What has found its way onto this page is a record of my memories, those that engrave my mind and sear my heart upon recollection. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited this long to write this. I always thought I would have more “time” with him, something we all tend to take advantage of…a lesson I’m coming to learn the hard way.
The better part of me (independent, free thinking and determined) and who I have become is a result of his direct influence. He is a handsome man, tall and strong in build with large eyes that hold the color that are still a mystery to geneticists. Hazel eyes are a mixture of two or three colors and can look different due to tone and variation on each person, but on my father they appear like two, giant, shiny, amber prism gemstones changing hues in different angles that can pierce your soul if you stared at them long enough. Passing years never seemed to diminish the glowing aura and charisma, he seemed to project. He has a resilience that both inspires and intimidates. My father has worked almost every day of my childhood life—some weekends included. He did his best to support my family and provide me with everything a child could ask for. My father made few demands of those around him and acted as the anchor to keep my family afloat.
I’ve often wondered where I’ve inherited my love for storytelling. Storytelling is one of the simplest forms of expression, being that stories are nothing more than an accumulation of personal and shared experiences. When it comes to captivating your audience and being a “good” story teller, you either have it or you don’t. For some people, like my father- this art form came naturally. He knows how to command and hold the attention of anyone he converses with. A skilled conversationalist, he didn’t simply recall an event — he’d often have the most detailed depiction of it through elaborate details and animated words that kept you wanting to hear more.
My earliest memory of my father was weekend trips to City Island. My Mom would dress up my sister and I in pastel dresses embroidered with flowers paired with ankle strapped, patent black shoes- so shiny you could see your own reflection–if you looked close enough. These outfits always marked for a special occasion. My hair would be combed into two pig tails with perfect, dark brown ringlet curls that framed my face like a doll. My father would drive us to the best restaurants near the Marina where he docked his boat “Smooth Operator” where we’d spend many summer weekends eating sandwiches and trying our hand at fishing. We often went out for seafood (my favorite), I’d get a Shirley temple with a cherry alongside my shrimp dinner while overlooking a view of the ocean and passing boats from afar. My Dad would somehow convince me there was alcohol in my drink; despite there not being any because I always tried to ask for a taste of his. I assumed early on that there was something I was missing out on when my parents ordered beverages which my sister and I alone seemed to be excluded from.
The summer air, sounds of clinking glasses and nearby table chatter filled me with a nervous excitement. The smell of my father’s cologne, the sound of his voice telling stories only my Mom seem to understand, their exchanged words drowning in sporadic laughter permeated the night. I’d smile as if I understood, too despite not knowing what was going on at all. I was happy enough to be present in the moment, watching their smiles with the occasional touch of his hand on hers. It was a world that I, through the binocular of my childhood years, watched and reached out with a small hand to touch as if attempting to hold-on to these moments forever.
We lived in a red, brick house in a borough of NYC in middle of a block with several other families. During the summer, I’d wait for my father to get out of work and there were a few times I ran after the wrong man who from the back I assumed was my father. Running back home disappointed and embarrassed as tears streamed down my face, searching for my father’s back in a crowd of passerby-ers returning home from rush hour, only to hear his car pull up in our driveway. Some days, he’d bring me miniature zip-lock bags of peppered shrimp from the Asian grocery or chocolates with cherries inside topped with a cream filing. My perspective of the world at waist level has never left me. Images of the past flash before my eyes, like a movie on the silver screen flickering up on an old, dusty projector, bits and pieces out of focus.
Obtaining my Father’s approval and acceptance was a common exercise amongst my siblings. We often rivaled each other for the coveted spot as his “favorite”- and each of us experienced a time in our lives where we felt we had fared the best before him. For me, that moment was in Autumn of 2013. I was in the midst of what I can clearly see now in retrospect as a “nervous breakdown”. I was scrawny, frozen over by confusion and a multitude of symptomatic neurosis like a doll slowly losing it’s stitching I waited for my Dad to put me back together again. One memory that stands out among the packed and away and purposely forgotten is moments before I was rolled into the hospital on a stretcher. The bright orange and fire red ambulance lights blared into my squinted eyes as mumbled voices asked me questions I could not barely comprehend. The first thought which struck my chest as a wooden pick would strike a vampire’s heart was when the one of the nurses said “Your Father is here” a sentence I could clearly understand out of all of the words which seemed suddenly foreign and hardly articulate. It was as if a lightening bolt hit my chest and I was suddenly ten years old all over again. I felt dizzy and could feel myself passing out, before I could see was a trail of brilliant colors from what I assume was the cars parked in the emergency parking lot. My father reclaimed my sanity when the dark abyss was ready to sweep me off to shore. The hardest thing is not being able to save someone who always saved you.
Our savior, idol and all nouns baring some definition to the highest point of authority- my father was the supreme figure in our lives. He had the ability to make us feel the most love or pain out of any single being in the span of our existence. The defining moment for me to begin writing more was upon my release from the hospital. I wrote my father a long, heartfelt email and he seemed awe-struck by my words. There was no better feeling in the universe than in that moment when I read his email back to me in response and approval. He knew I still had my “head on straight”. His encouragement echoed in my mind for days after that. The euphoric buzz I felt from his blessing kept me on cloud 9 for days. I hope that my words can heal and put a band-aide on the unsaid, unmentioned and forgotten pieces of my past that now looking back have caused me some of my happiest moments.