I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my series of Placencia blogs than by writing about Dad. Of all the Placencias I know, I feel it’s safe to say I probably know him the best. After all, I’ve known him my entire life. I grew up with him and when I moved out of the house back in 1992 that didn’t mean I stopped learning from him. He’s still teaching me things to this day. Earlier this week I was on the phone with him and I’m sure it made for an interesting picture: Me, on the couch, Sarah snuggled next to me, the phone between us, just listening to Dad as he gave some of his insights on life.
That’s the way it’s always been with Dad. Even when I was younger, Dad was like my own personal E.F. Hutton: When he talked, I listened.
There are so many stories, so many memories, I don’t know where to start. So many different flashes are bouncing around in my noggin…Should I tell you about the time Ray, Jaime, and I were filming a video and Dad got mad and threw a pillow at Ray, which then made him happy? Or maybe the time he broke his leg and, tired of having to wear a cast, decided to take the law into his own hands and sat on a bucket and began to cut it off with a hacksaw? What about the time the old lady called Dad in the middle of the night because she had a bat in her house and he went over there armed with his tennis racket? I think I already told you about the time he smacked the pipe out of Charlie’s mouth. Or the one time…well…maybe I shouldn’t tell you about that one, but you get the point. I have a lot of stories about Dad.
There have been times when I see people on TV talking about their childhood, how they would have turned out better if their father had only told them that he loved them, bla bla bla. Dad’s kids will never have that problem. On the phone the other day, he told me he loved me and then followed that up with “I know I don’t tell you that enough.” I didn’t let him go on. If there’s one thing Dad’s always done, he’s let us kids know how much he loves us. With every call, every time I see him, and in his actions and words growing up, there’s never been a moment where I didn’t think he loved us.
That loyalty and commitment is something that isn’t saved only for us, either. When Dad is your friend, you know there’s nothing he won’t do for you. There’s no one Dad cares for that doesn’t know he cares for them and he’ll do anything for them. If something happens to someone Dad cares for, he is the first one in line to help.
Dad fought in the Vietnam war and he has an AMAZING story. To say it was a life-changing experience is putting it mildly and it molded him into the man he is today. Dad saw a lot over there: life, death, blood, friendship, bravery, cowardice, and even heard The Voice of God. For the last few years, on Memorial Day he goes to a high school and shares his story and testimony. I was able to go along with him and film his story, which you can see here. It’s a very shortened version of the actual story but still very powerful and moving. When we were living in the Mojave Desert, I sat down with a tape recorder and interviewed Dad about his time in Vietnam. I later typed out the transcript. It’s 32 pages long and it still moves me to tears when I read it. I always told Dad I wanted to make it into a movie script, and he told me I could, but only if I played his role (something I’m a little too old to pull off now).
The other thing that I think of is, of course, boxing. Dad and his brothers grew up learning a lot – not just boxing – from Saxer, and what he learned there he applied in his life: If you want something, you have to work at it. If you work at for it, you’ll appreciate it more. Dad has a long string of prizes and titles under his belt and nobody in school ever tried to pull the “my dad can beat up your dad” line on me. Dad has spent the last – wow, I don’t know, 40 years is it? – passing on what he’s learned to kids. He’s a coach now, and when you train under my Dad you know you’re not just learning about The Sweet Science. You’re learning about life. I don’t know how many times I’ve been approached by people who tell me they “used to go down to the club” and then proceed to tell me what kind of impact Dad had on their life.
Those are the things – the war, boxing, his loyalty – that everyone knows about Dad. But I love the little details, the little surprises, just as much. I remember as a child going into the basement and finding an old black case tucked away in a far corner. Inside was an old, broken down, accordion. Yep. Dad played the accordion as a kid. Who would have guessed? I also recall the image of Dad up in the Sierra Nevadas in the Mojave Desert, panning for gold. He would sit there for hours, just him and his tools, and come back with tiny nuggets of gold in a small glass jar. He loves to read and he loves to watch Clint Eastwood blow the bad guys away. He has an iPod he uses to listen to Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. Little details and quirks about him that I love.
Dad has a Purple Heart and a Golden Gloves title. He’s received all kinds of awards, honors, medals, certificates, and special congratulations. But the title he holds most dear is “Dad.”
And you know what? He’s earned it.