Seventeen Dollars and a Dream

Happy Birthday, Papá.

You turned seventy-two today.

When you were thirty-five, you immigrated to the U.S. You took a chance and found a position at one of the largest engineering firms in the world. You came to the U.S. on borrowed money. I remember years later, you told me that you had only seventeen dollars in your pocket when you first stepped foot on U. S. soil. You had even left my mom, my brother and me in the Philippines for six months while you earned enough money to get an apartment for our family.

Seventeen dollars and a dream.

And pride. You made sure to pay back the money you borrowed to come to the U.S. You paid it back with interest, unasked.

We were a typical struggling immigrant family. But your dream and determination and hard-work paid off. By the time you had retired, you were Vice-President of an international heavy industries engineering firm.

Everything you set out to accomplish, everything that you said you would do, you did it, and you did it with pride and excellence.

I am so proud of you.


Time flies quickly. Too quickly. And you and I have wasted so much of that time being angry at one another. For a long time, we did not even speak to each other.

It’s mostly my fault. You were angry with me because I did not listen to you, and consequently, I have made devastating decisions. I know I have failed you. But mostly, I have failed myself, and that is what disappoints you the most.

But even when you were angry with me, you were always there for me, in your own way. Tough love. You were the epitome of tough love. But you did still love me.

I only wish that I had listened to you more. Talked with you more. Laughed with you more.

The thing is, it’s not too late.

I will see you soon, Papá. I love you. Happy Birthday.