17 years ago Mom sat me down on my bed and told me we needed to talk. I could tell by her face and the tone of her voice that it wasn’t good news. She looked at me, grabbed my hand, and then said, “Honey, I can’t explain why and I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but your father won’t be coming home any time soon. Honestly, I don’t know if he will ever be coming home. And I know this doesn’t make sense and I know you might be upset…” The tears started to puddle in her eyes and all I could do was swallow back my own emotions.
Because she was right. I was confused. And I wanted to ask questions. But I was also thirteen and I didn’t know if I wanted to know the answers. I can’t remember where Heather was exactly. Volleyball practice maybe, out at a friends house. But there Mom and I sat and all I could do was say, “Ok.”
I trusted Mom. And I knew that whatever was going on she had her reasons. I was scared and angry, but there was nothing to be done. So I just accepted it. I remember being worried about Heather finding out because Heather is Heather and very different from me. She wouldn’t accept anything you or Mom said without putting up a good fight. And she loved to fight.
In my small, simple, adolescent mind I became immediately consumed with this concept that you and Mom were going to get divorced. And maybe you were. Maybe it was discussed. Maybe it wasn’t. But three days later it didn’t matter because you came back. And with your return there was a new weight to our home. Things had changed. Life had happened. And mom was hurting.
I remember her crying more often. The two of you whispering more often. And no one talking to us about any of it. I thought that one day–when I was older–it would all make sense. That we would have answers. That we would talk about it. But we haven’t.
And guess what, I don’t want to. I’m married now and I have skeletons of my own. And if there is one thing that my husband and I have come to understand it’s that not everyone can handle your story. Your truths. Or your mistakes. They can’t be trusted to understand, accept, or even forgive. You and mom figured a way out of it all and that’s all that matters to me.
Because you know what else I remember…
I remember you spending every afternoon with me for two weeks teaching me how to shoot free throws so that I could try out for the basketball team. I made the team because of that. I made the team because of you. And I am still to this day great at shooting free throws. Did you also know I tried out for you? Because you loved the game so much. Because you loved the Lakers. Because honestly, I sucked at the sport except for free throws.
I remember you never missing a single swim meet, volleyball game, basketball game, or softball game in all my ten years of being an athlete.
I remember you believing me when I said that the little ducks on the valance Mom sewed for my bedroom window truly did come alive in the middle of the night. And that they grew teeth and scared me.
I remember you moving me into my college dorm, wearing matching USA shirts with Mom, and running away after you hugged me goodbye. I remember Mom calling me two hours later to “check-in” on me and let me know you had both made it home safely and that you had also spent the entire drive crying. She told me your shirt was soaked with tears.
I remember you teaching me how to drive a car. Check my oil. Fill it up with gas. And how to get back into your Chevy truck and drive it home after backing it up into a Ferrari. Fifteen years later and I’ve never hit another car since.
I remember you sitting down at Mom’s sewing machine the night before Pajama Day in high school and figuring out how to take an old bed sheet of mine and turn them into wickedly cool hot pink pajama pants.
I remember you teaching me how to properly eat a pop tart: slightly toasted and topped with buttered.
I remember you calling me the morning after my wedding night to check-in on me. Because you were happy and excited and nervous. And it wasn’t weird or awkward. Because you loved me and you loved Hector and you just wanted to make sure we were ok. And we were. We were great 😉
I remember you calling the police when I was three hours late home from work because I was stupid and had gone to Jack In the Box with a boy. And was only two blocks away from home, but didn’t want to call and check-in because I wasn’t suppose to be out past 11pm. I remember that you’re leg was still in a cast and that you had gone to my work yelling and screaming that no one had walked me to my car that night. You thought something bad had happened to me. I listened to weekly jokes about my father and how he came inside the market waving his crutches in the air like a mad man. I loved you for that. Because I was a dumb teenager and you were a worried father.
I remember you pushing me for hours on the rope swing in our front yard. Teaching me how to ride a bike. How to hold my breath for long periods of time. How to cliff jump into Lake Havasu.
I remember how patient you were with me when I didn’t want to ride the rides that went upside down at Six Flags. How patient you were with me when I didn’t want to do anything that scared me or made me uncomfortable… which was a lot.
I remember the dozens upon dozens of days when we’d wait for you to get home from work and we’d cross our fingers hoping you had stopped at 7-11 to get us slurpees. I loved slurpees.
I remember the day I got my acceptance letter to San Diego State. I remember how worried you were about me going away to college. I remember you sitting down with mom and telling her that you couldn’t keep me from going because you thought maybe that’s where I was suppose to meet my husband. Seven days later, seven days after that terrible drive home where you cried for two hours straight from leaving me in San Diego I met Hector. Four years later we were married. Nine years later and you have Eliana, Roma, and Lucia as a result of being able to let me go. And find my life.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I remember it all, the good and the bad Dad. But isn’t that life? You had a temper, but you loved to laugh and dance stupidly to Elton John music. You didn’t go to church with us growing up, but you were always present. For everything. I always knew you’d be there and you always were.
While there were moments in life where you may have failed, you didn’t fail me. I love you so much Dad and I’m so thankful and grateful that you are mine.
Happy 32 years of Fatherhood. You’ve kicked ass every single one.