Tag Archives: Grief

My father, a passenger in my car, my cumbia dance partner

25 Feb

“By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy.” – Gloria Anzaldua

Writing has increasingly become the manner in which I self-medicate. In a world where we seek to be seen and validated, writing holds the space I need to unfold, hang, and air my pensive sensitivities. I share stories that need telling. And most importantly, I rest my mind and my heart because I’ve acknowledged myself. It’s a completely selfish act.

As I process the grief that continuously reappears in my life, I discover triggers that deeply affect my state of being. Seemingly unimportant experiences that remind me of my father, reminding me of his death, weave in unexpectedly. I understand now, this is how my grief appears.

My father went to Trade Technical College and became a certified diesel engine specialist. He was a mechanic on Bandini Blvd. between the 710 Freeway and Soto Blvd. I recently began working at a middle school in East Compton and use the 710 to get to and from work. Going South on the freeway is perfectly fine, but driving North begins to distract my mind from traffic. I head in the direction of the memories in which I would meet my father at his place of work. The 710 was the most accessible way to get to him, exiting on Bandini West, driving past the smelly slaughterhouse, and driving into a large diesel truck service station. My father would be underneath a big rig motor and he would crawl out in his navy blue mechanic uniform with a giant wrench in his hand. Always thirsty from the heat, he would give me a half-hug because he was sweaty and filled with engine grease on his hands and arms. This was the way he worked for almost 3 decades. This is the way I remember him.

Driving home today on the 710 really push my feelings in a heavy way. I sensed the memory through my body and shook it off. I don’t want to drive on the 710 North again. It triggers my grief. Sadness becomes my passenger as a search for the next highway home.

To end this piece in a good way, I have to write about dancing. My father LOVED to dance. L-O-V-E-D. He would laugh and carry a huge smile when he moved around on a dance floor. He enjoyed live music, Peruvian dishes, and a cold drink. He would invite the ladies to dance, panuelo waving in his hand, fancy white shoes shuffling and spinning. Only once did I have the chance to ask my father to dance with me. Mirrors of each other, in that moment I discovered that my love for dancing was a genetic bond I share with him.

I went out dancing on Saturday night, my left leg still feels the cramps from the lack of stretching and inconsistent exercise. Whatever. I dance like I mean it and I will sweat, jump, spin, groove, and rock to the music. My cumbia is my dad’s cumbia, and I remember him this way. He is my dancing partner on the dance floor.

There are other triggers that take me to the memories of my father. When they show, I just pray that I “handle it” with grace and patience, never with shame. 

head mecanic

Letting go of 2013, one day, one moment at at time…

29 Dec

Its 3 days before 2014.

30 days ago I freaked out when I realized the year was coming to an end.

3 weeks ago I asked my partner, what do you have planned for New Years Eve? And I began to cry.

Grief hits in the most unexpected ways.

3 days ago I took the graduate school entrance exam for the school im applying to. I passed the exam, drove home excited, and then the tears rolled out.

My successes also bring about my grief.

In the past, I am always ready to let go of the year and bring in the new. This year will be hard to let go of.  2013 will be the year when I lost my father. It is the year that I buried him.

To let go of this year, means to continue letting go of him in this physical realm of time and space. The spirit world has different boundaries.

Last night I was listening to “El Condor Pasa”, one of my dad’s favorite songs, from his favorite genre of music, traditional Andean music. We had conversations about one day traveling out to Peru together. And in 2014, we were going to drive from Guate to Oaxaca in his truck. We were going to travel up the mountain and stay in Oaxaca for several days.

It’s not that I miss the trips that will never happen. It’s that I miss the conversations, the arguments, the understanding, and the friendship we were building as adults. I spent my childhood and adolescence with resentment towards the man my father had been towards my mother. I had witnessed and felt things that children are not supposed to see their parents go through. And once I was mature enough to understand the complexity of his victimization and suffering as a young man, I forgave him for eventually becoming a perpetrator.

My father had changed in many ways. Having seen those changes through the years manifested in him when I visited him a year ago. It made me proud of him. And I told him. I was at the airport, returning to L.A., and I called him para despedir me, and I said, “Dad, estoy orgullosa de ti.” Those words meant a different chapter for us in our relationship.

The months leading up to my father’s passing, we were in conversation about me going to grad school and my new job. We were going to meet up in Costa Rica in June, and instead I had to drop off his murder investigation files at the embassy.

2013 was the year I had the courage to finally apply to graduate school. It was the year I lived in Costa Rica. It was the year I turned my career into what I wanted it to look like, a teaching artist with organizations that use art as healing. It was the year that my nephews were old enough to recognize me as their Tia and listen to the lessons I have begun to teach them about patience, compassion, and anger. I have a home. I have food. I have health. I have friends. And I have a lot of love inside of me. It’s been a year I will continue to build and grow from because it taught me lessons of forgiveness, faith, and love.

Im writing this because im letting go… of what specifically, im not sure… but im acknowledging the pain in letting this year go.


Don’t let me go

20 Nov

Dear dad,

i remember… When I arrived to your home last december. it was hot and humid and I couldn’t wait to take off the corduroy pants I wore… You opened the door and welcomed me in. You embraced me with a big heart, a big hug, and a big smile…

“Bienvenida a tu casa…”

it was good to see you. it was good to walk into your home and into my room.

i changed into shorts and took off my shoes. I walked around barefoot on the cool, clean tile floor…

we would argue for the next 4 days about how I should wear shoes “y no Andes descalsa”… But honestly, my feet were perfectly happy walking on the cool, clean floors.

i wish I could remember more hugs. Bt now I will have to make them Up…

As I embrace you in my heart… Please feel what I feel…

It is warm between us. You wrap your arms around me. And I rest my face on your button shirt…

dont let me go … Just keep holding me …