With the World Cup in Brazil going and Father’s Day happening all around me (and for me), I’m reminded how, once or twice a year, I’d spend hours watching my father watch soccer in my grandmother’s (his mother’s) house in Brooklyn. I didn’t get why it was so exciting, especially since the Italian league games often ended in nil ties and shootouts back then, but he’d try to run down the best teams. For him, it didn’t even seem to matter who was on Telemundo for the matches as much as it was actually on TV for him to watch.
Over time, I learned that it was a much more fun game to play than to watch. In middle school, I dabbled in futbol (defense) since it seemed to be the only team I could legitimately get on in middle school. I remember my father playing futbol with his friends at a company party and me thinking, “I doubt I’ll be as good as he is,” and to a certain extent, that was true. But I rarely got to see him play because I rarely got to see him period. I relied on my peers and coaches to take me through understanding the game, one I didn’t even try to pursue on a serious level.
The thing is, I’ve been through a series of emotions every father’s day, from longing to anger to disappointment, and recently, understanding. This one is perhaps my most reflective because, as bitter as I could have been for the oft-detached relationship we had, I’m cognizant of the things he left behind for me. My father’s passing this past December only made these feelings more concrete.
As a father now, I’m even more aware of the things I leave behind for Alejandro, and hoping that they will be plentiful. Before I even became a father, I constantly tried to measure myself as a person trying to be a better father than he ever was, but all that did was dig me deeper into my resentment. Now, that hole is full with the love I have for my son, and the way I consistently measure myself as a father against … myself. It’s been the best way to heal, and that might be the best gift I’ve gotten this year.