Sometimes you meet someone and you instantly click. That person for me is my best friend Patricia, AKA P-Funk. I feel like I’ve known her for a thousand years and we always seem to be the last two people laughing when everyone else has quieted down. I’m so fortunate to have met her when I moved from Orlando to Brandon back in 2008. She welcomed me into her family and I’ve come to know them as a fun and loving family.
When I first met P’s father, Raoul, it was a similar click to when I met P. He and I became friends on facebook and we joked about how would hang out without his wonderful daughter around because we got along so well and had similar tastes in random old guy music. Neil Diamond, of course. All three of us sat around one evening and talked about history and the Tampa Mafia. Raoul was a gentle Cuban giant. He was very tall and sometimes I couldn’t understand his accent and I’d have to ask him to repeat himself five times.
I had a holiday meal with P and her family one year. I made a pumpkin trifle. I didn’t think it was very good. And he was tickled by it. He always had a sparkle in his eye and that dinner was one of those nights where the conversation is so good you never want to leave. I’d like to say I contributed but he always had the best stories.
When he first became ill I told him I’d make him any dessert he wanted. He said “torrejas.” “Of course,” I said, “I don’t even know how to spell it!” But I immediately went home and googled it. Turns out, it’s really just a Cuban version of French toast. Whew! I made it for him and I think it came out ok, but even if it hadn’t, he would have never said a thing.

Sadly, Raoul, passed away on Saturday after a tough battle with cancer. Patricia said he didn’t lose the battle because he fought so hard and he died peacefully knowing that his family would be ok without his presence.

He was a wonderful person. Every time she and I raced and we’d see him he would want to know how we did and he always had a great story or joke to make everyone smile. I wish I had met him sooner and truly can’t say enough about how kind and fun he was. The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree because his daughter is such a beautiful  and kind person. I know first hand how tough the loss of a parent can be so my heart goes out to her and her family.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep on saying it, always remember to tell those you love how you feel. I’m certain Raoul knew how much he was loved, just as we know how much he loved. He was a big man with a big heart and the world was a better place for having him in it.