On that Sunday evening we had returned from our weekend visit to Tio Antonio’s family in Miami back to Florida City where my sister and I were staying as part of the Pedro Pan program. Our houseparents were Sixto and Isolina Garcia and they oversaw a group of 18-20 girls. As girls were relocated throughout the Unites States, new ones were coming in every day. We resided in the very first house (1477) above the office.
The brother of one the girls at our house who resided at a different house would come over to visit her. That evening he had asked – “What do you think your parents are doing right now?” I envisioned my father sitting in front of the TV relaxing and remembered fondly how I often would sit on his lap and snuggle next to him when I was little.
Later after lights out and still awake I was looking out the window. From that window you could see the entrance to the camp. I saw a car drive up – it was my cousin Pancho’s car. He, along with Tio Pepito, Tia Irmina and Alcira got out of the car and walked towards the office. They looked somber. I thought something had to be wrong – I may have even said it out loud.
Shortly after, Isolina came to our room and asked my sister to go with her. I waited with trepidation. A few minutes later, she came to get me. As we walked towards the other end of the floor, I heard my sister crying and saying: “How can this be happening to us!” I don’t remember who told me, but the fact was that my father had died. I remember being numb and saying things that were deemed brave, but in retrospect seem nonsensical to me. I did not cry. I had just turned 13 the week before and had never experienced a major loss in my life. I had no knowledge of my reaction to grief.
About a week passed before we received the first sympathy letters. That is when I found my tears. These letters uncovered the deep wound of my loss. The tears eventually stopped. But to this day, I still miss that wonderful man who was my father.