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When I asked my colleagues to contribute short essays describing a defining moment with dadfor a Father's Day issue of La Vida, I expected poignancy. What I did not expect - but got -was so much pain.
Having been raised by a doting single father and being married to a man who is a great father (with his own great father) I was surprised to see how many people had fathers who were absent. Physically absent, emotionally absent. Some colleagues flat refused to participate, saying they disliked their dads too much to do anyone any good. Ouch.
Maybe writers, editors and photographers (outsiders by design) aren't representative of the general population, but I suspect we are.
What these stories show: Kids need their dads. Terribly. Need their approval, their attention, their support, their affection, their love. And absent dads, whether living elsewhere or hiding their feelings behind sunglasses, make as big a mark on the spirit of a child as those who are there.
I'm surrounded at this newspaper by some of the brightest, most talented and sensitive writers and thinkers I've ever known. I thank them for sharing these glistening moments with us.
Happy Father's Day.
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Tribune features editor
4 years old: Another Sunday morning. My sister and I hold our breaths as we tiptoe into Mom and Dad's room. Dad pretends he's asleep as we sit at the edge of the bed and wait. And wait. Suddenly, he erupts from under the covers and gobbles us into his furry arms. We giggle and spasm uncontrollably as the tickle monster consumes us.
6 years old: The stinging sears through my body as I look down at my bloody toe. Whose idea was it anyway to play in my neighbor's station wagon, and why did the heavy door have to slam shut on my foot and not that bratty Ann Speed's? Like a hallucination, Dad appears and scoops me out of the back seat. The smell of English Leather on his neck, moist from my tears, engulfs me as he carries me home.
12 years old: After two days of fishing in the Chama River, Dad and I head home fishless. We stop at a grocery store on the way home and buy a trout, take it out of the butcher paper and stick it in our ice chest. That night we feast on our "trophy," which Mom cooks with pride and admiration. We keep our little secret for a whole year.
16 years old: For the umpteenth time that year, I spend our 30-minute drive to school giving Dad my unscrupulous silent treatment. As we arrive at the drop-off spot, Dad asks me what my problem is. I don't remember my response, but his wounded expression as he drove away still frequents my thoughts.
25 years old: "Dad's had a heart attack," Mom says on the other end of the receiver. In my sleepy daze, I struggle to put the sentences together. After she hangs up I realize I stopped listening after those first five words. Which hospital did she say? Which floor? Did she say he was OK? When I arrive, I find him lying in a tiny bed with tubes and needles and paper sheets, and my numbness and nausea are replaced with a daughter's guilt and grief. I lean down, grab his hand and kiss his forehead. He opens his eyes and smiles.
27 years old: Dad grabs my hand and kisses my forehead. "Love you, honey." The oversized teddy bear he brought to keep me company during my hospital stay flattens between us as we embrace. He leaves me in the long, lonely corridor, turning back to wave just before disappearing behind the heavy double doors. "Love you, Dad."
J.M. Barol, Tribune staff writer
Talking over lunch, a friend tells me: "I didn't know you had a dad."
I've heard that before, actually. I don't talk about him much. I should, but …