried to smile at her.
“I guess it must have been that hot dog I bought him at the movie.” He said.
“Sinverguenza!” My mother said “Emborrachaste a mi hijo! Malagradecido! Sinverquenza! You men are all the same!” She picked me up and dragged me into the house. And that was the last I ever saw of Uncle Chepito.
Ever since then I have created my own way of celebrating Father’s Day. While my mom is away at church, I slap a rented video into the DVD player. It’s always the same movie, the one that I saw by myself when I was ten years old and pretending my Uncle or dad was there with me–“Home Alone.”
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De L aTierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.