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Hasta luego, Papá

Enrique Octavio Othón Elias
2/10/1938 – 10/27/2020

My dad and I weren’t always close. He was a fairly traditional Panamanian father who left most of the early child-rearing to his wife. He liked to spoil us for birthdays and Christmas; I remember him treating me to shopping sprees at fancy department stores when I was a teenager.

We had disagreements in my teenage years. I know this was not unusual. I remember one particular disagreement when I didn’t think I should be giving him pedicures when I would rather do just about anything else. Then there was the time my cousin lent me her paperback copy of Saturday Night Fever (did you know it was a book?) and he took it away because he thought it was too racy. My cousin had already taken me to see the movie though; not sure he ever found out about that.

I think he must have visited every restaurant in the city at least once. At least that’s what it felt like one evening during a recent visit home, as he drove us around, trying to decide where we were going to have dinner but kept changing his mind and thinking of a different place he wanted to take us to. When he visited us here in the States he wanted to go somewhere he could get a good Reuben sandwich. He was on a quest to find the world’s greatest Reuben.

He knew everyone in town. We couldn’t go anywhere without him striking up a conversation with someone he knew or remembered from somewhere. And since people tell me I look just like him, I couldn’t go anywhere without people asking if I was Enrique’s daughter. My aunts, uncles, and cousins could always count on him for anything. Even after he got sick, he never stopped asking about how everyone else was doing.

He was a musician (played piano and guitar by ear, and had a great singing voice) and a music lover. I wish I had videos of him playing piano or singing. I hear he once took my stepmother to a piano bar where he ended up taking over for the piano player and serenading the crowd.

I probably inherited my love of photography from him. Two of the cameras in my collection came from him, including my first digital camera, one he gave me long before everyone had digital cameras. He was always one of the first to try new technology. Over the years we had a Betamax, a VCR, a laser disc player, and my sister and I even had a vertical turntable.

He left this world early this morning. I’ve spent the day crying, missing him, looking at pictures, and wishing I’d been able to see him one more time to get one last hug, say one final good-bye.

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