It has been 2 months since my father, Teodoro Gutierrez III (known to most as ‘Ted’), passed away. I am only now internalizing the fact that I will never again see him, hear his voice or be in his presence. It overcomes me at times.
When considered against most earmarks of success my Dad doesn’t stand out. He worked hard and raised us (Himself, my Mom and I) up from blue collar to lower middle class. I was provided with great educational opportunity. But we struggled financially and never managed to have a house of our own. Myself and My mother will be fine but I know he would have preferred to have left my Mom with more security. His genetic predisposition to Diabetes took his health early. Resulting complications and his unwillingness to adjust his diet and lifestyle took his life far too early.
But as I reflect on the life of my Dad I do not think it is possible to over state the success his life was. For what is success if not a life filled with love and joy? Because while my Dad did not optimize his life for success in his career, or leisure, or in recreation. He did optimize his life for success in love.
My Dad as a young man had a penchant for thrills. He liked racing cars, legally on track and illegally off the track. He was a golden gloves boxing champion. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say he had an eye for the ladies, prior to marrying my Mother, of course.
If you can picture someone the exact opposite of the above person, you would be picturing my Mom. My Mom was shy and stayed home mostly to help run the house and tend to her family’s tenant farm. She had little interest in my Dad. But my Dad had already won over my Abuelo and Abuela with his charm. So they kept inviting him over for dinner until my Mom agreed to go out with him on a date.
Long story short, they fell in love, got married and moved away to start their lives together. But somewhere along the way my Dad made a decision. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision or something more innate. But at some point my Dad stopped being the young thrill seeker. And his primary concern became the well being and happiness of the ones he loved. As I begin my own family I wish I could ask him about this change. But I don’t know if these questions would come to mind without reflection on his absence.
As a child I bore witness to my Dad’s selfless nature. The countless evenings and weekends spent at my youth sporting events. I at different times was involved in, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Tae Kwon Do. I wrestled in High School. My Dad coached sports that he knew little to nothing about when coaches weren’t available. And if he wasn’t coaching he was in the stands cheering for nearly every game and some practices. And when my youth athletic career ended at the State High School Wrestling Tournament, my Dad was there in my corner next to my coach, helping me off the mat, when my injured knee had about all it could take. And after 3 years of hard wrestling was over, my Dad knew just how to be there for me because he had been in the ring taking a beating when he was young too.
My Dad was there for my Mom in ways I’m only beginning to understand at 37 years old. My Mom is not a person who requires much. But what they provided for each other is not something that I think I can articulate yet. I will say that even though my Dad could not walk more than a few feet unassisted in the last years of his life, the strength and support he provided my Mom is unmeasurable.
To this day it boggles my mind, the lengths he would go to for me or my Mother. But upon reflection it makes sense because I also got to witness the endless bounty of joy he reaped until his last breath and beyond. After his passing I bore witness to the parade of people whose lives he touched with his warmth and kindness. And while I don’t know that I can match my father’s success I will do my best to put the needs and wants of others (with special focus on my loved ones) above those of my own, knowing I will reap the benefits of joy. I will try to at the very least succeed like my Dad has succeeded.
P.S. While writing this, I was looking at my Dad’s twitter account. He wasn’t very active on Twitter because he didn’t quite understand it. He has a pretty funny tweet admitting as much. But I found this tweet, which is safe to assume is a reply to one of our family members and is about his own father.