|Image: Source – nurgonul|
My world revolved around my father from the very start of my life. As an infant I would whine for hours in my playpen until I heard my father’s heavy footsteps on our front porch, according to my mother. When I was old enough to escape the playpen, I learned how to count just so that I could count the cars that went by our frontroom window until my father’s car drove up. On the weekends my father would work in our large yard, his big brown hands gently turning the soil. I would stand by his side, watching his hands with the short fingers and paint-stained nails.
Everything his hands touched seemed to blossom. I wanted to learn how to make things grow too, but only my brother was allowed to help because he was a boy. I would beg my father to let me help. He would turn away from his planting, look at me with his black, laughterfilled eves, and say that I could help by “just standing there and looking pretty”. No matter how many times I asked to help, the answer was the same, and just as infuriating. At those moments I was sure I hated him.
To soothe me, my father would clear a small piece of soil and using leaves, twigs, and pebbles he would build me a small forest. In a minute his creativity and skillful hands had transformed mere cuttings into a work of art and I would forget that I had ever been angry.
As the years passed and his curly black hair began to gray, no gap grew between my father and I. Though I was nearly as tall as he,I was still his “Chiquita”. My all-encompassing child’s love had mellowed into a love tempered with the knowledge that my father was far from perfect, but still worthy of all my respect. By this time his estimation of me had changed also. All of my father’s “no’s” had made me a stubborn and strongwilled individual. Soon even he couldn’t say no to me and I was allowed to work with him in the garden.
While we worked we would have long talks together, not as parent and child, but adult to adult. He would present me with many ideologies, some that his own lifestyle contradicted, but never demanded that I accept them.
When I began to date, he would speak of the day I would marry. He promised me that when I married he would not only dress in a regular tuxedo as he had for my sisters’ weddings — he would dress in one with tails to give his Chiquita away. But that was never to be, for when I was 18, just beginning my first semester at Manipal, my father died. At the wake I was almost able to convince myself that the man lying there so still was not my father. The eyelids were closed so tightly that not even a twinkle could escape. But then my eyes fell to the large brown hands, along the short thick fingers, to the fingernails so stained with paint that not even the mortician was able to clean them.
All at once 1 felt so lost. Who was there that could anger or delight me as much as my father could. But as the months passed and my depression began to lift. I realized that his hands were still guiding me and would never really leave me I was still just as stubborn and strong-willed as he had made me and nothing was going to