I remember that August night in 1996. We arrived at the hospital, only to be whisked away to a side room. You know, the one they show in the movies where it’s just your family, a few chairs, an adjacent bathroom for the family to use without leaving the area, and the occasional nurse or physician that comes in to give us a status update.
I was only 15, but I knew what was happening. The only reason they put you in that room is when something bad happened. I expected to hear bad news. I figured my dad was in critical condition or something and that it wasn’t looking bad. The doctor that came to tell us what was going on was nice. He explained what my father suffered, which was an asthma attack which triggered a heart attack. He gave details on what they were doing. Then, the inevitable words. “We tried all we could, but I’m sorry to say that…” The rest was a blur. The room erupted in a cohesive sound of weeping, groaning, screaming, and then some. I can still remember being taken to see his lifeless body on the table; his chest still inflated from all the air in his lungs from repeated CPR attempts. My father… my dad… was dead.
Life after that has proven interesting and sometimes difficult. I love my mom and older sisters… but it wasn’t easy being left as the only “man” in the house. No offense to the females… but there’s just something that a “dad” brings to the table that no mother could duplicate.
In spite of it, we made the best of the journey our lives brought us to. There were mountains and valleys. But through it all, one thing was clear. I missed my dad.
Other males spoke into my life as I grew up, whether they were family or friends. Jerry… Ruben… Abraham… Tio Anthony… all were there during seasons of life; each playing a part in being a male mentor-figure for me.
But still… I missed my dad.
It’s weird at times that I cannot remember day-to-day life with my dad. I can see his face and remember him well… but life goes on and memories become more and more distant. I’m sure there is a lot that I can say I miss about my dad. But one of the biggest is playing catch with him.
I love baseball. I sucked at it when I played (well, actually, it was the batting… I was a decent fielder). My dad would always be there to support me when I played baseball. He’d stand on the outside of the fence so I can be encouraged to hit it out of the park. I rarely hit well. My average would have probably been in the low 200’s. I popped out a lot and had my fare share of strike outs. But when I would connect the bat to the ball, … man that felt good… and my dad? Well, he was always there watching me.
My dad was older. He died when he was 59, so he was not physically able to run around with me as much as I’m sure he’d hoped he could have. But catch? That’s something we could always do. I miss playing catch with my dad.
Even now… at 30 years old… I wish I could simply go outside and play catch with my dad. But I can’t. He’s gone… and has been for 15 years.
It sucks that I can’t play catch with my dad.
It sucks that my dad didn’t see me graduate highschool.
It sucks that my dad didn’t take me to get my license… or get my first car… or see me get married… or meet his granddaughter, Eliana.
I would be lying if I said my father taught me how to be a father. In reality, he didn’t. I was too young. At that age, I was simply learning how to be a son. I was learning what kids learned. We never had conversations about parenting or about the intricacies of marriage or fatherhood. I was forced to learn that on my own.
But the amazing thing is that, if I look at how I do certain things or react to certain situations, I realize how much I resemble my father.
I am, because he was. He didn’t have to teach me how to be a father. I’m his son, and that is enough for me to have the imprint of “Filpo E. Lara” on who I am.
Dad… you weren’t perfect… you had your skeletons in your closet… you messed up sometimes… but you were MY dad… and I miss you.