I was standing in the Walgreen’s greeting card aisle today frustrated and close to tears. Every card I picked up had a message thanking you for everything you have been to me throughout my life, everything you taught me, and I, in good conscience, couldn’t give you any of them. Where are the cards that simply say, “Papi, I love you.” That’s a sentiment I know and more importantly, feel. The rest were just a reminder of what I didn’t have.
See, I don’t have a whole lot of memories of life with you, and it would be dishonest to pretend. Maybe because I was only seven the last time you were really in my life and 31 years of a life without you can do a lot to erase the life with you. The memories that I do have are not so much memories, as they are stories that I’ve been told so many times that they’ve become as real to me as a memory.
There is the story of the day I got lost at the beach and your friend found me. He knew I was your daughter because my pinky toes, just like yours, sit on top of the toe next to them. “Tu tienes que ser la hija de Junior. Mira esos dedos que tienes, igualitos a los de tu P’ai.”
There is also the story about each and every time I got into the car with you. Apparently my need for driving speed began in childhood as I would climb into the car with you and tell you “ma apido, ma apido” (faster, faster) as you drove.
Then there are the non-stories. The repetitious “tu eres la hija de tu Padre” which wasn’t always meant as a compliment. My love of singing, my intelligence, and my stubbornness were traits, I was told, that I got from you. So though we didn’t have a relationship, I felt you were a part of me.
It’s over 3o years later and I am here with you and due to your illness you are only partly here with me. Sure, you know who I am and for that I am so thankful. Thankful that I made it in time and that I have that opportunity to spend time with you while you still know my name. But I feel that I lost out on all those years of the real you, the you I hear about. The adventurous you, another of the traits you passed on to me. As I see you sit asleep on a chair all day, not participating in life, I am angry that although I made it here in time, I am also too late. I will never have the opportunity to really know you and you in turn will never know me. Our conversations require superficiality as you can’t handle much more.
I stand in the card aisle holding back the tears as I try to find just the right card to tell you how I feel. Frustrated because none of them say “I love you and I wish we knew each other better.”
P.S. I bought one of those blank inside cards, and as a dear new friend reminded me… and perhaps, if we’re lucky, we can fill it in together with the memories we make the rest of the way.