When I grew up, I revered my father, a man whose voice and charisma reassured his young son that he’d always be there even if he wasn’t there physically. Soon, I came to find out that he made similar promises to my brother who was 5 years my senior, my sister who was 6 months my senior, my brother who was 2 years my junior, my sister who was 4-5 years my junior, and a few others now scattered throughout NYC and Miami. I was fraught with confusion during my early childhood, but soon it grew into adolescent rage and virulent insecurity in my own person. My semi-annual phone calls or visits from him ranged from boring drop-offs to a new apartment with a new woman to promises often left unkept with an eventual empty-handed return home.
My mom did everything she possibly could to assure that I was on the right trajectory, but not without a few glitches. She couldn’t protect me from the mental scars my stepfather forged into my mind repeatedly. She couldn’t project that I actually had to learn social graces with the opposite sex, something my father did effortlessly. Not having my father there for me was only exacerbated by the fact that he had eight other children who may have felt the same way in varying degrees.
Yet, it’s because of those siblings that I found a way to let go of the pain left from that childhood. I can no more hang onto those memories than I can fault God for not keeping my parents under the same roof. It’s because of that struggle that I am the man I am today. It was almost like this higher spirit has been asking me to live and love passionately, and the first piece of that was letting go. I’m still learning, and the demons yell inside me more often than I would like, but I’m in a much better place than I was during my youth.
A big part of that was learning how to love myself, even as I look at the image of my father every time I look in the mirror.
The experience also gave me a perspective that I took into the classroom when no one else would accept some of the children into their spaces. They too gave me a perspective as to how to be a good father. As I’ve matured, I also had the opportunity to meet tons of positive men, and in their self-assurance, are also great fathers. They’ve all come from different walks of life, but they’re the best fathers they can be for their children. That’s what counts.
Now that I’m a future father, forgiveness and love are my primary objectives. I too forgive my father, even if he didn’t particularly ask to be forgiven. When I told him that he was going to be a grandfather again because of me, he nonchalantly said he was happy for me, and smiled in a way I felt over the phone.
Now that it’s going to be my turn, I know the best way for me to be there for him / her is to be the best me.
Jose, who wishes all the fathers a Happy Father’s Day …