June is the month to celebrate the fathers in our lives. Whether your father was present or absent, teachings still remain from that experience. In this post, you will read about two complex men that taught invaluable lessons to their daughters. Lessons we hope inspire you as well. You will hear from Yari first, followed by Xiomara.
Ahhh, my dad. My father had me at 25, during his second marriage. His first marriage gifted him two sons, who unfortunately were not in his life or mine. However, it must be said, it is something he is not proud of. It remains a wound in his heart. My father did not have an easy upbringing. Military father, deceased mother, abuse, financial lack, family separation…pretty much challenge was a recurrent theme in his life. Nevertheless, he was always in good spirit, even when he was not. As you can imagine, hardship and trauma leave behind wounds, some small, some big. My dad’s coping skill became expressed through his sexuality. So yes, infidelity was his standard for many years. It brought many tears to many of us, but it also taught me understanding. My dad now expresses love differently and handles his wounds differently. He is not perfect yet I admire my dad. We’ve had our misunderstandings and confrontations, but never have I stopped loving him and I never will. I am grateful he is still alive and that his young spirit wants to continue experiencing more of what this life has to offer.
So dad, this is for you. Thank you for these teachings!
Lesson #1: You can
I was 18, newly admitted to college. It was a Friday night and I wanted to go out, but none of my friends were sharing that same desire. I told my dad about it and he said, “Ok, then go out by yourself. Get ready, I’ll drop you off and pick you up later.” I replied, “Dad, you’re crazy, how am I going to go out by myself? That wouldn’t look right.” He proceeded to attempt to persuade me, and added that I’d probably meet other friends there. His attempts failed yet his advice remained helping me become an empowered woman. He has never believed in limitations and has always supported me, even when I didn’t do it for myself. Three years ago, at age 59, with cane and all, he hiked a volcano with me. It never crossed his mind to say no to the hour and a half trail. Picture below shows us on that day. I was scared way more than he was. I “surfed” back; whereas he walked himself down on that very inclined volcano slope, under a thunderstorm.
Lesson #2: Pursue your passion
My dad came from a financially limited family. He was one of 14 siblings, whose mother passed when he was two years old. As you can imagine, his dad was unable to provide for all of them, so eventually my dad moved out with his eldest sister, whom he grew to call mom. As a member of a “poor” family, social labels were something he confronted. My dad studied and worked, studied some more and worked a lot more. Eventually he became one of the best in his field. My dad built a career, one that he loves. He has three master’s degrees: Business Administration, International Marketing and Public Relations. He also completed his doctorate in International Education at age 60. By the way, he also graduated with a Bachelor of Law, at age 57. My dad has been a role model of pursuing your dreams regardless of your background, age or the amount of money in your pocket.
Lesson #3: Be true to you
My dad has made many mistakes, what some would even identify as fuck ups; however his wounds granted me the opportunity to grow and learn from them. Recently I had a conversation with him that resonated with me now more than ever. He said, “I want you to be happy. Don’t let others’ opinions stop you from your happiness. Whatever you do, know I support you. I just want you to be happy.” It has taken me some time, but I can now say I boldly pursue me. I am no longer concerned with being politically correct since I am more concerned in staying true to me and feeling happier, with mistakes and all.
None of us have it figured out. We shouldn’t. Life is about clear skies and thunderstorms, but most importantly, it’s about you enjoying yourself despite the weather.
I love you Daddy.
My father was understood to be a complicated man. A man with many talents and many insecurities. He was very much a nomad with a guitar and a heart for adventure. He fathered six children and we can agree that we all experienced a different aspect of him. Growing up, I didn’t necessarily see my father as the hero that could do no wrong. He was more of a teacher and a protector in his own way. He taught me the importance to detail, how to express myself through writing, and how to take leaps of faith. Some lessons he taught me directly, but most I learned by observing him and learning from his challenges.
From the time spent with my dad, the most memorable was the summer in Colombia when I was 15-years-old. One night, I was struck with food poisoning. I knew he hated seeing me in discomfort but he confessed that he loved being able to physically care for me for the first time in a decade. That night he slept on the floor next to my bed as he did when I had my tonsils removed when I was five. It was his way of showing me that I had the strength to heal on my own but with the comfort of knowing that he was by my side no matter what. Even if it consisted of being on a cold and hard floor.
Our drive to the airport was quiet and somber as we knew it would be another year until we saw each other again. When we arrived, the agent informed me that my visitation still had one month and if I’d like, I could stay in Colombia. Without hesitation, I said yes! The look on my father’s face was priceless, “Really? You want to stay with me?” Of course, I missed home but my soul must have known our time was limited. The additional three weeks God gave us allowed me to heal old wounds. It was the last summer I would see my dad’s smile.
That summer made up for the decade lost. We stayed up talking about life and reading each other’s poetry. I loved sitting in his music room and watching him play while I read my books. That summer, taught me the power of change and the power of forgiveness, both in myself and in others. I believe that is one of the reasons why I am as passionate about my field and the work that I do.
People can change for the better. People do change for the better. Sometimes, they just need you to have a little faith in their ability to make things right.
To my greatest and hardest lesson,
I miss you,
I love you,
And, I continue to hear your music in my heart.