I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad this week. Well, honestly, I think about him all the time, but this week more than others. On Sunday, I had a dream that he died. In my dream, I knew he was dying but I avoided going to see him at the hospital during his last couple of days because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of saying good-bye. Then after he died, his spirit came to me. I expected his spirit to be loving and understanding but he wasn’t. Instead, he made me feel guilty for the choice I made in avoiding the hospital. I woke up in a panic at 6:00AM and contemplated calling to check on him. (He lives in Buenos Aires and I only see him about twice a year.) I decided not to call and instead began to cry as I told my husband about the dream. Later on that day, I called my dad and told him about the dream. He laughed at me. It’s not the first time I’ve had a dream that he dies and I call him about it. He always gets a kick out of it and likes to ask questions about what he said or did in the dream.
Suddenly in the past few months, my three-year-old daughter has become hugely enamored with my husband. She went from being a mama’s girl to a daddy’s girl overnight. She not-so-gently broke my heart when she adamantly declared “Me love Papi” after I told her “I love you.” The next day when I asked her for a kiss she told me “No. Me kiss Papi” and ran to kiss him instead. As we sat together at the dinner table this week, I saw her lovingly gaze up at her daddy while she rested her head on his arm. She is officially in-love with him. I had expected it to happen one day, but I did not expect to feel the satisfaction that came with it. So I have been wondering why do I like seeing her develop a crush on her daddy?
This morning my daughter grabbed my hand and pulled me to the living room to dance with her. As we shimmied to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, she stood on my feet to dance. She had never done that before with me (or anyone else that I can remember). As we giggled and laughed (and I got a serious workout), I had a sudden flashback of doing the same thing with my dad A LOT. I know it’s a normal kid thing to dance on your parent’s feet, but I had completely forgotten. As I did my best to dance with my 33lb toddler on my toes, I reminisced about my dad and what a truly beautiful, fun childhood I had with him. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t always sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows, but the positive childhood memories with him stand out more than the negative. And that’s when it occurred to me why I am feeling such satisfaction in seeing my daughter with my husband…because I remember what a great feeling it was to be in love with my dad. I remember that I wanted to marry him. I thought he was so smart, funny, and handsome. I was in awe of him and so very proud to have him as MY daddy; proud to be his daughter. It thrills me to no end that my daughter is experiencing the same joyful feelings.
I recently spent some time reading online articles about how women get their positive self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, etc. from having had healthy relationships with their dads early on. Reading the articles (too many to list) reaffirmed to me that although my dad made a lot of mistakes after my mom died, he also did a not-too-shabby job with me during my first 16 years. I believe that one of the reasons we were able to make our way to the relationship we have now is because of the foundation he laid early on. The articles also reassured me that I chose a great husband with the ability to be a phenomenal father to his little girl.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, because I see them as all the good things that came out of the bad things I went through. After I lost my mom, I never thought life would be good again for me. When I was fighting left and right with my dad during those years, I never imagined we could be where we are today. When I was mending my broken heart, I didn't think I would ever recover and eventually find my soulmate. When I was suffering through infertility, it seemed impossible that one day I’d have a child. Life throws us curve balls but it’s up to us to see it as a good game despite the challenges; to find the benefits those curve balls gave us.
Just before we left for Buenos Aires in December 1987, my dad did the unthinkable. He helped his girlfriend Felicia move into our house. According to my journals, he had been warning me for a month or two that it was going to happen. I wish I could remember what my response was but I don’t. I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant one. I can also assure you that I didn’t give Felicia a warm, fuzzy welcome when she moved into my MOTHER’S home. I now had the person I detested more than anyone else in the world living under the same roof with me and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Those two months (January 1988 – March 1988) that I stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house were divine for me. It was the first time in over a year that I had lived in a stress-free, tension-free home. But sadly, when my dad and Felicia returned from Argentina, I had to leave my little piece of heaven and return to hell. I might as well have lived in a hotel, because that is what I treated my house like. I didn’t live in a house. I lived in a room. I only came out for food and bathroom needs. The rest of the time, I spent it cooped up, pretending that the big bad wolf was on the other side of the door.
