‘I thought you might like to meet my dad’

Teddy Gonzales as a young man about to depart for America

By Jocelyn Gonzales

“Oh no, don’t do that,” my father said.

“Well, how else will I remember what you say?” I replied, as I turned on my recorder and spread out a handful of old photographs.

My father had never talked much about his life as a young man in the Philippines, or about the days when he and my mom had first moved to the U.S. in the late ‘60s. But as his eyes scanned these old photos, he quickly forgot about the microphone and started reminiscing.

My father and mother married in Manila and moved to New York a few years later. My dad found a job trading foreign currency at Citibank, where he worked for 27 years. My mother, a specialist in biochemistry, went on to supervise the medical labs at several of the city’s top hospitals. I was the first born, and then came my brother Erick. We grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and Teaneck, New Jersey — just blocks away from a close knit group of aunties, uncles and cousins. My parents made sure we were surrounded by a cocoon of family and friends here in the U.S., just like they had in the Philippines. They gave us everything they could.

Just before Christmas in 1999, my mother was killed in a car accident. It broke my father’s heart. He was inconsolable for such a long time, as we all were. I didn’t think he would ever really laugh or smile again.

Eventually, my dad found a way out of his grief and he did remarry. He’s in his 70s now, and lives in Florida with his wife, Nancy, and her daughter Heidi, who is now 12. It’s a great comfort to see how his second family brings him so much joy after such a dark time. I asked him about these old pictures, chosen at random from the thousands in our family albums, because I wanted some small record of my dad’s voice. But more than that, I wanted my stepsister to have a piece of our family history. My dad is her father too.

Jocelyn Gonzales produces the music and the book review podcasts for The New York Times. She is also an associate teacher at the NYU undergrad film department, and the senior producer and technical director at Feetin2Worlds.org.

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