As Handsome as Orlando Bloom
In celebration of Father’s Day, el Día de los Padres, I remember my very special father, who came to this country from Colombia when he was 36-years-old. Sadly, he passed away suddenly when I was only 6-years-old. Not a day has gone by that I don’t think of him. (This is me here below, almost 3-years-old, holding his hand)
I remember the first time I saw Pirates of the Caribbean. I was with my husband and our three children and Orlando Bloom crossed the screen. “Oh!” I gasped, “That looks just like my father!”
“Cool, mom,” say my children.
I say it the next time Orlando pops up on the screen.
I say it every single time he has a scene. I say it to the point of my family having to get up and move twelve rows away from me.
But that still doesn’t stop me.
I say it 27 more times. ” Oh. That looks just like my father.”
My father had skin the color of burnt sienna, eyes that were green with flecks of yellow — and impossible to forget. He had a smile that made me grin wider than my little mouth should have been able to.
Growing up, we had a radio in the kitchen, a beige rectangle with golden dials. He would turn the radio on and The Beatles would be playing one of their Top 10 singles that were on every station back then. I’d hear the music and come running, ready to dance the Twist for him. He wouldn’t even try to be sly with his joy at seeing me shake my small body back and forth while I’d sing “oh he was just seventeeeeen!” He’d laugh out loud, clapping, and the double laugh lines on the left side of his cheek would get so deep, they’d look like they were drawn in with magic marker.
I would do anything to make my father laugh.
My parents would have parties in the basement and the old records from South America would be pulled out: Carlos Gardel was the favorite. My father, with a brown bottle of beer in his hand, and the always-present 1960′s fixture — a cigarette — hanging from his lower lip, would slide his feet back and forth till he was in the middle of the room floor and I would watch him from where I was hiding around the corner of the basement steps. The sight of him made me want to run across that floor more than anything else in my world, with my pink summer nightgown flying behind me, and jump up into his arms.
My father and I didn’t have to talk. He knew the power of his presence in my life. He would only have to wink at me, and I’d cover my mouth with both hands, to stop my explosion of giggles — my father knew, it doesn’t take a grand gesture or a lot of words to show love to someone who loves you, it just takes a moment of unshared attention. A stand-still moment of time where it’s just you and that person, where that time is yours and no one else’s.
I would watch for my father to come home from work every day. Leaning my forehead with all my might against the front screen door so I could see as far out as possible. One day, the mesh just popped out from the force of my body and my father had to replace it. I’d wait for his grey coat to come down the road and then I’d burst out of that front door like a horse from a gate. I’d run down the front steps not thinking about temperature, rain, shoes on or not, and cry his name out “Papa!” until he’d see me and those dimples of his would crease.
I’d catch up to him and he knew just what I had run down the street for. He’d hand me his gunmetal grey lunch box and I’d unclasp the firemen’s latches and look for what I’d always find inside: my panecitos, my little breads. They were actually Twinkies, but to me, they were little loaves of bread. My father knew how much I loved them and he’d save them from his lunch for me.
He never forgot to save mis panecitos, my little breads, for me.
My father was larger than life and his delight in me was clear; I had no doubt how important I was to him. He did this through few words, but with the grandest of actions instead: the undivided minute or two of attention to only me.
These memories of him have lasted me a lifetime, and I still see his face, with his eyes closed, dancing in our basement with the palm of one hand softly on his stomach, his other hand help up in the air, swaying his shoulders side to side as “Adios Muchachos” plays on our stereo.
I had my father for far too short of a time. Much too short for a little girl who adored him.
He died suddenly when I was in the first grade; a shocking, unexpected suicide. His death was so abrupt that no one could get me to stop looking out of our front screen door for him.
After his death, I would ask my grandmother to pack my lunch with a Twinkie in it every day.
Mis panecitos, mi papa: all these Father’s Days, I remember you, my wonderfully handsome father. I want you to know that I have never forgotten you.
I somehow believe that you know that.
Feliz Dia de los Padres, mi Papa bello.
Happy Father’s Day, my beautiful father.