I vaguely remember that Felicia went to work so early in the morning that she was usually home by the time I got home after school. So, instead of going home after school, most days I would go hang out with my cousins at their house. (To refresh your memory, I was going to Cypress High School with my cousins but living in Santa Ana, 13 miles away.) I tried to avoid having to be home alone with Felicia at all costs. I would try to time my arrival at home to be similar to my dad’s. When she moved in, my home became tainted with negativity. I no longer looked around my home and saw happy memories of my mom and me. Instead, I saw a place I despised and in which I felt like I didn’t belong.
Felicia was not a motherly type. She didn’t attempt to be my friend or to approach me (a grieving teenager) with love and compassion. I believe she viewed me as a threat and an obstacle in the way of her new relationship with my dad. She also may have been reacting to my resistance. I’m sure my behavior played a part in hers. However, because I longed to be mothered and nurtured, I think it might have been remotely possible for her and me to develop a friendship over time. (Spoiler Alert: That never became the case. She was and remained my enemy #1 for the entire duration of her relationship with my dad.)
What I most remember about Felicia are the following:
- She was a big tattletale. She jumped at the opportunity to tell on me. If I didn’t say “hello” to her when I got home, she tattled. If I said “hello” but wasn’t sweet enough, she told on me. If I wasn’t gracious to her guests, she ratted me out. If I left the house without saying “good-bye”, if I didn’t clean up after myself in the kitchen, no matter what I did or didn’t do, she found something to complain about to my dad. The infuriating and hurtful part was that he always came after me for every accusation she made. In other words, she caused a lot of arguments between my dad and me.
- She thought she was fancy but she really wasn’t.
- She had a crooked hip, big puffy lips, a deep voice, fat fingers, and she could fart like a truck driver.
- I hated her and she hated me.
Although life at home was dreadful, my life outside of home was pretty fun. In June 1988 I graduated from High School. That late August, I started school at Cypress College with my oldest cousin and her best friend. By September, I had made my own new group of friends and rarely saw my cousin and her best friend at school that semester. My new friends loved music and dancing as much as I did and we often went out to parties and 18 & Over Clubs.
One of the parties I vividly recall was a Halloween party. The hostess had a 17-year-old brother who was the DJ. The family was Mexican and very warm and welcoming to me - a fellow Latina. The DJ’s girlfriend was at the party too. It was my first time meeting her and she was upset and crying because her boyfriend (the DJ) was “being a jerk” to her over her tight red devil costume. It was too “sexy” for a party with his parents present in the home. I comforted her; told her not to let him tell her what to do; told her she had a right to wear the costume of her choice and gave her a big hug. We posed for pictures together too. When I met that boy, the DJ, I didn’t know that I was meeting my future husband.
Life doesn’t turn out how we plan or expect. Things happen the way the universe wants them to happen. When I was 14, I thought I was going have to be a rebel and protest my mom’s strict ways for the rest of my life. Instead, she died when I was 16. When I was 16, I thought I was going to marry Robbie someday. Instead, I broke up with him when I was 18. When I was 18, I thought I’d never find love again and had made the worst mistake of my life in letting him go. Instead, I met my future husband five months later at a Halloween party.
Today, a friend shared a graphic that perfectly suits so many aspects of my life. I love it so much and think it’s so funny that I want to share it too.
We may not always get our way, but it’s usually for good reasons that only the universe knows at the time. Later, it’s up to us to find the lessons in it all. It’s up to us to see the good that came out of the bad. If you look hard enough, it will show up for you like it’s shown up for me over and over, time and again.
|May 1988 - Prom with my last minute date|
because my original date was supposedly
thrown in jail just a few days before the big day.
Bless this boy's heart for rescuing me!