The mantra for fathers like me is, “As long as they’re happy, we’re happy.”
Christmas time always has one dark cloud hanging over it with memories of my aunt who passed away almost twenty years ago, and now this year with my father passing away a couple of weeks ago. As a father, the stakes have changed. The inner turmoil I’ve felt has had to step to the side in favor of assuring happiness for my son, who’s now celebrating his second Christmas. His gifts get wrapped, the coquito (read: Latino eggnog) starts flowing, and the star atop our fresh pine tree.
That’s not how it worked, at least for a few hours.
Much of my sadness came from trying to be the best father / partner / friend / brother I can, and perhaps I hold too high a standard for myself, trying to do better than my father could for me and my seven other siblings from him. It can’t be boiled down to any one feeling or one moment, as I’ve had so many and so few with him at the same time. When I became a father, I had an idea how I wanted to father. I just didn’t understand what it would take to heal from the empty voids, and the potential that my father could impart some of his wisdom and charm is never more.
Shut up, Vilson. Get over yourself.
This is the moment when you need less words to say, more holding, shaking, and the compassion to know that it won’t be over, but it does actually get better. Until then, remember to love your loved ones, openly, furiously, and without the pride that might shield you otherwise.