“if i could see your face once more”

You learn something when your estranged father passes. It’s like losing sight of something from your peripheral – you understand that something is missing in your field of vision, but you can’t place just what it is. And the more you look around, the more you realize its absence. The more you begin to comprehend that this random item in your life meant more to you than you were willing to admit.

I think about my father more these days than in the years before his death. He remained in the edges of my life – estranged, always there, but never present. In those days, there was an option to reach out and grow a relationship. Though, there is little regret in the way I handled our relationship – it was a two-way street after all.

There isn’t a doubt in mind that my life might have taken a different path had my father just tried a little harder. Or if I had in my adult years. However, it’s a life I cannot envision. Javier may have not been the best father figure in my childhood, but I will no longer dwell on that. Why mourn what I never had instead of being grateful for the days I did?

Stream of Consciousness

Disjointed Text

We’re told to write what we know, but what if all we know fits comfortably in the torn pockets of tattered, unpressed jeans? What if all we know is scattered by the wind, blowing through the streets of familiar cities in unfamiliar territories? What if all we know are faces of people whose names we don’t recognize? The final chords of a ballad, but not the lyrics? Handwritten journals, but not the pens we used? Or the words we spoke? What if we remember the first dates, but not the last nights? Or the last kiss, but not the goodbyes? What if all we know is the abandonment, the pain? What if we can’t remember the words our fathers spoke before they turned their backs on us? Or the scent of our mothers as they embraced us? What if we remember our abuelas’ faces, but not their voices?

We’re told to write what we know, but what if all we know comes in the form of a pill? Easy to hold, but hard to swallow? What if all we know are emergency rooms and people killed by intoxicated drivers? If all we know is explaining death to our children, how do we manage to suss it out on paper?

We’re told that in order to empathize with a person’s situation, we must first walk a mile in their shoes. But how many of us would leave our homes behind and lock ourselves in cages? How many of us would allow our children to be stripped away from our arms and watch them get shipped off to who-knows-where? Would we stay up at night wondering if they’re still alive?

We’re told that a person makes memories, not the other way around. We are not situations, our misfortunes. That we’re not where we come from, but where we’re going. What if we travel this world without a map? What if we spun a globe and headed to wherever our fingers landed? I spent too many nights navigating the trenches of my personal war, wondering whose bed I’d awaken in. And what if that is all I know?

We’re told to write what we know, but all I know are other men’s wives. I know the sad embrace of my son’s anxieties and how they must’ve manifested from my own. I know the only relationship with my father went from watching him at a distance to watching him die. All I know is holding her hand after a fatal car accident. All I know is not telling her how I feel whenever we’re together.

They told me to write what I know, but it’s the things that I don’t know that keep my attention. I know the smile that spreads across her lips and the words that flow from them, but I want to know the way they feel pressed against mine. I recognize the patterns of my own depression, but I would like to know if its portrait is beautiful from afar. I know the path well-traveled and beat up sneakers. I know the shortcuts and the scenic routes. And I know what it’s like to be the bad guy, to be the other man. And the lessons I learned from each of my mistakes.

I learned that there are no such things as regrets when I stopped trying to fill the void inside me with the misery of others.

I stopped trying to fill the void inside me with the misery of others.


“If I don’t make it known…”

I walked around my good intentions/and found there were none/I blame my father for the wasted years, we hardly talked/I never thought I would forget this hate/then a phone call made me realize I’m wrong…

The nightmares come often; I just don’t talk about them. I don’t write about them. There are no entries in my journal or one this page. I mentioned them on Twitter a few times, but not anymore. A nightmare is only as strong as you let it, right? It’s a repetition of that night, almost a year ago. There are alterations. A director’s cut. Alternative scenes and endings. In one of them, the others await for me. In another, none of them are there. One plays out like the night did, only she doesn’t make out of the OR. And darker still, I wasn’t on vacation. And he wasn’t with me that night.

I’m not stranger to nightmares. At a young age, I was plagued with sleep paralysis. And if you’ve never experienced that, I envy you.

