Today is a special day. My father--who also happens to be my best friend--is another year cooler today. And wiser. And older. He's made me into the person I am today and I'm forever indebted into the time, money, and food he's invested in me. As I thought about this post, I challenged myself to think of three memories of my father that molded my perception of the world. And my backbone.
It was the first time. The first time I had seen him cry in my eight years of life.
My father had a decent paying job cleaning septic tanks. He drove a large truck and spent his days hauling waste, but came home with a smile. Sometimes, there'd be smut in the creases of his smile and I'd wipe them away with the palm of my hand. One day he discovered the company owner ran a side business under the table, which compromised my father's integrity. That same day, he quit. I remember standing outside my parents' bedroom staring at my father's back as it shook in correspondence with his heavy sobs. He sat by a window and the curve of his silhouette was sad.
That day, I learned my integrity never has a price.
On my tenth birthday, I broke my leg. Badly. Two bones to be exact. I was rushed to the hospital but for some reason, I wasn't allowed to have a cast placed on my leg. The doctors told my father that my leg would be placed in splint instead. Behind closed doors, the doctors explained to my dad that I'd endure quite possibly the most excruciating pain of my life. With a somber face, he walked back into the room and patted my hair that fell on the tear-stained pillow. He pulled off his sweatshirt and rolled the sleeve into a ball and placed it in my mouth. He told me to bite down when the pain comes. As the doctors worked my mangled leg into a splint, I screamed for dear life. The entire time, my father held the sweater in my mouth with shaking hands.
That day, learned pain can be transferred, and shared by two people.
He told us he wanted to do it by himself. It was time to shave my mom's head because the chemotherapy was causing her hair to fall out in large, red chunks. We five children sat downstairs and heard the hum of my father's razor come alive. Then all was quiet. My parents descended the staircase with matching bald heads, like two comrades fighting a silent battle.
That day, I learned love is counting every moment together as life's most beautiful gift.
Dad, happy birthday. Thank you for everything you are, and--especially--the person who aspire to be. I love you. And, yes, I love you even more than my Little House on the Prarie book set. And, as you know, that's a lot. Te amo y estoy muy orgulloso de ser su hija...