Father’s Day is upon us and I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. We live less than 20 miles from each other, but the personal distance between us feels like thousands. This year is bittersweet because my parents are moving to Texas in a couple of weeks. There are so many things I would like to tell him before he leaves, but I don’t think I will get the chance. Sadly, for many reasons we do not speak. It isn’t by my choice but that is the current situation. In my heart, I’ve always believed that things would work themselves out, but as of today it has not happened. Abuse is like a tornado – causes tremendous damage to everything in its path. Our relationship was part of that casualty. In spite of everything that has happened between us I do love him. As you can tell, today’s posting will be about him.
My father was born in Mesa, Arizona and grew up in a barrio in Tempe. Some people might say “on the wrong side of the tracks”, but that just depends on who is telling the story. According to Google a barrio (for those of you who don’t know) is a Spanish-speaking community with a high poverty level.
“Mesa has a few Barrio’s as well as the East Valley Town of Guadalupe, which is surrounded and landlocked by Chandler, Ahwatukee, and Tempe.
Most from Tempe and throughout Arizona, are familiar with the largest Barrio in the East Valley…Barrio La Victoria. This Barrio, is nestled between University Blvd and Broadway, Price Road and Dobson. It is small in comparison to Phoenix area Barrios, though it remains the largest of the Barrios, in the East Valley.” ~trutharizona.blogspot.com
When I was born my parents owned a home in South Phoenix, and by the time I turned 4 decided to move to the City of Tempe. It was a middle class neighborhood – the equivalent of living in Gilbert today. It was a predominately white community, great schools with many other young families. Living on that street reminds me of the movie “The Sandlot”, and I loved growing up there.
Occasionally my dad would take us to visit family in “La Victoria” or “LVL (La Victoria Loca)” as it was called by it’s residents. Sometimes we would visit his stepfather and other relatives and friends who lived there. The neighbors and community looked so different from where I lived. My brother and I would walk the neighborhood streets because it was almost like visiting another land. Everything from the homes and yards to grocery stores and parks. It also surprised me that everyone seemed to know each other.
So, on this day my brother and I walked past a convenience store, and a couple of older kids called out to us. They wanted to know who we were and why we were there. We didn’t respond and just kept walking. I think this angered them as they probably took this as a sign of disrespect. So they began to follow us and made it clear my brother and I were in trouble. I told my brother not to look at them and just keep walking. Inside I began to panic and tried my best to not look scared (to this day I don’t know if I was successful).
My only plan was to head back to my grandfather’s house, and pray we made it before they caught up to us. On the next block we saw more kids outside – I didn’t know if that was good or bad, but we were about to find out. The group chasing us finally caught up and started cussing us out. I saw the look in my brother’s eyes and he was terrified. There wasn’t anything I could do except try to protect my brother, so I had him stand behind me. Just then, one of the kids told the bully “I would leave them alone if I were you”. The bully laughed and asked “why?” The kid said “Do you know who their dad is?” He replied “No.” (I was thinking how do they know my dad, but I kept my mouth shut).
They said “their dad is Morro” – (which means hammerhead). Immediately, they all backed off. The bully asked “are you sure?” The kid said “yes, he is visiting his dad right now”. They looked at each other and then just walked away. I had no clue what had just happened but we didn’t ask any questions – just headed straight to my grandfather’s house. I later learned that my dad used to be a gang member. He was infamous because he loved to fight – he was crazy and dangerous. Little did he know that years later his reputation would save his children from a beating.
Sometimes I wonder what would drive him to take us from South Phoenix or even the barrio in Tempe, and move to the suburbs? I think in his heart he wanted us to have a different life. The relocation to Tempe changed things – we never knew or saw my father as a gang member or dangerous. It was like he tried to walk away from his former life. I’m just guessing, but I never saw that side of him.
I don’t know why my dad can’t deal with the past. I’ve tried talking to him about it but he won’t discuss it. He has said to me on several occasions “I’m fine with what happened – it’s between you and God”. He has helped and defended my abusers many times over, and I don’t understand why. Maybe I’m in denial but I do believe he loves me – he just doesn’t know how. I do, however, have to take his words at face value and because of that and his actions I’ve set my boundaries.
Something motivated him years ago to want to give us a different quality of life. He cared about his family, made decisions to help us and give us more. I so want and need THAT father back. There is still time for that to happen, and I pray someday it will.