When she was in the hospital, I’d put Shaun to bed and wait until I knew for certain he was asleep. Then I’d lie there and cry. Or I’d cry in the shower. Or I’d sit in the chair and cry. As the nights wound up, after the funerals, after the time spent in her room in the ICU, things started to even out. The mourning was still there, but the smiles at work weren’t false anymore. At least, not all of them.

Because that’s the thing about nightmares. When you live them. When you live with them. If you live within them. You have to put on a smile otherwise others will know.

I walked around my room no thinking/just sinking in this box/I blame myself for being too much like somebody else/I never thought I would just bend this way/then a phone call made me realize I’m wrong.

“My dad is dying.” Do you know how strange it is to type those words? In my adult life, I don’t think I ever referred to him as Dad. Father, sure. Javier, always. But Dad? I can’t remember the last time I called him by that name. I know I was a kid.

He’d been sick for a while now. Mom informed me of his doctor visits. When things with his leg to a serious turn, we spoke about the possibility of amputation. Things have a way of progressing. Symptoms and sickness have the tendency of getting worse.

I avoided visiting him in the hospital until last Friday when Mom told me his heart rate wasn’t improving. The leg, amputated. His heart stopped a couple of times before the surgery.

“Look who came to visit you today,” my mom said as we walked into his room in the ICU. Room 10. Jeanna stayed in Room 4 last year.

My father searched my face for some recognition. Something that would give him a hint. Of course he wouldn’t recognize me. It’s been at least a decade since the last time we saw each other. I’m older now. Wider. Tired.

“It’s Willie,” she told him. “He came to visit you today.”

And there it is. It’s weak, but it’s there. The flicker of light in his eyes. The twitch of his lips as he tries to smile.

They were transporting him to the hospice that night. There would be a room made up for him for his final days. It’s where I saw him today. But the smile was gone. Not that he wasn’t glad to see us. No, I’m sure he appreciates that. It’s just that finality of it is hitting him, I’m sure.

I sat by his bed, not saying anything. Just taking it in. I scroll for the picture of Shaun on my phone. Jeanna sent it earlier. Before I arrived at the hospice. Before I saw the look of defeat on my father’s face. He has his first pet goldfish. Seth and San, he called them. And a part of me wants this to be a normal father and son moment. One of those moments on TV when the torch is passed down.

“Hey look, Dad. It’s Shaun. His first pet goldfish. Remember the goldfish we had when I was that age?”

And that’s when it sinks in. Because, yeah, we had goldfish. Yeah, for a time, we lived under the same roof. But I can’t conjure up the memories we shared together. Sure, I remember the anger. The drunkenness. The shouting. The leaving. I remember running after a rusty Dodge pick up because I thought, for a second, that it was him. Because most of our father/son relationship was me stealing glances of him from afar.

I tried to remember putting my hands on both his cheeks and just looking into his eyes, exploring what lies beneath much in the way Shaun does with me. I tried remembering lying in bed with him, slowly falling asleep, or just talking about whatever popped into my child mind. But there’s nothing there. Just an empty void.

And it’s not anger that I feel now. And I wonder if it ever was anger that I felt. Perhaps my teenage brain misinformed me. And maybe my twenty-something brain didn’t comprehend that I couldn’t forgive someone who I was never angry with.

I just know that I’m not ready to lose him permanently.

And I if I don’t make it known that I’ve loved you all along/Just like sunny days that we ignore/Because we’re all dumb and jaded/And I hope to god I figure out…


Thoughts on Shaun Starting Pre-K

Shaun started school a couple of days ago. He’s getting older, and that scares me. Puts it in perspective, don’t it? How the time has just slipped through my fingers. Watching him grow without realizing it. And still, I find myself in complete awe of the fact that he’s mine. He’s this extension of me. And when he sleeps in my bed on those weekend nights he stays over, I still find myself waking up in the middle of the night. I study him for seconds, sometimes minutes. Making sure his heart beats. Making sure he’s still breathing. Does this ever go away? I hope not. I hope there is never a time when I wake up and he’s just routine. Just a fixture in my life. And while it’s inevitable that he’ll grow distant from me. He’ll no longer see me as this grand person, this super hero, this protector. I beg never to stop feeling this way.