Father’s Day was made for Rogelio Cardenas
Rogelio Cardenas and his children, Rogelio Jr. and Sarah, play soccer in their backyard this week, one of many activities they enjoy as a family. I David Banks~for Sun-Times Media
What is the most inconsiderate gift to give dad on Father's Day?
FAMILY: Rogelio and his wife, Noelia, have a daughter, Sarah, 8, and son Rogelio Jr., 4
OCCUPATION: Skokie Public Works employee
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:22PM
It’s not uncommon for people to dislike winter with its cold temperatures and messy falling snow.
But 8-year-old Sarah Cardenas has another reason.
“It makes me sad,” she says, seated beside her family in their cozy Skokie home. “I don’t get to see him as much.”
That him is her father, Rogelio Cardenas, who works in Skokie’s Public Works Department. During winter, when snow can require around-the-clock plowing, dad is not home as much.
Sarah and her brother, Rogelio Jr., 4, know life is not as fun.
“She misses him and she worries about him,” says his wife, Noelia Cardenas.
Rogelio remembers when his daughter said to him one day that she hates snow.
“I said to her, ‘I thought you were asking for snow because you wanted to play in the snow.’ She tells me she doesn’t like it anymore because she doesn’t get to see me.”
It’s just one example of how much Cardenas means to his family. If Father’s Day Sunday is meant to celebrate dads and the immense love they have for their children, then Rogelio Cardenas should be the poster boy.
“I consider myself a very, very lucky person,” Rogelio says. “People think money is everything, but it is not everything to me. Love and happiness are everything to me. There are people who have a lot of money but they don’t have happiness.”
Visit the Cardenas home on a warm spring day and you see that happiness. You may find dad and mom in the back yard with the kids kicking the soccer ball or shooting baskets. Maybe the kids are splashing around in the small plastic pool or Rogelio Jr. is reading a book — either in English or Spanish while his proud parents listen on.
The family spends lots of time together — they would have it no other way — and there is a noticeable warmth and connection among them.
Rogelio came to the United States from Mexico when he was only 16, but he would visit his hometown in Jalisco. Although 11 years her senior, Rogelio, 50, grew up with Noelia and would visit her when he returned home, which was often.
“He’s a very good person and I always knew that,” Noelia says, smiling.
They got married about 15 years ago, and after about a year, Noelia came to the United States. At Rogelio’s encouragement, she attended the Niles Township English Language Learner Parent Center, which she says made all the difference in the world.
Noelia didn’t speak English, but two years later, she was able to carry on conversations and get along fine.
The couple always wanted children, but they decided to wait until after Rogelio had hip-replacement surgeries.
Then Sarah was born, and as soon as Rogelio looked into his baby girl’s eyes, he had only one question: “Why didn’t we get her before? She brought so much happiness to our lives.”
Sarah is soon to be in the second grade, and she says one of her favorite activities with her father is when he helps her with homework.
For that matter, Rogelio Jr. says one of his favorite activities with dad is when he practices letters with him.
Perhaps it’s the patience and compassion Rogelio shows during these tutoring sessions that get through. But there’s also lots of fun times with dad, from riding bicycles together to the family’s first trip to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
Noelia says the kids are always a top priority with her husband.
When they are sick, Rogelio says, he wishes he were the one who was not feeling well. Rogelio Jr. was only 4 months old when he was hospitalized for a couple of days with chest congestion.
“We cried like babies,” Rogelio remembers. “But it was over Christmas and we just made the best out of it. The four of us were together.”
That’s when the most memorable times happen in this family — when everyone is together.
Ask Sarah what makes Rogelio such a good daddy and she says softly, “He loves us and he plays with us a lot.” Rogelio Jr. adds, “He has a lot of energy.”
Rogelio and Noelia each come from large families. They decided their own family would be smaller — in part because they wanted to give their children “all the things we could not have.”
For Rogelio, happiness is always measured by family.
“To me as a father,” he says, “as long as I see my wife happy and my kids happy, and as long as I see them healthy, everything else is a plus because they are my happiness. They always will be.”