Love your father no matter how good or imperfect he may be…

Imagine a little girl running into the kitchen and hiding by the refrigerator. No, she wasn’t playing hide and seek when she saw her father arrived! Sadly, she was scared of him. That was me when I was about 5 years old. My dad would visit every couple of years and nothing really changed for me every time he came. My resentments grew bigger and bigger with every year that passed. With every birthday he missed. With every school recognition he didn’t know about. He didn’t attend any of my graduations, a humble “Quinceañera” -sort of like a sweet 16 birthday party- my mom managed to organized or my wedding, one of the happiest days of my life.

Even though my mom encouraged me to write letters to him through my teenage years and stayed connected, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. So, when I received a letter from the department of immigration in Chicago during the summer of 1984 to get my residency visa, I had mixed feelings about it. I was 17 and had been working at a law firm for a year in an attempt to help my mom financially. I wasn’t interested in going to the United States. It was a scary feeling to think I’d be going to another country, not knowing the language, nor having a formal education. My mom knew it was an amazing opportunity for me and although she was even more scared than I was, she wanted me to grow as a person, learn english, expand my horizons and most importantly, she wanted a chance for me to have my dad in my life for a change.

I still remember the day I left. I don’t think I showed my younger sister, Noelia and my brother Jose Juan, how sad I was to leave them behind. I wanted them to think I was happy because I was going to reunite with my dad and I was going to be able to help them more than I could possibly do it from Durango. As the bus drove away from the bus station I cried uncontrollably, I wanted so badly to stop being afraid, to continue to be in uncertain situations and to have stability.

Forward to 1993 and you’ll find a successful Bank Executive recognized for the level of service provided to clients and in charge of preferred customers, occupying a corner office and married to a handsome, hard working and talented man, Wally Zambrano. I really thought I’d be completely happy by accomplishing all this and having a beautiful 5 year old daughter. But I wasn’t…something was still missing. It wasn’t until I gave priority to my spiritual life that I felt liberated from the resentments and anger I had accumulated towards my father for being so absent from my childhood. I owe it to my mom to help me understand the importance of unconditional forgiveness.

I’m not sure my dad knew exactly how much I learned to love him in the 10 years I enjoyed him before he lost his battle to cancer in May 2003.

I accepted him with his “sarcastic” sense of humor and all his imperfections. I called him often and visited in his home in Missouri. He would drive to Chicago to visit us and when he did, I no longer ran away from him. I embraced him and loved him. However, at the end of April, 2003, he called me to say he couldn’t travel to Chicago to visit anymore and said “Mi’ja, my doctor says that I’m going to die soon”. He had joked around dying for a while but something seemed different this time so I flew out to Missouri that weekend and found out he had been battling with prostate cancer for 5 years.

I chastised him for not telling me about it but he said “I didn’t want you to call me out of pity but to continue to call me out of love”. I’ll treasure my conversations with my dad forever. He certainly was a man of a strong character, firm in his ideas and ideals that turned into a caring loving father. If you still have your father, honor him no matter how good or imperfect he is. It’s the only promise from God that has a reward.