An Ode To Latin Dads

23 Jun

The last time I saw my father was for four consecutive days over the Christmas holidays.  On that fourth day he waited with me over 12 hours at Logan Airport as I waited for a flight to catch in the midst of a snowstorm.  We spent the majority of that time watching Netflix together via shared headphones on his iPhone. My head worked its way to rest against the fleshy area between his chest and his shoulder, and he kissed my forehead as I feel asleep to a Straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie.

That’s pretty much how interactions between me and my father go. He’s bit scary sometimes, so having heart-to-hearts about feelings and the future are intimidating.  I never know if he’s being supportive or judgmental, if he’s proud or disappointed, if he’s joking or being malicious. So most of the time we spend together is in comfortable silence.  It wasn’t always like that though.

I'm in that little corner being all like "Awww yeah!"

When I moved to the US from Santiago, Chile as a toddler, I never saw my father.  The engineering job that he was promised upon arriving fell through, and he had to find something quickly to provide for me, and for my mother who stayed behind.  So dad went to work at restaurants, working in the kitchen, over 100 hours a week.  I only saw him in the mornings when he would come see me at my aunt’s house, and on the weekends, where we would stay in a room at my uncle’s small apartment in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood (this was in the early 90s, when the neighborhood was made up of people besides college students from Northeastern).  My dad likes to say that when I was that age, I was certain that the only man in the world for me was my dad.  That I would marry him and we’d be together forever.  Twenty years later, that of course sounds totally creepy to hear, but I understand the sentiment.  And for me it was always true what Grease’s Frenchie would say, the only boy a girl can trust is her daddy.

Like any girl growing up, maintaining that type of wide-eyed relationship with my father was difficult.  He was tough on me academically, and became easily frustrated when I failed to grasp the concept of multiplying fractions. He would shake his head in disapproval when I would come in second consistently during the 50M Butterfly at a swim meet.  He is probably partly responsible for a messed up body image when it comes to my weight and appearance. Don’t even get me started on how pissed off he’d get when he’d have to show up in the middle of the day to bring me a change of clothes at school because I had a knack for forgoing restrooms until I was six.  We’d get into shouting matches with each other during family fights.  One which ended with my mother being MIA, and my dad crying profusely at the bottom of the stairs after yelling at me (that’s a whole other story … or stories, actually).  He wasn’t exactly the man that I imagined him to be at three years old.

But, I fucking love my dad.  So, after a botched attempt at a surprise Father’s Day visit when I did my best to not chop a Greyhound Bus worker into tiny pieces that I would then dump into the Potomac River, I decided to do it up this year.  So I lost a few hours of sleep here and there to spend a short 36 hours with my dad.  In that short time, we sat in comfortable silence as he had several post-food cigars, and listened to The Black Keys, and spoke to each other in secret mind signals through the contortion of our eyebrows as my mother went ahead and did something crazy.  Then I remembered, that my dad, regardless of how many times we fight or get annoyed at each other, or how many times I think I’ve disappointed him, I share with him something that I don’t have with anyone else.

What that “thing” we share is, I’m not exactly sure — but it’s beyond our genetic makeup.

On Father’s Day itself, my dad wasn’t able to rearrange his schedule to get the day off.  So he woke me up in the morning to shower as he headed off to work, and I had breakfast with my mother. In the afternoon, I walked into the little Mom & Pop Pizza shop that my father spends every day stressing about, and made my way into the kitchen.  It was back to a year ago.  Commanding orders, sampling delicious alfredo, watching hours upon hours of Soccer analysis and Univision.  That kitchen was where I spent my weekends from the age of 10 until now.  My dad put me to work with him on late nights, and sometimes we wouldn’t get home until close to 3 in the morning.  I hated it.  I wanted to be home early, and watch TV, and maybe eat some bread in front of the fridge too.

But it was those Sunday nights that were the best thing for my dad and I.  Made me grateful for his sacrifices, and sad too, that such an intelligent man with so much potential found himself struggling every day to run his business and give his daughter a beautiful house to live in, but probably spent a lot of his own time imagining how life could have been different, maybe better.

It was a fitting way to spend Father’s day.  So before I boarded my bus back to DC, I walked in, gave my dad a big hug and kiss, and inhaled the odd combination of garlic, Right Guard and sweat and went back to my Parent-less life in DC.

The only thing I forgot to do, was take a slice of pizza for the road.

Tis the Three of Us with our big Latin Heads

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2 Responses to “An Ode To Latin Dads”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The US Seems To Be Occupied By Members of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club Part 1: Domestic Violence « Notes Between Friends - February 20, 2012

    […] God bless Latin Dads, for they know that their daughters are princesses.  I’m not saying that there weren’t moments in my life where I was smacked on the bum, and the like, my family believes in corporal punishment — that’s just how it was done in the old country!  But never anything to the extent of landing me with contusions on my body and a first-name basis relationship with a social worker and the Emergency Room nurse.  Rather, this is what I’ve learned about Domestic Violence.  It’s what people do when they’re feeling threatened and powerless. […]

  2. Daddy Issues? Brainy-Types and My Sex List Checklist « Notes Between Friends - April 4, 2012

    […] we equally enriched each others lives.  It was a feeling that I had never really gotten from  my dad. For him, I was always, somehow, well … […]

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