My father called today. To say I have a strained relationship with the man would be an understatement. He left when I was seven. He choose another woman over his wife and four small daughters. It was a pattern he would repeat many times in his life. For a few years or so we'd see him occasionally on the weekends. Our mother would take us to Pat's house, the lady he left for. Talk about awkward. He then left that Pat for another Pat and I remember one weekend he didn't bring us back when he was suppose to. Looking back I'm guessing we were due on a Sunday night but he kept us until Monday and didn't take us to school. Maybe he even kept us until Tuesday. I remember my mother was furious. I feel like the cops may have been called but this is something that happened over 25 years ago so I'd have to call her to verify. For awhile after that our mom didn't let him have us anymore. It wasn't until he broke up with that Pat and moved back in with his parents that I remember our weekend trips resuming. He lived there for maybe a year or two. My grandparents home was actually a really fun place to visit. Looking back on it now I realize it was in a terrible neighborhood (right by the Mesa, Arizona LDS temple) and rather worn down. But they had a pool in the back that my dad would swim with us in. My Papa Perez never put any chemicals in it so it was always full of green water and I used to worry there was a crocodile that lived in it but I'd get in if my father was there. All of my cousins lived close by and would come over often. They had tons of orange trees in the back and I'd spend my weekend playing house with my sisters and cousins under the branches and eating the bitter sweet fruit. They also had a room full of instruments from when my father and uncles thought they could be the Mexican equivalent to the Jackson five and we spent many hours fooling around in there. In this time he met a lady named Candy and before I turned eleven he moved to San Antonio. Our weekly visits stopped then. I think I saw him twice while he lived there with Candy and my half brother and sister. The first time I was probably 13 and he flew all four of us out. The second time I had just turned 19 He flew me out to pick up a car from him. He tried to give me a handgun for my birthday. I kindly refused.
That was by the way the first time I took a long road trip by myself. I drove that Volvo all the way from San Antonio, Texas to Glendale, Arizona. It is almost 1000 miles and I did it in one day, alone, at 19. I wore an Army hoodie with the hood pulled up so it wouldn't be obvious I was a girl travelling alone. I only stopped for gas. I ate M&M's and crackers from ready to eat meals my fathers had filled my trunk with. When I got tired I would put peanut butter on my lips out of the little squeeze packet and lick it off. My car tape deck didn't work (you remember when that was the thing, car tape decks????) so I basically just had the radio for company across the entire state of Texas. There were times when all I had were fuzzy Mexican channels, and then there were times when I had nothing. The great state of Texas is for the most part rolling hills of emptiness. I drove for hours wishing to see something, a city, people, some animals, a change in the scenery, anything. It was cloudy, it had been the entire time I was in San Antonio and I kept hoping that I would make it out of the clouds. On the horizon I could see a tiny bit of sun light and I drove toward that for hours but it got dark before I made it. I got stopped going into Albuquerque. The border patrol guy made me jump through some hoops to prove I wasn't illegal and to be honest it left a bad taste in my mouth toward New Mexico that has never really left. I remember wanting to stop but I was trying to make it home for Christmas Eve and I was determined to make it.
I didn't see my dad for another two years. When I married Dr. J we threw a reception in Arizona. It was the last time I went back to the state of my birth. He came with Candy and my half brother and sister but then decided not to show. Things were starting to get rocky between him and Candy and I don't know, I guess he was just in a mood. My younger sister went by the house and insisted he come. They might have been a little late but he did show up to the reception, along with most of my family although he left my brother and sister and step mom at the house, something that made me extremely sad. He left Candy shortly after that and that was the last time I saw my dad. For years I didn't hear from him but I continued to send pictures and letters to his parents asking them to pass info on to him and occasionally I'd hear from my uncle about what he was up to. Then in 2011 on my 31st birthday when I was pregnant with Cheetah my water broke at 27 weeks. My mom called all my family, we put the news on Facebook and someone called my dad. I've had his number since then and we occasionally chat. We are also now Facebook friends and while he never post anything he apparently keeps up on me and my sisters via that media. When my sister's heart stopped two summers ago he sent money to help with medical bills. He has started to send me text on Holidays and just this month when he felt like my Facebook post were getting particularly negative he started to send me encouraging text. It must be getting bad because today he actually called me. He said, "You need to stay strong. You are the trunk for your family. I haven't done it. You have to do it. Have you considered getting a live in nanny to help with the kids. Who is going to be the strong one for the family if you get to tired to do it. Who is going to be the support." I almost chocked and then I laughingly said, "Well yes, but only an old lady." He instantly knew what I was referencing and then after a pause said, "You can never be too careful." But then he told me in all seriousness that I should bring one of my older aunts or second cousins to the states from Mexico to cook and clean and to help watch my kids. I have to admit there is something about that that does seem appealing or maybe I could find a Syrian babuska to sponsor. Ironically though it is the words of my own father that negatively rattle through my ears when I consider thoughts like that. I can still remember being at his house when I was 19 and how annoyed he was that my step mother had a live in nanny even though she only worked the weekends (she was a nurse). "What is wrong with her, why doesn't she want to be with her kids?" I don't even work the weekends and while the kids do plenty to keep my busy isn't that the choice I made when I choose to be a stay at home mom. Didn't I commit myself, my time, and my talents to raising these children, and on the side doing laundry and dishes and keeping the house picked up. Isn't that my job? On the other hand my kids could learn Spanish...maybe it is something to consider.