Dad Love (Part I)

papiToday is Father’s Day and my very own Papi is in town visiting.  Ironically, he knows nothing of this blog because I want to be able to freely discuss my sex, drugs and rock n’ roll lifestyle without worrying about my parents.  The fact that he would love this blog is not lost on me, and being a dutiful parent-pleaser, I feel a bit guilty.  I might need to create a shadow site -  PGpeevishmama, where I only post my most innocuous and innocent ramblings, those in keeping with my status as the responsible, straight-A, straight-laced, oldest daughter of immigrant parents, wife, mother of three, etcetera, etcetera. Not that I’m writing anything all that subversive, I just don’t want my parents, my kid’s teachers, or any of the school mommies deciding I’m some sort of miscreant mother. 

All surreptitious blogging and guilty feelings aside, I credit my dear dad with my love of literature, and by extension, my love of words.  When I was little he used to bring me books all the time, which represented something warm, visceral and deep:  his love, his faith in my intellect, his desire to share all that there is to discover between the covers of a book.  He gave me Jules Verne’s 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a book he had devoured as a boy in landlocked Cordoba, Argentina.  It didn’t really float my boat, but the book became emblematic to me, a talisman of sorts.  It was a handsome, hard cover book with gorgeous illustrations on the cover of undersea life . . .  limpid blue water, flaming coral and schools of fish, undulating octopi and sinister eels . . . I remember running my fingers over the smooth cover, daydreaming about mermaids and pirates and submarines. The book represented adventure and promise.  

When I was twelve he hired a scuba teacher to give us private lessons in our pool.  We learned to read decompression tables and to spit in our masks so they wouldn’t fog up.  We learned not to surface faster than our bubbles to avoid the bends and how to share a regulator in case one of us ran out of air.  I was at the height of my raging tweeny, drama-queen ways, but with my dad in the water, with the weight of the scuba gear and the lessons we were learning on my shoulders, I was clear-eyed, competent and calm.  He expected nothing less.  

We got our scuba certifications, taking our open water test in a quarry in some hick town in Ohio.  The water was murky and cold and we carved our initials in a yellow school bus that was shipwrecked at the bottom of the quarry.  My dad always carried a scuba knife strapped to his leg, just in case we ever got tangled in a net or encountered an underwater marauder (or had the occasion to carve our initials on the side of a rusty bus).  He has a little James Bond in him, my dad.  

We were in a manmade hole in the ground filled with junk, but we felt like we were 10,000 leagues under the sea. 

Eventually we did scuba dive in actual salt water, in the Bahamas, in Mexico.  Fish used to nip at my hair as it streamed behind me like a mermaid’s.  We saw a shark once, manta rays . . . we watched in horror and wonder when a guide named Pirata ditched his scuba gear to plunge under a reef and emerged triumphantly clutching an enormous crab which he wrestled into a net and made me drag along for the rest of the dive.  

My dad was always amazed at how slowly I went through my air.  I was smaller, yes, but I was also calmer.  Scuba diving was something he had dreamed of as a boy, waited a lifetime to learn, and approached with a sense of wonder and excitement.  To me, it was no big deal.  I never felt I wouldn’t be able to do it, never had a chance to long for it.  I was learning it practically before I knew about it.  This particular skill set, like so many others, was handed to me on a silver platter.  This portal to adventure, to the watery deep, was an inheritance of sorts.  

I always thought I could do anything, be anything.  Now I understand that it’s because someone was working very hard to make sure I felt like that – smoothing my way, but pushing me hard.  Empowered, entitled, brazen, hungry for knowledge, power, adventure, happiness.  

The world was my oyster.  

Papi, te quiero.  Gracias.

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