I learned one of the hardest lessons that I may ever learn in 2010. That was that if you snoop, you will find. I swore at that time that I would never snoop again but this time, in 2017, it felt different. Recently I grabbed my computer, propped my feet up in the bed and decided to look for articles from long ago about a boxer named Miguel, who happened to be my father. I typed his name into the search bar expecting some old article about his career or nothing at all. Instead, what I saw in the results of my search sent me into a bizarre state of uncertainty.
Some people know the history of an all too common baby being conceived and birthed with no presence of a father. In my case, not only was he not there to welcome me into the world, he was not there for any moments at all. No lessons about boys, no birthdays, congratulations for my accomplishments or pats on the back. The only memory I have comes from an impromptu flight that I took to get me to his doorstep in 2001 or so. I would not have even known where that doorstep was had I not paid some super sleuth to find him. I was 24 or so and interested in seeing the eyes of the man that my mom deemed “my father” for the first time. Although it was terrifying and awkward, I was so glad that I did it
As I type this, there is a single tear casually strolling down my right cheek. It is eventually joined by a slow trickle on the left side. Those drops started at the end of a phone call I made to Garza Memorial Funeral Home. See, the search of his name brought forth an announcement from that funeral home that he’d died in June 2011. That was within a year of my marriage dying. 2010 and 2011 were two of the most difficult years of my life. It was then that I learned not to snoop. They were the years I found myself digging deeper into faith, friends and family as I tried to piece myself back together after a twelve-year marriage collapsed. Little did I know that it was a year of loss for us both, my father and I. I can only imagine that while I was balled up in my chair at home instead of going to family functions that maybe, just maybe, he was balled up in the bed in pain. Or maybe there was no pain. Maybe as I slowly found peace within he passed calmly in his sleep. The announcement online stated that if anyone had information on his next of kin to please contact the funeral home. He had 2 next of kin, myself and a son who was older than me that lived in Cuba. I didn’t plan to contact the funeral home since 5 years had passed since the announcement was written but my husband and my dear sister both said I absolutely should, so I did.
Nene, the kind lady who answered the phone stated that they didn’t have much info on him. “What is his date of birth” she asked me. I tried to explain, without sounding like a stalker, that we were estranged. “I believe it’s February, not sure though, nor am I sure of the date if it is February” was my reply. I knew it once, when I was still wishing that we could at least remain in contact. That was after my three-day visit with him in 2000. It was after he committed to a blood test. It was after he failed to open the door the second trip that I planned, with his permission, to obtain the blood test in Texas. I knew his birthday during a short window of time when I wrote letters to him, sent him Christmas cards and such. It was before he stopped responding to my occasional calls or letters. I guess eventually his birthdate was obsolete, much as he was to my life.
That brings me back to me and this awkward space I’m in. Shedding more tears, which have now soaked my face, for a man who caused me so many years of tears seems as strange as it did when I wrote him that heartfelt letter at 21 years old. The ink hadn’t dried on the letter when I was reminded that he made the choice to be absent. In that moment I decided that my sadness was uncalled for. I quickly turned back into feelings of anger for the next several years. And then I met him. He was old but had a memory like an elephant. His home was modest but was border lining bare. He hadn’t spoken English in 20 years and he was intrigued by the sight of an India Arie CD we held in hand. He’d never seen a CD. He’d checked out of socializing and seemed oblivious to modern technology. The songs he played on his record player were ancient and he was just fine with that. We drank Miller High Lifes and went to an area Mexican restaurant. It as a short trip, and while he asked me to stay longer, I had to get back to work. Trust me I wanted to stay and connect more. I wanted to hear more stories. I wanted to continue to stare at him, like a portrait, to look for resemblances. I wanted to dine with him a few more times to see more movements and habits that we shared. Since work didn’t allow me to, I said my goodbyes and parted ways.
To this day I often times go between a myriad of thoughts and emotions when it comes to him. I have said before that it scares me to know that there is a high probability that he may die and I wouldn’t know. One of my worst fears seems to have come true. I guess even in the absence of a parent you have this internal feeling of connectedness towards them. It seems involuntarily and downright silly sometimes but had it felt like nothing, that would mean that I was back to my place of numbness. So today I celebrate you Miguel because without you there would be no me. I am grateful for life and this bit of unexpected news stands as a reminder that you must live every day intentionally. You remind me that Love is choice and when you chose not to Love those that Love you the most you may find yourself “buried in a remote location with no headstone”. That is what Nene shared with me about him. She said if I wanted to bury him somewhere different or cremate him they could do that. It saddened me to think of how lonely he must have been and it showed in his home, teetering between modest and bare. RIP old man, RIP.