A rushed painting of my dad hangin' out with Charlie Bronson.
It was Christmas Eve in 2006.
My family still lived in our house on 81 Carlton Ave in Jersey City. The house was a mighty piece of work, that looked like it dated back to the 1930s or possibly even before that. I've already written a love-blog to the house in a different blog. Maybe I'll try to find it and post it here or something another day.
I was steadily, nervously standing outside my parents room. It was a chilly night in the attic, so I decided that it was time to do it because it had been bothering me for such along time. Most of high school, in fact. The thing was that I couldn't get myself to do anything about it, despite how bad it was affecting me. Stephanie was with me that night to help steady my nerves, and without her, I would have never even taken myself seriously in doing it. But, there I was. I was standing on the dingy, brown carpet that had been installed the first week me, my mother and my dad moved into 81 Carlton Avenue fourteen years prior. (Noel wasn't born yet.) The same dingy brown carpet that I had run around on when I had nothing to do during the summers. The same brown carpet that I sat on the edge of the stairs when I tossed some action figures and toy cars down the stairs, emulating some action movie I had seen that year. I was standing outside my parents room, nervously shivering, as I peered into the crack between the door and the wall.
I was going to do it. For the first time in five years, I was going to have a real conversation with my dad.
It was 2006 and I was trying to open the door to my parents' room. It wasn't easy. I would reach for the knob. I would pull back. I would reach, then pull back. I kept fighting myself that he would make nothing of how I felt and what I thought.
"I can't do this," I thought. I walked into the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, and Stephanie followed me in. She encouraged me saying that it wouldn't go away if I didn't speak to him. As I silently cried into my hands, I re-realized that she was right. I sat there a little while as Stephanie continued rallying my spirits.
Eventually, I was back there at the space before the door, nervous and terrified.
I softly pushed open the door.
I watched my dad lying down on the bed I got my diapers changed on. My dad was lying down by himself watching television. He didn't notice the door open. He must have been interested in what he was watching.
I inched closer to the bed.
I asked my him, "Dad, can we talk?"
He asked me what was wrong.
I told him that it had been a long time since we were very close, and that it had been a long time since we talked.
I told him, "I miss you."
As I said those three words, I started to break down. My dad sat up and opened his arms for a hug. I rushed towards him as my nineteen-year old tears came rushing out my genetically-concealed tearducts.
I cried into his ugly holiday sweater for a while before I asked him, "Did I do something wrong to make us stop talking? Was it my fault? I'm sorry."
He responded as he petted my head, "No, it wasn't your fault. You didn't do anything wrong."
Minutes later, my dad told me, "I love you."
You would think that our father-son relationship would have developed more after that late, holiday moment, but the events that came almost immediately after that didn't add more space to the pot. News of Arizona didn't add water to the plant. The exodus from the only home I loved for fifteen years didn't give us oxygen to thrive on.
I didn't understand it for a while, because I was still trying to talk to my dad, but my dad wasn't exactly trying to talk to me. I was doing a majority of the work trying to establish a connection with him, but he wouldn't really elaborate on much of anything. Maybe I wasn't asking the right questions. I mean, there's an obvious difference in how my dad talks to my friends compared to how he talks to me. I must be doing something wrong.
That day in June, the third week of living in this apartment, when I was breaking down in the bathroom in front of my mother, is when I started to understand.
I was breaking down because my family was moving to Arizona in less than a month. My mother was cycling through the reasons why I shouldn't be sad about it. She was telling me that everything would be okay, and that everyone else in the family was hurting just as much as I was.
I was crying again because of the statement she was about to say. As soon as the words, "Your father," left her mouth, I couldn't help myself.
My mom told me about how my dad would do anything for me. How important I am to him. She detailed about my infancy and beyond: "When you were still a baby, daddy would go straight home after work. He would shower and he would go straight to you. He would play with you as soon as he got home. He bought you so many toys. Remember that Power Wheels Jeep? He got that for you. He looked so happy whenever he looked at you. When you grew older, whenever you needed anything, he gave it to you. He never said no to anything you needed. He doesn't do that for Jonar; he doesn't do that for Noel. To him, you are number one. He loves you so much."
"He may not know how to talk to you, but it's not his fault. You know his own dad died when he was still a boy. He didn't really have a proper father figure...but he is still your father. He's not perfect, but he tries."
I don't think I cried that hard in a while.
Technically, my dad isn't moving to Arizona, yet. He's going with my family to help them get established and connected with the community by registering for schools and other things. He's going to be officially transplanting after December this year. However, hopefully, our communication, our relationship, as father and son, will grow and nurture itself. I know it won't happen overnight, or within a year, but I'm always hopeful.
I've always told myself that I didn't want to be like my dad. In many ways, it's true. I don't want to be distant from any children I may produce. I don't want to be distant from my wife. I don't want to sacrifice time with my family for much of anything.
But I would do anything for them.
The main reason why I love my dad is because he does do everything for us. While it may have temporarily severed many connections we formed with in our earlier years, his sacrifice to support us should never be taken lightly.
My father isn't perfect, but he tries, and I would never trade him for anything.