Happy Fathers’ Day – a different perspective

Two days after Fathers’ Day, I am posting a piece sent to me by one of my readers, David Keelan. Several months ago, he arrived in Merida – stuffed into a car with a driver he hired to bring him here from the US border, a few belongings from his past life, his large dog and a confused cat. Already he is helping out at the Nueva Vida Girls Shelter and has joined Rotary International. He has many interests, among them – writing. His personal story about fatherhood is unusual, brave, and very – “David”.  

Victor and Victoria

Happy Belated Father’s Day

A year after our marriage my wife and I learned we could not conceive children.  It was a painful experience.  The fertility treatments, the disappointments, and finally the acceptance that we would not have biological children.  We decided to move forward with our plan to adopt sooner rather than later.

We wanted to make room in our family for two children and decided Russia was the best place for us to adopt older children, a brother and sister.  After an 18-month process we – Chris, Victoria, Victor and I – became a family. 

Immediately, we found ourselves immersed in the good and the not-so-good parts of being parents.  It was as though someone flipped a switch and we were transformed into the mom and dad of six-year-old Victoria and three-year-old Victor.  They were not infants – we were in the thick of parenthood – and we knew it would be a rough start. To begin with, we spoke little Russian and they spoke no English.  In fact, our coordinator told us the kids worried that maybe we were mentally handicapped because we could not speak their language, Russian. 

Our son and daughter came from poverty and neglect – they had been placed in the orphanage – and when they left with Chris and me, a whole new world began to open up for them. They had no preparation for all the firsts that occurred quickly, one after the other. We understood this initially during the plane trip to Moscow. That flight and the continuation to Washington Dulles via Frankfort overstimulated them in every way. This caused major behavioral problems – Chris and I realized that sitting quietly and playing was not going to happen.  We were like firemen putting out unprompted flares in a burning building.  We did not have time to contemplate the gravity of what we had just done by adopting. We were filling the role of baby sitters, not parents.  On top of the behavioral issues, rumors were rampant that the Russian authorities would remove children from their adoptive parents at the slightest hint of any issues.  We were on pins and needles until we boarded the plane to Frankfurt.

On the final long flight we were grateful to see that the kids were dog-tired and were desperately seeking sleep. But the over-stimulation would not allow them to have that.   A sympathetic flight attendant and I carried Victor around the plane, trying to help him fall asleep, to little success.  At one point I took an empty seat and hoped that Victor would not disturb the man sitting in the same row.  Of course it was not long before the three year old became fussy, and loud.  I looked over at the passenger and apologized.  He gave me companionable look and said “Don’t worry about it, I am a father too.”  It took me a moment to digest that comment.  Are you talking to me, I wondered, Father?  For the first time I understood that I was a father, and from now on when people looked at me they would see a father.  I don’t know why it hit me, just at that moment.  Maybe because we were so busy with the immediate challenges, we did not have the time to fully comprehend that we were now parents.

That all happened 15 years ago. Victor and Victoria are now young adults, starting independent lives. Chris and I are divorced, and I have taken on another big life change. I now live in Merida, Yucatan.

I may not have been present when Victoria and Victor were born, but I love being a Father and I love my kids. I am about as perfect a father as Victoria and Victor are perfect children.  Lots of mistakes, lots of frustration, fear, and anxiety.  But also great times, laughs, camping trips, hiking the Appalachian trail, vacations, visits, and successes.

We embrace our children and take everything they can throw at us. We often ask others for advice. Did I handle this correctly? What should I do in this or that situation?   I have turned to my father, brothers, and friends for help.  After all, I accepted the role of father, and I want to do my best.  In my children’s case, they did not know a father until they, Chris and I formed a family.  For the longest time they were scared of the “Man” in the house because their experience with their Russian father was – let’s just say – it was not good.  There were moments of frustration, and I would ask my kids; “Do you know what grandchildren are?”  They would say “No, Pop, what are grandchildren?”  I would reply, “A father’s revenge.  I can’t wait until you have our own kids.” They got my point and we all just relaxed for a moment.

There are all kinds of fathers.  I often think about a young couple I noticed on a bus I happened to be riding in Centro.  They were very small people, and young, very young.  I thought at first they were a teenage couple.  Both of them were dressed very colorfully, and they bounced around in their seats like the rest of us as the bus jolted up Calle 60.  Then I saw they had a baby with them.  When we got off the bus they were headed in the same direction as me.  The entire time I watched them, I admired how happy they seemed.  I wondered about this young father, and I wanted to wish him well and tell him “I am a father too.”

The point of this story is – we deserve a Father’s Day – we all belong to the same club.  I look at other fathers and I respect the relationships they build with their kids. How content the young father on the bus seemed to be. But I find it difficult to look at myself in the same light. Maybe because I am intimate with my mistakes? Nonetheless, I am a father and I take this seriously.  No matter how a man comes to fatherhood – whether biologically, through marriage, or through adoption – we have children and we are their fathers. Father’s Day celebrates the commitment we make to our kids.

So to all dads reading this post, congratulations for making it this far! Despite our mistakes, our commitment and our love will always carry the day with our children.

A Fathers’ Day letter for my husband, Jorge

Jorge, Joanna, Carlos and Maggie Rosado, 2002

In late April of 1981, just outside the brightly-lit delivery room of the Clinica de Merida, you met your son, Carlos. Because he cried during the post-natal tests, his face had turned bright red and little gasps punctuated his breathing. From my prone position on the gurney wheeling along behind him, I looked to you for reassurance. You nodded your head up and down. I could see the wonder in your eyes and hear the joy in your sigh. I could feel gratitude spilling out of you, filling the air around us. We had overwhelming reasons to be grateful. Eleven months and two weeks prior to this moment, you’d held a different little boy and we thought we were starting our family. But our first son did not live beyond his third day.  

