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I don't often look back. Maybe it's an ingrained fear of being reduced to sodium and dust after too many Sundays spent listening to Father Ludo's monotone sermons, or maybe I just know the futility in the fleeting comfort of stepping into the past. But I don't look back. Then there are days like today, when the forward momentum of time intersects with the past so forcefully that I can't help but be thrown backward.
I've thought a lot about who my father was at forty-three lately, as today has been throbbing in the back of my mouth like a rotten tooth. I don't compare our lives -- I know better than to do something so naive -- as we walk separate paths altogether, but I do allow that door to open just a crack. I press my face to it like a child, excitement and fear coursing through me as though it were the greatest of amphetamines, my heart racing out of my chest and into the dark.
I hear the even baritone of his voice, and how the Spanish slipped off his tongue, past his lips and into the air as though it were a secret song. Those elongated syllables gilded with the history of his family, the pride and pain, and unadulterated love. How my own name sounded like magic when he spoke it aloud. I remember his hands, as strong and skilled as my own, and a smiliar shade of gold-brown. I remember the way his eyes and mouth would soften as he looked at my mother, even when she wasn't looking -- especially then. I still hear him calling to her in Italian, nearly unrecognizable on his Guatemalan tongue, and the sound of her laughter -- deep and echoing like sweet church bells. I feel the happiness, the longing, the deep buried grief cut through me like a hot knife.
The moment passes quickly, the tears are few, for as I miss the man who shaped my soul, I see glimpses of him in the newest generation of Santiago children. His eyes stare back at me, twenty years later in the face of a toddler who wants nothing more than to wrap his tiny fist around my fingers, pulling me toward a pair of pigeons in Washington Square. I hear his patience and compassion in my own voice, as I speak with a paitent even as I'm bone-tired and want nothing more than to go home. The dead never really leave us, but settle themselves in the deepest crevices of our lives. I suppose that is why today is so fitting -- the day of my birth was, indeed, his first Father's Day. Te amo, papi.
#birthday #fathersday #remember
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