Many people are unaware of the unique relationship I have with my dad, so when he showed up at my college graduation it surprised a lot of you. My dad has always been a part of my life; except for the years he went completely M.I.A.
My parents split when I was a toddler and up until the age of 6 (roughly) my mom would use me to her advantage to get whatever she could. So he left. He stopped coming to visit. He stopped calling. He stopped sending packages and he stopped watching me grow.
Because of my dad’s situation, I was afraid he was no longer in the United States. I was certain I would never hear from him again and I resented my mother over the years for it.
On my fourteenth birthday, I remember the house phone ringing and my grandma handed me the phone.
“Hello?” I answered, expecting someone from my mom’s side of the family to sing happy birthday.
Instead, I heard a familiar voice say, “Hola Mija,” and I burst into tears.
He remembered. After all those years my dad remembered my birthday and most importantly, he was still in the country, in Georgia, where my mom left him when I was a toddler. We talked for hours. I didn’t want to let him off the phone; afraid he would never call again.
Even though I had been a little girl the last we spoke and I was now a teenager, I understood why he did what he did.
A year later he came to New York to visit me. I had my dad back. We spent a few days together and then back he went to Georgia. I was sad, but happy to know that my relationship with my father was being rekindled and this time I was old enough to be in control of it.
He shared stories with me of when I was a baby and one that really stood out to me was the story of me waiting. He told me about how he would go to work and when he would return I would be sitting in front of the door. As if I had been waiting for his return all day. I laughed at the story, but cried inside because that little me would always be waiting for his return.
We communicated only through phone calls until I would see him again at the age of 18 – a month before going away to college. I went to Georgia and something amazing happened. I was transitioning from that teenage girl to a young lady and I was noticing things. Even though there were times I felt like he still seen me as that little girl, I noticed how my dad spoke to me. I noticed how he listened. I noticed how he respected me. By the end of our time together, I felt like something in me had been fulfilled. My dad was sending me off to college with knowledge of how a man should treat his princess – no exceptions and for that I was thankful.
The next trip I made to Georgia was during the summer before my senior year of college. He flew me out and once again we were learning about one another and reminiscing all at the same time. After a few days my heart filled with hurt once more as we said goodbye. I boarded my flight back to New York, but not without him, promising me to be there for my big day. Graduation.
I could not have been happier to have him there. In fact, all my friends commented on my huge smile the entire day. I was graduating college and my dad was there to watch. He cried and hugged me, but it wouldn’t be long before I would also be crying.
On my last day with him before he left back to Georgia I tried my absolute best to put on a brave face as I hugged him goodbye. After all, I should have been used to it right? Wrong.
Recently, my dad has expressed to me his desire to go back to Mexico to be with my grandmother. Even though I am extremely happy and excited for him to be with her, I am also saddened at the same time.
It never really hit me until his recent visit. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree was a big deal for me, because I am the first in my family to do so, and to have my dad present meant so much to me. If he goes back to Mexico, there is a great chance that he will not be able to come back to the states. Which made me think, what about all my other big days to come? What will happen if I get married? Have kids? Graduate from grad school? This is where I began to cry like that six-year-old girl I was years ago. I was hugging my dad and saying goodbye, like it was the last time. These are things we have never had the chance to discuss, but under no circumstances would I allow him to change his mind. I am so grateful for the time we have spent together and it will forever make up for the lost time. I know abuela needs you now, more than I do, but even so I still would like to say thanks dad.
Thank you for loving me, thank you for caring, thank you for treating me like a princess, thank you for showing me my worth, thank you for talking to me with kind words (even when you are upset). Thank you for making me feel like I can do anything, thank you for believing in me. Thank you for the laughs and the smiles. Thank you for wiping away my tears. Thank you for your hugs and kisses, but most importantly, dad, thank you for coming back for me… when you could have walked away for good.