Today is the anniversary of your death, and I miss you. I thought I would write you a letter now since we never got the chance to sit down and chat. I want to say that I love you, and I am so grateful that I can learn from the impact you had on me. After hearing stories from so many people around the world, I now understand that you wanted to be there for me, and it must have been deeply agonizing missing moments of my life. I realize dads are human, and I know you were trying your best to be my dad. Our relationship was difficult, but it has helped lead me to this opportunity to visit 20 different countries this year studying fatherhood. Your path as my dad and Mom’s dedication inspired me to begin asking people how they were impacted by their dads. People have really benefited as much as I have from talking through it with me, and many of these people have permitted me to share their story about their dad with others. Sharing these experiences about fatherhood across cultures could help the next generation of all parents learn, grow, and do better than the last.
This journey has taken me to Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Uganda, South Africa, United ArabEmirates, Jordan, Israel, Thailand, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and a few days ago, I flew over Antarctica to celebrate the new year and it was breathtaking. I got on a double decker plane in Melbourne at 5 PM on New Year’s Eve, and by 10 PM I was looking at the puzzle pieces of ice floating on the edges of Antarctica. The atmosphere was electric like a cruise ship with a band walking the aisles playing “When the Saints Go Marching in.” Most of the passengers looked like they had retired and decided to take this trip in the second half of life, whereas I was taking it during the first half. Everyone on the plane walked around the aisles to get a better look at the snow-covered mountains from the window. The entire experience was like a dream. I could not look away from the icy landscape still sunny at midnight during the countdown to the new year. I felt like the complicated worries I have about my trip or my career or my future family melted away. I just felt content reflecting on all the beautiful places seen and amazing friendships made this year.
The greatest gift this year has been the people I have met. You would have loved all the families who opened their doors to me from different countries around the world even though I was a stranger. It is never easy saying goodbye to a family when I leave, which makes this trip so difficult. I have no idea when I will be able to return because when I return home, I begin working and, well, life happens and time runs away. I hope to keep up with these families in the future even if it’s brief to show my gratitude for what they have done. It is also difficult showing up in a new place with a new language and new people and feeling lonely at first. However, these challenges have helped me gain an understanding of who I am and learn how to deal with the frustrations of things not going according to plan. I feel like I am making you super proud just by persevering until the next fun adventure presents itself on this journey.
Sometimes, I wish we could talk about what you were doing when you were 22 years old. Where were you? Did you know what you wanted to do with your life then? How were the young ladies you got to know in those fun years? There is so much I would have loved to learn from you. That advice I needed came from Mom and Granny and my sister, Raquel, as well as other mentors, but your story would be unique and full of great lessons that could guide me now. I have learned a few lessons about fatherhood by interviewing people. A general trend across continents has surfaced in these interviews on how to be a good dad: show up, listen, share, empathize and adapt. I think these are great principles to live by in any relationship. The difference these principles have made for the people I have met encourage me to pay more attention to them now as I meet more friends and before I have my own family. Thankfully, when I have my own family, I will only have these principles as a reference. Also, I will have a happy story of how I grew to understand our circumstances and that I am not defined by my father's decisions.
I am still not sure where life will take me, but sitting on that plane surrounded by people in their second half of life I gained a better understanding of what I want when I am in their position. I am sure you can relate to a few. I want thousands of memories tucking my kids in at night. I want my family and friends to know that I love them and they can count on me. I want to do something good with this experience and opportunity in my career to make a real difference. Finally, I want to be the son my mom worked to raise, the partner my wife can count on to help her feel happy and fulfilled, and the father my kids need.
Dad, I also want to say that I hope you were not too hard on yourself. Again, I love you and I miss you especially today. Parenting is tough and no one gives you a manual when you have kids. Parenting challenges you in more ways than you’ve ever been challenged before; sometimes it is difficult just trying to decide what to do, let alone doing it. I am so happy you are my dad, and I am grateful to have this chance to finally write to you even though you are gone.
Sending love always,