This November will mark 28 years since my dad died.
When I was a kid, and lived with my mom, seeing my dad only a few times a year when he visited Puerto Rico, mostly having a relationship with him via calls and letters, I would sometimes think about the future, when I would have kids of my own, and be sad. Sad because, as much as I loved my dad, I loved my mom more, and I figured my kids would love me, yes, but never as much as they would love their mom.
I’ve never said that out loud to anyone before.
It took maybe 30 years from when I first had those thoughts for me to become a father, and the moment my daughter was born, from the moment I first held her in my arms and cried, wept, with happiness, amazement, awe, pure AWE, and love for this new life, I knew kid-me had been wrong.
Kid-me thought love had volume, could be measured, had limits. Kid-me thought that to love one parent was to love less the other. Kid-me was hurt because his dad wasn’t there, even though his dad did his best within the circumstances. But kid-me loved his dad to pieces, even as he loved his mom with his whole world.
I am not a perfect dad at all. I make tons of mistakes, fall short of who I can be to my daughters, mess up. I know they have days when they have a favorite parent over the other, and that’s fine. I know they love me, in their kid way, and I take that love they give as it comes, as it is given, as they are or are not able to express it.
Kid-me, being a kid, thought in selfish terms: my kids won’t love me as much as they’ll love their mom.
Kid-me had no way of knowing what I know now: my kids’ love is boundless, different for each of us parents, yet identical in nature and intensity. It is LOVE. But more importantly is that my love for them is infinite and powerful, and it has nothing to do with their love for me. Even if, God forbid, one day they told me they don’t love me anymore, my love for them would not diminish.
This is what kid-me never knew (because how could he?), that his dad’s love, that my dad’s love, imperfect and fallible as he may have been, his love was perfect, endless, and powerful. And though he’s been gone for almost 28 years, I still feel that love in my life.
Hopefully, 28 years after I’m gone, my daughters will still feel my love in their lives.
Happy father’s day, Dad, Abuelo, and Tio, the men who throughout my life have taught me what being a man and a father is.