by Rafael Peña-Martinez
My father exemplifies many Dominican stereotypes: suave looks, hardworking, and an estimable life teacher.
He rocks a slick 1970s hairdo straight out of Grease—with a comb always nearby, ready to make his hair wavier than needed. He has a slim figure, not weak, though, because he enjoyed lifting weights—an example that fueled my journey to become physically fit and athletically push myself to excel in sports. He still rocks an almost six-pack and brags about how he had a 12-pack at his peak.
Growing up, I didn’t get all the Jordans I wanted, and we moved around constantly. We lived a nomadic lifestyle, resulting in the inability to join desired clubs or after-school activities because I would be forced to quit a few weeks later. I was also resentful because he was always working and seldom around to spend time with us. I didn't grasp that his absence meant he was fajandose para asegurarse that there was always food on the table and a roof over our heads. After the bitterness subsided, though, I eventually came to appreciate how, as a result of said circumstances, I could easily adapt to different environments. From rural Bonao in the Dominican Republic. To rural Maine. To the suburbs in Huntsville, AL. To rural Athens, AL. And most recently to the suburbs in Worcester, Mass. Being able to assimilate and integrate into any environment or situation was one of the most incredible things I've learned to do.
He doesn’t talk much; instead, papi leads by example, working long hours without complaints. Papi seldom enjoys a vacation, por que hay que trabajar pa ganarse lo cuarto. His religious beliefs prohibit working on the Sabbath (Saturday), which proved challenging to find employment that respect said practices while honoring his work ethic. Because carrying the weight as the sole breadwinner of a family of four, in a foreign country, where English is not his primary language and where the politics are not that nice to immigrants, no ta’ facil.
A pesar de ser un a taxi driver, he does odd jobs such as apartment maintenance jobs. I vividly remember a moment when he stood up for himself. Papi was working as a maintenance man taking care of over 100 apartments by himself. After three years of working nonstop without fail, he attempted to take a two-week vacation. His supervisor gave him the green light, but as the date approached, he backtracked and forced him to cancel his time-off—obligated him to return to work as there were apartments that weren't up to par and needed his skillsets. In that moment, papi stood ten toes down on his request to spend time with his family. Despite a reliable employee they threatened to fired him if he didn’t comply to their demands. He quit.
Papi decided to instead dedicate his time to what he believes in and is passionate about rather than follow greed and money. Serving as one of the prime examples of my youth, he showed me that it's best to live a life you want rather than live by someone else's expectation for you. I'm forever grateful for the lesson of standing up for oneself and the values we hold—especially today when money can be dangled in front of you stealing both your morals and beliefs. Through his sacrifices for our family, nos enseño to fight for what you love, to exigir respecto, and provide for your own family.
I honor my father by leading an exemplary life—being diligent in my work ethics, persevering through any and all obstacles, and being humble enough to know when to ask for help. Like my father, I stand firm on my beliefs, refuse to sacrifice my morals, and honor my family values.
For molding me into this person, I am forever grateful.
Rafael Pena-Martinez is a Dominican, sci-fi, short story writer, who goes by "Nico Pengin" in the online community, blogs, and livestreams League of Legends, providing content for young adult gamers and introverts who have amazing talent but just need a push or nudge to get started. Also, he co-hosts business professional and contemporary podcasts, PenPodcast and Argue Bros.