“I No Spic Inglish!”

As a young girl, I knew I had the best Daddy in the world. Although my parents were divorced, throughout the years, he’d come for me.

I loved it when he took me to the parks. My daddy may have been short, but he was a big kid at heart and loads of fun. He had a knack for mimicking different sounds. Children laughed whenever he cried out like Tarzan on the jungle gym. He wouldn’t hesitate to push me high on the swing. I squealed with delight when he ran in front and scrambled away right in time before I could kick him. He’d twirl me on the merry-go-round until we couldn’t go anymore and tumbled on the ground from exhaustion. Me from laughing hard; him from running in circles.

Daddy worked as the produce manager in a huge grocery chain store. He was a hard worker, a model employee. A friendly, robust, people-person, he never grew tired of chatting with his customers and telling them jokes. His dark eyes twinkled with glee. The mirth in his thick Puerto Rican accent, combined with his animated personality, charmed all.

Sometimes Daddy caused havoc, but always in fun. He often mimicked the sound of a kitten near the produce stand at work to see the children’s reactions. Once an elderly woman hunted everywhere for the pobrecito. Then another time while whistling like a bird, he had customers looking up for one. He even imitated a newborn’s cry.

“Excuse me, sir, but don’t you hear a baby crying somewhere?” a worried customer asked.

“A baby? No, no,” he answered. “No baby over here.” Daddy chuckled as he related to me how he watched the mystified customer walk away, shaking her head.

Daddy told me the story when a little boy in a shopping cart kept staring at him the whole time, while his mother across the aisle weighed her vegetables.

“I smiled at da boy and asked his name, but he dun say noteen,” Daddy explained. “He just keep lookin’ and lookin’ at me, like I’m ugly or somethin’.”

“Then what did you do?” I asked and chuckled.

“I dun do noteen . . .” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“Go on,” I persisted, knowing of his pranks.

“I just smiled big and stuck out my bottom dentures at da boy.”

“No, Daddy, you didn’t!” I laughed, remembering him doing that very thing before, enough to startle anyone.

“Yeah, but then da boy started cryin’, so I got outta there fast,” Daddy said guiltily. “I dunno where I get these jokes. You got a funny papi, eh?”

“Yeah.” I giggled. “Muy loco, all right. Tell me the story about the goat sucker in Puerto Rico,” I said, wiping my eyes.

“¡Oh, si!” Daddy exclaimed, slapping his thigh. “¡El Chupacabra! Dis thin’ dat went round to all the animales suckin’ their blood dry.”

“Yep, that’s the one,” I said.

“Man, da people get so scared and say it’s some kind of diablo. They say, ‘sierra la puerta’, close your door, El Chupacabra is goin’ to suck your blood!”

“Ya ever see one, Daddy?”

“No, no, I never see dat thin’ in my life.” He chuckled and added, “I dunno if I believe it.”

“Well, it’s sure an awful scary story.” I shuddered at the possibilities.

Yes, my daddy has always been a natural born storyteller. I could sit and listen to him for hours. “Tell me again about the first time you left Puerto Rico on the plane.”

“When I left my home town Utuado in 1952?” His eyes flickered miles away, as he mused. “Flyin’ in dat two-engine airplane made me so scared. I needed to go to el baño so bad. The stewardess want to tell me somteen. Pues, I dunno what she say; I dunno any English then. She talk louder but I dun understand; I just wanna go. I try to make her understand me, so I jell to her, ‘I no spic inglish! I no spic inglish!’” 

As I listened to his broken English, I laughed until my sides ached and my eyes watered.

Papi

My Papi, Benjamin Pérez

“Daddy, you didn’t know how to speak English when you were nineteen?”

“No hija, I didn’. Later, my cousin in New York explained to me that da stewardess just wanted me to put my seatbelt on. Ay bendito nene,” Daddy laughed. “I didn’ understand noteen.”

“Hey Papi,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Ya know what?”

“¿Que mi vida?”

“Ya still have an accent.”

“Ju tellin’ me, man.” He laughed.

Thirty years later:

My world shattered into a thousand fragments.

Along with my heart.

My hopes.

Dreams.

How so? When my husband at the time blurted, “I’m just not happy.”

