My Dad the Smart Man

My dad never got a college degree due to the Cuban Revolution — this was something that always bothered him. He was in school for seven years and walked away without a piece of paper stating that he is proficient in a field. However, to me, that didn’t really matter because everyone knew how smart he was since it’s something that can’t be hidden.

My dad is someone who loved numbers. He told me his favorite subject in school was math, especially geometry. I recall hating geometry with a passion, and even though he tried to help me with my homework, it just never clicked with me as it did with him.

Growing up in Cuba, he attended Jesuit schools his entire life and also served as an altar boy. I remember my dad telling me that the Jesuit teachers were really strict and super hard on their students — and it showed. For example, on numerous occasions, my dad would recite to me the capitols of every single country on this planet. I barely know where Idaho is located…

I’m not sure if this is a show of intelligence or not, but my dad knew how to sign his name using both hands. He’s predominately left handed, but can mirror his signature with his right. To date, he’s the only person that I know who can do this.

My dad was a builder: He constantly told me that he wanted to be an architect, and if the Revolution didn’t happen that dream would of had a better chance to come to fruition. Even though he wasn’t a “professional” architect, you could see his work everywhere. For example, he built the two-story brick house we grew up in New Orleans. Throughout the house, you could see little details that took meticulous thought and time to create — everything from the kitchen cabinets to door handles. He was proud of what he created and, at the time, loved that house.

My dad was the main one — with help from a few buddies — who took care of his rental property. He fixed everything that broke from plumbing to air conditioners. As a kid, I’d help paint the rooms in his shotgun rentals, while he’d do electrical wiring or be putting in a new toilet.

This was a more recent memory, but after Hurricane Katrina, my dad first wanted to repair the fences so he can keep strangers off his properties. He came to get me to showcase what he did.

“Laura, do you want to see my fence?” he asked.

“Er, sure!” I replied. At that time, I didn’t know what was so special about a fence. But if he wanted to show me, there must have been something neat about them.

I walked outside and I see the most symmetrical, well put together fence I’ve ever seen in our neighborhood. It was actually more compact than a traditional picket fence because my dad didn’t want anyone to be able to peak in. I walked around and, again, saw all the small details that went into making this fence. I don’t know how he did it, but my dad just knew how to put things together beautifully. How could something so mundane like a fence turn out so preeminent?

There are so many things that my dad has said and done to make me believe he was one of the smartest men on this planet. It’s hard to see someone so well spoken in both languages (even though he always said his English was horrible — it wasn’t) to not be able to speak at all as of late.

There are certain things that can keep you silent until the end.