My Dearest Dad,
You were always my hero. From what I remember of our times together in the early days, your mission in life was to protect me from the unnecessary ills of a little girl’s world. Whenever I was frightened or found the need to cry, you were there to soothe away my tears. Not once did I hear a word of anger or reproach from you. I recently asked you why. You told me about an incident during my “terrible twos.” I was doing something mischievous and you playfully lifted your hand — not even really intending to hit me, just to scare me a little. When I looked up and saw your hand in the air, I immediately stopped and proceeded to bawl for hours on end. Poor daddy. It was your first day of babysitting. You were way too embarrassed about what people (mom, in particular) would think. So you promised never to do anything to make me cry from that day forward.
My earliest memory as an infant was that I hardly slept at night. I spent hours watching you and mom asleep, wondering why you were lying so still. The minute I saw you move, I would call out, “Daddy can I have a glass of water?” You’d look up and over at me standing there in my crib. Sometimes you’d look at me in disbelief, but you never failed to get up and trudge off to the kitchen to get an ice cold glass of water for me, patiently watch me drink it, then return the empty glass to the sink. With a wink and a smile you then turned out the light and went back to sleep. And you wonder why I love you so much? This selfless gesture is only one of the many kind memories of you that time will not erase.
Naturally, we grew to be partners in crime prone to bad behavior like drinking milk out of the container instead of a glass, etc. We chuckled silently as mom fussed about the mess we made, then go for long walks (you carried me most, if not all of the way). We lived near the airport then. You would hoist me up on your shoulder and off we went to watch airplanes land and take off. There was a harrowing moment as a plane taxied down the runway in our direction too close to the flimsy chain-link fence separating us from certain death. I covered my eyes and begged you to take me back home. Little did we know that one of those same planes would soon take me away from you, when my mother and I migrated to New York, leaving you behind in our beautiful Jamaica.
Fast forward to the year I spent with you when I was eight years old. Each and every day you came home from work with armloads of comic books, drawing paper and pencils for me to hone my imagination. You often came home early to spend time with me when I got home from school. We ran (and won!) the 3-legged race at my school picnic. You taught me how to play cricket. After a bad dream once, I woke you up in the middle of the night. Instead of scolding me or sending me back to my room, you actually got up, got dressed and took me on a long bus ride, to the end of the line and back, just to show me big mansions in the hills. Neither one of us made it to work or school the following day. Time after time, you put me first. Your actions assured me that my well-being was your first priority. You not only heard, but listened to my little voice, acknowledging, validating and encouraging my wildest hopes and dreams.
Each summer upon my return to Jamaica, you rounded up a receiving committee of sorts — consisting of your many friends, my grandmother and cousins — at the airport to greet me with the warmest welcome home. All I could see were broad smiles and proud eyes beaming at your “daughter who was studying abroad.”
Where did the years go? You have been such a kind, soft-spoken gentleman with a wry sense of humor, and a keen penchant for political and social debate. You were a star athlete and a scholar, but with the humblest, most generous of hearts. Thank you for guiding me through the worst and for never doubting that I was the very best in your eyes. Thank you, especially, for allowing me to appreciate the whimsical, wistful balance of every day life and for promising me that behind every cloud there was indeed a silver lining.
Until we meet again, dear Daddy.