We are walking toward the crater. The wind is whipping and it’s cold— still a surprise in Hawai’i, even though I understand the science behind it.It is Christmas and, without thinking, I instinctively reach forward and grab my father’s hand.
The memory isn’t an unusual one for me, though later when I think bout it I suppose it could be. It isn’t some distant wisp of a moment from my childhood. It’s from this past Christmas. At 28, I still occasionally reach out and grab my father’s hand.
When I think about the myriad of reasons my father is special, this is one. Yes, all people show affection differently, but it less so the actual physical affection my father gives and more the unflinching openness with which he gives it. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that I could grab my father’s hand, rest my head on his shoulder, or go in for a hug and that my action—and, I suppose, my love— would be reciprocated without question.
I once had a coworker ask me what made my relationship with my parents special, or what I thought they had done right. I don’t know that I saw it as a kid, but it strikes me clear as day now: my parents loved us without question. It was not only unconditional, which I think most parents feel, but it was obvious in its completeness.
My father, especially with all the tropes that exist about Latino fathers having rule after rule for their daughters, never once gave me a reason to think I was anything but loved. There was never a doubt that the hand would hold mine, the shoulder would carry my head, or the arms would wrap around me when I asked for them.
This is the kind of love that breeds very brave souls, I think. It is the kind of love that sends me into the world, perhaps to my father’s vexation, with a big-hearted sense of vulnerability. It gives me the strength to always reach out to others, instinctively take their hand, and love without bounds. Not only did it model what limitless love looked like, but it also taught us that we could love others and, regardless of their reaction, know that we would be unquestioningly loved by someone anyway. So many of us go out into the world seeking to be loved or cared for. There is a great sense of freedom that comes with the knowledge that no matter what happens to me, I am still a child beloved by their father.
Recently, I was reading the Prayer of St. Francis, and was struck by the following line: “O Master grant that I may never seek… to be loved as to love with all my soul.” This is the type of love my dad (aptly named “Francisco”) lives: a love without need for reciprocation or repayment, a love that exists as the air does— on principal alone.
So, thanks, Dad, for living a boundless and unflinching love each day. Happy Father’s Day. I know I can say always without question: I love you.