After much heated words and screaming fits, I was relieved when he stormed out of the house. I felt ashamed knowing that Daddy and my stepmother were visiting us and within earshot in the guestroom, and had heard everything. By the time I went downstairs, Daddy was on his knees praying in Spanish by the bed. I stood by the doorway listening to his prayer, forgetting to move. Daddy, crying, glanced up and reached out his hand toward me. I went to him and collapsed, sobbing.

That day was Father’s Day, 1991.

The following day at the airport heartbroken and devastated, as we kissed and hugged to say our goodbyes, words stuck in my throat. He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure what to do. But my daddy’s silence comforted me and it was enough. He wrapped strong, loving arms around me. I was a few inches taller, but felt smaller. At that moment, I wished I could stay in his arms and be a little girl again.

Today, with Father’s Day soon approaching, I remember how special my daddy has always made me feel. I still feel his love across the miles when we speak on the phone. At any given time when we’re together, I can still feel secure and safe in his arms as we embrace. His eyes still carry that familiar twinkle during his story telling.

Before long, we are reminiscing, we are laughing, and we are enjoying the magical moment of father and daughter.

(Work published in La Respuesta Magazine, as well as in the Homepage of Sofrito For Your Soul)

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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31 Comments

Filed under Fun, Language Barrier

31 responses to ““I No Spic Inglish!”

  1. What a great story! Reminds me of my own family, as I hear my Tata’s own broken English in my head.

  2. Oh, so beautiful the memories you share of your special “daddy.” Before the end, and through your magic words, I grew to love him too! So ‘alive’ was your post Mary, that I felt pleasantly suspended between the lines, living within each loving scene.

  3. Your story reminded me of the special moments I had as a little girl with my father. Like every Wednesday night he would bring home M&M’s for the three of us kids and he would hide them and we would hunt them. Then the walks on the beach during our summer vacations and we would talk,and my dancing on top of his feet to the big bands. Unfortunately he became an alcoholic and he drank himself to death. Lost my father at 19 yrs old. He died of a massive heart attack at 52. But, thank you for reminding me of the special gift of a father/daughter relationship. You are truly blessed to have your daddy today. You and he seem to have a gift for telling stories.

  4. This was beautiful Mary. There’s something about daddies that always makes a daughter feel secure. Knowing that no matter what happens they will be there to hold us, shield us, protect us. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man.

  5. How very touching. I recall with tears welling up even now, the tender moments I spent with my own dad before he died unexpectedly. He was a total character, and I was one of the few who “got” him. We are so fortunate to have had our fathers in our lives, when so many people have never experienced that particular blessing. Thanks for sharing.

  6. The bonds between girls and their fathers are always special and if they are good ones, they leave a lasting and positive influence on the lives of their daughters. It is the strength and love that your father instilled in you with that serves to inform the writing you are doing now. I firmly believe that!
    When I write I have a picture of my parents that I look up to for inspiration, so when you write use your father’s love as inspiration.
    Good luck and great work!

    • Linda, what you’ve shared is certainty true in my case. Out of all the messes in my past life, I am grateful for having a loving earthly father, as well as a loving heavenly Father – no mater what. Thanks for following and for the encouragement 🙂

  7. I love this story! Thank you!

  8. What an awesome Papi! Thanks for sharing. \o/

  9. That was very beautiful Mary(tears in my eyes) I wish I could have known that feeling. A Father and daughter relationship is one to treasure..

    • It is to be treasured indeed. Daddy is easy to love. I must say, having known the love of my earthly father, made it natural and easy to love my heavenly Father. Thank you for your comment!

  10. I wish we had had a Dad like him. Won’t say more here. Your story is well written and full of love. Y’all were blessed to have a good Daddy.

    • Hi Mary Lu, I appreciate the sentiment. Yes, Daddy was and still is very much a blessing. I am grateful that my maternal grandparents kept in touch with him after he and my mom divorced when I was so young, or I never would have known him!

  11. mrm57

    Laughter can truly heal the heart

  12. Loved your story. I had a very special relationship with my dad, too. Made it easy for me to accept the love of my heavenly Father.

  13. RUBEN PEREZ

    Wow amazing!!!

    Ruben Perez Ft. Lauderdale Fl

    ________________________________

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