To feel such love for the baby you had in your arms, mixed with the anguish of losing his older brother is still my ultimate teetering-on-the-brink moment – and you felt the same – I could see that. But the strength you summoned from deep inside yourself brought me back from the edge. You kissed me and you promised me you would be the best dad you could possibly be. I believed you and my faith turned out to be well-placed.

Three years and nine months later, in early January of 1985, Maggie joined our family. You had no sisters and I could see your look of uncertainty. How should you act with this little girl? All sorts of expressions and grimaces crossed over your face, and then your mouth settled into the widest smile I’d ever seen you make.

For all these years, you have loved your son and daughter unconditionally. When they were newborns, you got up in the night as soon as they cried. You changed their diapers, and brought them to me to nurse. You played down on the floor with them. You read to them. You provided every opportunity you could, and you taught them about your country. You also insisted they learn about mine. More than me, you made English our home-language and thanks to your efforts, Carlos and Maggie have two native languages. Striving for excellence was not merely an option for our children,

Of course there were times when our son and daughter rejected your opinions and advice. This is a normal part of growing up and becoming independent.

But you have always done what you believed was necessary in order to keep them safe. You tried hard to help them understand why you insisted they conform to certain norms. They have learned a great deal from you. They have received true love. They’ve had a stellar example to follow. And we have learned from them, felt loved by them, and we find ourselves following their example more and more. The way of things is unfolding as it should.

When Carlos and Maggie were little guys, I would often ask them – Didn’t I find the very best dad in the whole wide world for you? They’d jump up and down to show their agreement.

Now they don’t do that, They grow quiet and I see their acknowledgement. They have come to see that you don’t need to agree with your dad all the time, to know for sure that he is the BEST DAD IN THE WORLD.

Can we be politically correct “In Time of COVID 19”

As a child, were you cautioned to “mind your manners”?

I sure was. My parents taught me to respect others’ rights and not criticise their choices and beliefs. Live and let live, Mom and Dad told us. But there are times when we have to speak plainly, they added, and you will recognise when those times come.

Well, I believe one of those times is here and now.

COVID 19 is not going away. All experts tell us that the most effective ways to decrease the viral load are hand washing, social distancing, wearing face masks and vaccination. These protocols are not being adhered to with consistency, and in Yucatan, the spread of the virus is out of control. Again.   

There are too many mavericks who have no medical reason for refusing vaccination against COVID 19. Diverse groups of researchers, scientists and medical teams have assured us that the vaccine is safe and it is our best defense against the virus but that does not seem to mean anything to them. They dig in their heels and say NO.

Then there are the rumors that the anti-vaxers have spread. The young woman who helps me in our home was told by her village neighbor that the vaccine will make everyone sick and that although the first jab is free, they will need to pay a lot of money for the second. The same ill-advised person also told my employee that with the vaccine, a micro-chip would be injected into their bodies and spies from every country in the world would be able to control their minds. These two women are not worldly. They believe what they are told, and they are scared.

Why would anyone fabricate such lies? Do they enjoy confusing people?

A recent Gallup poll shows that only 68 percent of the world’s population say they will vaccinate when they have the chance. 70-90 percent is required to achieve herd immunity, so the world falls short of even the minimum amount of compliance. Despite the fact that the American government has lotteries to entice citizens to vaccinate, as of early May 2021, only 44 percent had accepted their jab in the arm. As of today, Mexico has administered at least 35,166, 248 doses of COVID 19 vaccines. Huge efforts are being made, and yet the anti-vaxers say it is their right to refuse.

Tired of being shut inside, many are flocking to the beaches, restaurants and attending large gatherings. The masks are hot, so they are removed. They say they are sick and tired of the restrictions and have the right to enjoy themselves.

And what about my rights? I have complied with all the guidelines and now, after almost a year-and-a-half, I am completely vaccinated, and yet many are not accepting their responsibilities. This pandemic has caused my family huge hardship. And anyone whose actions contribute to prolonging the ordeal is no crusader in my book.

The college Jorge and I founded in 1990 is just one of the millions of independent businesses throughout the world. I am sure that all owners worked as hard as we did to build and consolidate what they have. To see forces beyond our control, breaking apart our life’s work is like a punch in the stomach.

Up until now, TTT has managed to skirt disaster, thanks to the heroic efforts of our staff and the cooperation of our students. I feel such gratitude.

But the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations continue to rise, so as of today, our state’s population will see their freedom of movement curtailed – again. If non-compliance continues, will our students be able to return to classes in September? If they don’t get back in the classrooms, they will be starting their third school year without setting foot on the campus. Will they feel disheartened and not continue their studies? If too many take that decision, our dreams and more than three decades of hard work could go up in smoke.

Our livelihood is no small deal. But also, like everyone else, we have been unable to see friends and family who live outside Merida. We miss everyone but especially our daughter in Los Angeles and our only granddaughter who lives in Norway. Emma will turn 8 next week and we have not seen her since she was 6. All the milestones we’ve missed! Jorge and I are no longer young. We don’t know how long we’ll be able to travel and see Emma. Not to mention our family and friends in Canada and other parts of the world.

Do you see conspiracy in every move the authorities make? I agree that some questions should be asked but not when the truth is obvious.

Everyone wants to live a full life, but if we could stick to the rules for a few weeks, the virus would debilitate and slowly we could start getting back to normal. We did have some sanctions lifted but many took this too far and we are all paying the price. Instead of moving forward, we are sliding back.

During the pandemic we should all be pulling together. I’ve had my two doses of AstraZeneca and I am grateful. We are lucky to live in countries where we can get vaccinated. Squandering our good fortune is not defensible.