My Father isn’t here to write to you so I wanted to take this opportunity to honor him.
Growing up my brothers teased me as brothers often do. The story goes that when he found out I was to be a girl he joked, “Send her back!” What’s more, due to complications during my birth I was told he left the hospital.
Because of that teasing, I never felt a connection with my dad. Don’t get me wrong, we had our good moments. He was affectionate and doting. I was daddy’s little girl. I just never felt like I was important to him because of the family banter. Until one day, the boys had teased me to the point of inconsolable tears. My dad found me and asked me what the matter was and why I was crying. “¿Que pasa mija, porque llora?”
I told him about the teasing and how the boys always said that I was supposed to be sent back. This time, the boys told me I was the reason for my parent’s separation and impending divorce. All because I was a girl.
He held me. I saw him cry for the first time in my life. I knew instantly that he shared this hurt with me.
He choked as he spoke the words in my ear that he loved me and there is nothing in this world that he would change about me. He sat and explained everything to me. He left the hospital because although he didn’t know me yet, he couldn’t bear to lose me. He said that he left because he felt useless, terrified that he wasn’t worthy to be my father. He confessed. He said he prayed and bargained with God to let us live and he would be there for me.
And until that day, I thought I wasn’t worthy to be his daughter. Now I see things differently. Now, I understand how he showed his love. Now, I know not to listen to others.
My dad wasn’t a perfect man – far from it, but he was my perfect father. With only a 6th grade education he knew how to help me with algebra. He taught me everything about his business, the books, ordering, inventory, preparation, staffing, etc. He conveyed the importance of an education and supported me to dream big. When we passed the prestigious university in our city, he would tell me that one day I would go to school at a place like that. His greatest lesson was to forgive; life is too precious to hold grudges. None of this was typical of men in our culture.
My father died a week before my 15th birthday. For young women in our culture, a quinceañera marks the transition from girl to young woman. The relationship with her father understandably plays a pivotal role. Daddy’s little girl becomes a young lady but like with most rituals, it’s not just about that day. It is about every moment leading towards it.
My dad’s influence, however short lived was essential to my life as a girl, a woman, a student, a professional, a mother. The first time he held me, I’m sure he felt the connection. I was his and he did all he could to keep his promise.