The day I called my father ‘daddy’ | Tito Hinojos

“OK students, today we are going to talk about your daddy.”

What? My daddy? I had never referred to my father as “daddy.” But because all the other kids so happily referred to their fathers as “daddy,” I too wanted to feel that same feeling. So I introduced my daddy to the class.

I can’t recall how many times as a kid I witnessed debates of whose father was better and stronger. Some of the barrio kids believed that their dad was like a super hero: At times he was Batman and other times he would be the Incredible Hulk. Then we had those in the neighborhood town hall debate for kids, who had no father image or super pop to refer too. But the ones that were really out by themselves, on an island of fantasy filled with pain, were the ones who had a dad at home but really not a father.

We may be the most technologically advanced country in the world, a nation with abundance of entertainment choices and perhaps even the most prosperous nation in the world. But we are also a country whose children are growing up without a positive father role model. It is fitting if we borrowed the words of the hit song “We don’t need another hero”. The cry is dittoed by the song’s words: “And the children sang, we don’t need another hero…we are children of the last generation…looking for someone we can rely on.”

All my life, I grew up hearing how the Latino man is the “macho” and “el hombre de la casa” (the man of the house). That was the biggest pot of garbage that I have heard. The same rule applies to the Latino man that applies to any other man that is willing to procreate a child and wants to be called “daddy.” That rule is to love, respect and provide for that child unconditionally. When those needs are not provided, the child will create an invisible daddy hero image, but when children are a daily part of his life; the father is not a hero — he is just daddy. That’s the natural role of the father.

That Friday before the Father’s Day, I realized that I was one of those on the island of make believe. While the other kids were saying how their daddy played ball with them, went on walks, took them on vacations, bought them stuff, and the list went on — I was thinking, what do I say about my “daddy?”

I introduced him that morning to my class as “mi A’pa.” They all laughed when I referred to my father as A’pa. I angrily responded by saying “pendejos (idiots), you are all wrong.” Being raised in a Spanish speaking home, I never heard my other three brothers or four sisters call mi jefito “daddy.” I wanted so badly to feel what I thought was happiness that those other kids were talking about in that classroom.

I went home from school and waited for mi A’pa to come home from work, hoping for two things: One, that maybe I will be lucky and he might leave me his apple left from his lunch, and secondly, that he would be receptive to me calling him “daddy.” Well, there was no apple leftover in his lonchera (lunch pale), and then the crushing blow.

As he got out of the truck in which he rode to work in, I called him “daddy.” Wow, you should have seen the reaction on of my father’s face. “Que, que?” (What did you call me?) Oops! Never again did I call him daddy. He only acknowledged A’pa.

So, I say to you on this Father's Day, if you had to present your father before your class, your peers at work, or your friends, how would you describe him? Whatever name or title you use to address your father, whether it be daddy, papi, pop, A’pa or just dad, remember that one day you might be a parent. A gracious person attains honor and he is tested by the praise accorded to him.

I wish I would have told my class on that day, as the kids were all glowing as they talked about their daddy, that on January 1966, my A’pa received a letter and an award of commendation from the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Washington D.C. The man I tried to call daddy was honored for working in an open-pit copper mine without any injuries from April 1957 through Dec. 31, 1965. In spite of having an equivalency of a fifth-grade education and not speaking English, he was a hard-working man. He was just an underpaid father, whose job was to set the explosives used to blast the side of the mountain in order for the ground to be loose for mining.

Even though I never referred to my A’pa as daddy again, nor did I ever think of him as Superman or Spiderman, I proudly refer to him as “mi A”pa” — my father.

I just wish that he would have rescued me from that make-believe island.

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