My Father

My father makes the best scrambled eggs. He uses just the right amount of butter. He can cook almost anything, actually. He’s quite comfortable in the kitchen, having learned well from his mother.

My father taught me that failure is temporary so long as you persist—that you continue to approach success until you stop trying. He showed me the value of honesty and hard work. He was strict and compassionate. He made sure I knew that my best was enough. I could go to him with my tears and my triumphs.

My father could be a bit overprotective. But I knew it was just an extension of his love. He wouldn’t let me use the stove, sharp knives, or even plug in an electrical appliance for the longest time. Even now (and I’m in my mid-thirties), he doesn’t like to know I’m out on the city streets riding my bike.

My father is generous and humble. Every now and again this has embarrassed me. Once, when I was in high school, we were walking to the subway station together. Noticing that my shoelace had become undone, he promptly knelt down to tie it for me.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to inherit my father’s height, but he did give me his long legs and some of his athleticism. I also got his big, flat feet, long fingers, squinty eyes, and veiny arms.

When I was in grade school, most mornings my father made my breakfast. He’d warm the milk for my cereal and peal off the skin (which I found unappetizing). Then he’d encourage me to add a bit of sugar to it. As I got older, it became egg and cheese sandwiches on Caribbean hard dough bread—wrapped in aluminum foil and two paper napkins so I could eat it on the train.

My father has an acute sweet tooth. This is a man who will drink condensed milk (essentially liquid sugar) straight from the can before pouring some more in his tea or on his ice cream. On the days when he picked me up from school, he almost always bought me a toffee. When he picked me up from ballet lessons, we always stopped at Carvel. He is the one that got me into the habit of having my red Jell-O covered in bananas and vanilla ice cream. He is a sugar fiend.

My father works hard. He was in law school and had two jobs when I was in kindergarten. For much of my childhood he worked a minimum of six days a week on top of studying. When I used to pull all-nighters in high school, he was also usually up working. I never felt compelled to complain about having too much homework or needing to stay up late.

My father’s laugh is so pure and complete that it fulfills me. He gives generously without hesitating. I’ve never heard him raise his voice. When he found out I needed quarters to do laundry at college, he stopped spending them. Every time I came home, he’d hand me film canisters full of the quarters he’d saved. My siblings and I would return from boarding school or college to find he had stocked the fridge with all of our favorite things. He was always trying to anticipate our wants and needs.

My father is exceedingly easy to love—like breathing or blinking loving him is done without thinking—and I must. Like any man, he has his flaws. Even as a kid I knew he wasn’t perfect, although I wanted him to think I thought he was. I have not always understood him or his decisions, but I have always had infinite confidence in his love.

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