Rene’ Cruz died in his home, on February 27, 2004, at age 50, due to complications of a brain tumor. Although his family found it hard to accept his passing, they acknowledged that he would not suffer anymore. Rene’, known as Papi to me and his three other children, had endured his deteriorating health long enough and deserved to rest peacefully.
Papi was born in Brooklyn, NY on September 9, 1953 to his parents Angel and Clara. He was the eldest of his parents four children. Papi grew up a loner because of all the moving his family did. He found himself at a new school every year. Since his birthday was at the beginning of the school year, it usually passed by without much recognition or celebration.
When Papi was 10 years old, his family moved to Bushwick, a section in Brooklyn, where they resided for 5 years. This was the longest time they lived in one place. It was here that he met my mother, who lived three doors down. At age 15, Papi was dismayed to find out he was moving to Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. Not only had he made friends and worked part-time at the local drug store, but he was also eagerly attending Aviation High School in Queens.
Soon after Papi’s high school graduation in Puerto Rico, he flew back to NY with money he had saved. He stayed with a childhood friend in Brooklyn until 1970,
when he enlisted into the Air Force for 4 years. He was one of the few soldiers, of his graduating basic training class, that did not have to serve in Vietnam. He purchased his first car while stationed in Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
After being honorably discharged in 1974, Papi held down random jobs, from security guard to telemarketer. He reconnected with my mother in January, 1979. They wed in Brooklyn on February 6, 1979. In 1981, he interviewed for an associate director position for the WPIX news show. Although he had no professional experience, they hired him for the job. He worked there for over 20 years and also worked on freelance projects, such as being a part of the filming crew at the Apollo Theater.
It was in December, 1997 that Papi was first diagnosed with a brain tumor and was treated with radiation. He was out of work from January, 1998 to August, 1998, when he returned to work part-time. His eldest daughter gave birth to his first grandson and by mid-September Papi was back to work full time, appearing to have completely beat his illness.
Symptoms such as blurry vision returned, and in January, 2002, Papi was diagnosed once again with an inoperable brain tumor. He retired on disability in September, 2002. My mother, who is a registered nurse, took care of him until his last seizure in 2004. On the day of his wake at a Flushing, Queens, Funeral Home, the news dedicated a tribute to him. Papi was cremated and his remains are in Santa Cruz Maria Magdalena Cemetery in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Funny, intelligent, and loyal are three words that described my father. Although he did not acquire more than a semester’s worth of college credits, he was book- and street-smart. His musical taste was eccentric and ranged from Frank Sinatra to El Gran Combo. At his wake, my little brother (Papi’s only son), played Papi’s iPod on a surround sound. His urn is decorated with musical notes. He was open-minded and believed that when you point a finger at someone, you will always have three fingers pointed back at you.
Papi was a movie buff and very much into photography. He was always interested in the latest technology and computers. Along with taking care of the 2 family dogs, he also maintained either fish tanks or plants.
My father learned to cook when he had kids. Papi was our hero when he carved our names into our hot dogs. He also had to learn how to brush three young girls hair into ponytails – not an easy feat.
There were times, I felt, that Papi was anti-social or emotionally unavailable. My siblings and I never quite understood my father completely. My mother always made sure everything ran smoothly and everyone got along. My family joked around a lot but Papi always held back his emotions. A year after his death, my mother found a letter he wrote to everybody in the attic, among some paperwork. Although he died in February he had stopped going upstairs since the prior October. In the letter he expresses his inability to show his love at times. He dedicated an individual paragraph to everyone.
His wife, 4 children, and 5 grandchildren survive him.