I remember riding in the back of a 1974 candy cane Ford Thunderbird and the car pulling over abruptly. My mother is in the driver seat totally silent while my father jumps out of the passenger side to throw up while crying hysterically. I was about four years old, but it’s a memory I can see when I close my eyes, and I still feel it in the pit of my stomach today. My father cried twice a year, every single year. Ringing in a New Year never passed without tears on my fathers’ face, a physical soul-cleansing for his mother and the six sisters he left in Cuba.
This day we are driving home from the cemetery where he had laid to rest a baby years earlier. Ramiro Fresco was born on February 4, 1973 and died within the month. The relationship between my father and his girlfriend failed shortly after and my parents met the next year. When I was born four years later, my father was hypersensitive to my health.
Though I had a few health scares in my first months, I made it to my 365th day perfectly healthy. My father worked doubles at the Chrysler Belvidere plant the entire summer to throw a big Cuban party in a hall with 100 people for my first birthday. He had learned the first year of a baby’s life was incredibly fragile, and believed if they made it to one year-they would get to live out their natural life. My first birthday to him was a celebration of more than that one little year, but the hope of a whole life to come.
Something happens to a parent when they lose a child, yet something horrendous happens to a child when they lose their parent. It breaks my heart to say I am that child. I lost my father to a tragic car accident when I was 16 years old.
It makes a fatherless Father’s Day tough. He is very much a part of me and always will be. When I had my first child, I remembered my fathers’ grief; and it filled me with fear during Sofia’s baby months. It also reminded me to really celebrate life when she made it to her first birthday. Just like so many other mothers, I always made sure she was still breathing while sleeping, but my fear went a bit beyond the normal worries.
My husband and I followed in my parents’ legacy and celebrated Sofi’s first year with a black-tie gala at the same place we celebrated our wedding. It is days like Sofia’s first birthday where my father’s spirit is almost palpable. I feel so much emotion; mostly positive sentiments of pride, joy and honor, yet I lament his absence.
On the week of my son Lorenzo’s fifth birthday, I sit late at night and remember presenting all three of my monkeys to a large crowd at their first birthday galas. Much like the classic animated movie scene where the father lion raises his cub up to the pride and all the animals welcome him into this world, the Fresco First Birthday metaphorically raises the baby in front of family and friends. It’s a call to action – that of celebrating the child’s life and future with support and love.
The key: Protect all the days of a child’s life to ensure their safety and health, and balance that with the celebration of their past, present and future.
Trina M. Fresco, Vice President of Operations for the IT firm smarTECHS.net since 2007 and NBCLatino Contributor, was named one of “50 Powerful Minority Women in Business” by MEA Magazine. Fresco is the Chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women Investment Subcommittee and serves on a number of additional boards & committees. Fresco resides Chicago with her husband, George and their three children Sofia, Giana and Lorenzo. You can contact her at FrescoRealTalk@gmail.com or on Twitter @trinafresco.