I have met many fathers during my YAV year. I have vidid memories of some of them, amazed by the sacrifices they made for their children.
Victor was a client of mine at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. Out of all of the cases I’ve worked on this year, I probably spent the most time on his. I got to know him pretty well through our many hours of meetings and conversation. Victor was a 17 year old from Guatemala who left his family, partner, and baby in hopes of better providing for them. During one of our meetings discussing his abusive relationship with his father, he told me that dads do not love their children as much as moms do, but that he was going to be different. He said that he was going to love his daughter and provide for her. When leaving the meeting that day, Victor pointed at a teddy bear that was sitting on a shelf in the conference room. “Do you like that bear? Do you want it?” I asked him. “Yes,” Victor responded quietly, “for my baby.”
I met Jose Antonio at Hotel San Marcos, a temporary migrant shelter at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church. One week each month, Hotel San Marcos opens to provide hospitality to asylum seeking families recently released by ICE. The guests usually stay for a couple of days until they leave via Greyhound bus or airplane to join loved ones already living in the U.S. Tanner and I volunteered for an overnight shift when Jose Antonio and his eight-year-old son, Henry, were guests at Hotel San Marcos. Being near the end of the week, Henry was the only child still at the shelter, so Tanner and I played with him a lot during our shift. We set up bowling pins for Henry to knock down and played hot potato with a bright, multi-colored ball. Henry would laugh and laugh at Tanner exclaiming “¡Hace calor!” when he was holding the hot potato ball.
We found out the next day that Jose Antonio and Henry’s bus was delayed. Having been transferred to a larger shelter in town (because Hotel San Marcos had closed) they would be stuck in a church basement with little to do for another day. Jose Antonio told me that he had spent weeks at a shelter in Mexico, a few days at Hotel San Marcos, and would now be waiting again. He seemed discouraged, disappointed, and bored. Hearing this, I asked if he wanted to go out for a bit, for a walk, or to a park. He said yes and excitedly put on his shoes and gathered Henry.
The rest of this day was one of my favorite in all of my time in Tucson. It happened to be the weekend of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair. Tanner, Jose Antonio, Henry, and I shared a massive plate of barbecued meat and french fries. We sat at a picnic table and listened to a mariachi band. Each time the band took a break and then returned to the stage, Henry became very excited and tugged on his father’s t-shirt to make him watch. We perused the street fair vendors and chatted with Adrian at the Cafe Justo booth.
We left the street fair and walked to a nearby park. It was a December day, but the sun was shining and the weather was wonderful. Henry, Tanner, and I ran around, raced down the slides, and played a zombie attack-game for hours! Henry’s beautiful giggle could be heard again as Tanner, playing the zombie, walked with stiff legs and arms and made groaning sounds. Henry belly-laughed as he climbed on the equipment and ran through the field to escape Zombie Tanner.
As we played, Jose Antonio sat on a bench, walked around a bit, and played music on his phone. He seemed relaxed, relieved. For weeks since leaving their home in Honduras, Jose Antonio was solely responsible for Henry. He provided for him and protected him on a journey of thousands of miles, multiple weeks, and innumerable dangers. Because of the circumstances, I also imagine that it had been a long time since Henry could be a kid: that he could play and yell and laugh freely. A few times I took a break from playing with Henry and sat with his dad. Jose Antonio told me about his wife and twin babies in Honduras. He showed me pictures of the babies, remarking at how their red hair was like mine. Jose Antonio described to me his life in Honduras, the violence, and the threats. Fearing for his life, he made the difficult decision to flee, to endure extreme risks so that he could protect himself and his family. He hoped that one day his wife and twins could join him and Henry, when he knew it would be safe for them.
I cannot write a tribute to fathers and their sacrifices without being reminded of and recognizing my own dad. Craig was 21 years old when I was born. He had a step-son who was four. (I am 23 now, and can barely fathom raising a toddler and new born). Craig worked and went to college and watched Babe– the pig movie- with his baby until she fell asleep. For a large portion of my life, my dad raised me as a single father. I had the support of my mom from afar, but Craig single-handedly dealt with the teenage meltdowns, supported me in school and extracurriculars, and instilled in me the importance of attending church every Sunday (yes, even if I had slept over at friend’s house the night before- ugh!).
I vividly remember the day that I received a rejection letter from the college that I had my heart set on. My dad and I were eating together at home, during my school lunch break. When I received the news, I went straight to the couch, curled up in a ball and began to cry. My dad came and sat with me, stroking my hair and comforting me, for probably thirty minutes. I was late getting back to school, and he was late to work, but that day, he was willing to make that sacrifice.
Since birth and Babe, through adolescence, tears, college, and beyond, my dad has given me the unconditional love of a father.
A Todos los Padres
To Victor, Jose Antonio, and Craig, happy Fathers’ Day! Your love and sacrifices do not go unnoticed.