Love Lesson from My Father
There is a saying that says girls end up marrying their father. But what if your father hasn’t been the best example of who you want to marry? I grew up infatuated with marriage. I remember at 14 knowing that I wanted to be married by 26. Although my parents were divorced I always admired the relationships of my grandparents who were married for over 30 years. I looked at the relationships of my aunts and uncles, my friend’s parents, and anyone around me with this dreamy state of hopes that one day I would be a part of a solid partnership like theirs. Growing up and learning more about my parent’s relationships with themselves, and the relationships of the couples I always admired my perception of marriage changed. I grew up focused on what I DON’T want from love and marriage. One of my biggest lessons came from my father.
My mother and father started dating at 13 years of age in the Dominican Republic. My mother would tell me about how they met, their ice cream dates to La Maritza, their fights over going to party at El Hotel Don Diego, and their adventures on his pasola (scooter). She also told me about the many ways my father was hard to deal. “Ese papa tuyo siempre sera mujeriego” (Womanizer and hardheaded, that father of yours). I admire their childhood adventures and fell in love with the idea of being with someone that knew me from adolescents, but this quickly faded as I learned some people grow and learn to change for the better, like my mom, while others stay stuck in their ways, like my father.
My parents had me at 17. When my grandfather found out my mother was pregnant, he was really upset. My grandfather had given my mother the world. He expected her to study and follow a career in order to provide a better life for herself. My mother had just received her visa the same week she found out she was pregnant so my grandfather forced her to move to New York City to live with him and my grandmother. She would recount to me how she would lay under the bed crying holding her belly as her heart broke for my father. The separation was devastating to her and her pregnancy.
My mother and father remain in contact in hopes to reunite once my father was granted his visa. The troubles of young adulthood and long distance relationships was something they didn't weather well. My mother would find out about the many other girls he had on the side and as the strong willed woman she is, she decided to move on. She started a new relationship and had my brother. Unfortunately that relationship ended in the same heartbreak of infidelity so she now was single with two toddler children.
Despite her efforts to move on and the fact that she now had another child my dad decided to once again go after his childhood love. He chased her and promised to make it work once again. My mother took a trip out to Dominican Republic when I was about 5 years of age and to her surprise he had planned a full wedding for her. He took care of every detail from the dress to the celebration. My mother came back to New York a married woman supporting two kids and helping my father while he waited for his visa.
About a year or so into their marriage, my mother was informed by a close family member that my dad was living with another woman. Having to work 2 jobs, attend English classes, and barely see her two children in addition to supporting him, she was not having it at all. She got a divorced and I still remember her putting away her wedding pictures in the same folder her divorce papers in. She closed that book. Ella siempre dijo “tu papa nunca fue facil.”
When I was in second grade I remember gathering at my paternal grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx. We were waiting for the arrival of my father to the United States of America as he finally got his visa. I was running up and down the hallway with my cousins, laughing, playing, and just thinking it was a regular Saturday oblivious to the monumental experience this was for my family. He finally arrived but his bags was not the only baggage with him. I met the other woman.
My father went on to married this woman, now the lady I consider my step mother. After many years of arguments, jealousy, and sadness my mother ended up accepting la otra mujer, and I learned to do the same. She has been a part of a great majority of my life and now is friends with my mother. Crazy, right? My mother is an amazing person who has shown me what growth is. Now, my stepmother and my father have been married for over 15 years, but this too hasn't been an easy trip.
I was 16 when my father openly confessed to me that he wasn't happy in his marriage. He came to me for advice and I saw another side of him that I just didn't understand. Throughout the years I have learned a lot about the man my father is. Not the father, not the provider, but the man he is to the women who have loved him. My father was still stuck in his ways. I don’t like to generalize men but there is a special breed of dominican men that just can’t keep to one woman. Throughout the years of his marriage I have been introduced to many "other" women. He continued to date despite his marriage and until this day I don’t understand what he looked for in other women. I met many other women with many different characteristics/qualities so it was hard to pinpoint what he was looking for.
During this conversation I asked him why stay married if he is not happy? “It is too complicated and the family would not approve.” I asked how do you expect your daughter to believe in love when you are her example and you openly do these things? “I know is hard but you are the only one that never judges me and I only wishes this made you smarter about men.” I asked him if you knew I would always love him unconditionally why not just do what makes him happy? Silence.
Now, 15 years later after this conversation my father still reaches out to me about his other women. In the recent months he has expressed that he finally came to the conclusion instead of chasing other girls he should focus on this wife as she is the one that will take care of him in the end. My dad is 49 years old and his priorities are now who will care for him at old age and who is never going to leave his side. My dad has lived a life chasing the wrong women when at the end the one that loved him unconditionally never left his side. My mom on the other hand, "Yo ! Dios me salvo de esa porque yo no aguanto eso!" is what she says. (Me! God saved me because I wouldn't put up with that!)
I am 31 years old. Single mother. I too went through my own trials and tribulations and now I ask myself am I going to fall into the same path as my parents. My mother never remarried and to me I feel like my father settled. He never found true love and my mother gave herself to her family. Every time I meet someone I ask myself if I see my father in them. They say daughters married their father but I rather not. But in avoiding him am I becoming my mother?
We learn values and principles from our parents but is hard when your parents grew up too fast that they themselves are still trying to figure out things. I feel this is the lesson I’ve learned from my father. He never took the time to find happiness in himself that he jumped from relationship to relationship looking for something he couldn't explain. I am lucky to have seen in my life friends develop happy, healthy, and loving relationships, and I use that as my example of what I want for myself. I pray that because of age, and awareness, I now make better choices to not follow my parents faults. There is a quote that keeps following me and now that I am in this stage where I am setting my own standards for love I always go to it. "You are you, you are not your parents." I also am careful on my choices so that someday my daughter uses me as her example of what to be rather than what not to be.