I love you, Daddy

Daddy and me, circa 1983-84

Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.

My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.

I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.

father/time

so passes
the golden autumn
of this world
into a dark/light place
made of lengthening shadows
and warm tender moments alike.
poignant relief marks the passing
of each second and season,
pearls on a string slipping away
through fingers
roughened by time,
all the more cherished
for that which has gnarled them.
fear not,
though a shadow passes over your eyes
at the thought
of things unknown.
in the end,
you are loved.

— Charla M. DelaCuadra

I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.

vigil


how can we find power amidst enforced oppression?
we can grow between the cracks,
force things apart with our growing.
grow wide and tall, cracking apart
that which binds, blinds, brings us to our knees.

our expanse will stop them.

hatred cannot stand before our twisting, growing roots
sinuous and deep, love-strong, defiant, and true.

go forth and grow.
blind them.

they cannot comprehend our joy.



-Charla M. DelaCuadra

#StopAsianHate

Yong A. Yue
Suncha Kim
Julie Park
Hyun Jung Grant
Xiaojie Tan
Daoyou Feng
Delaina Yaun
Paul Andre Michels

These are the names of the victims of the horrific shootings in Atlanta this week. Say their names. Remember them. They deserved better than murder fueled by racism and misogyny. They deserved to live.

Today my heart hurts. My mind is aghast. I am one of the lucky ones, apparently. I have a mixed-enough heritage that I am technically considered “white,” even though my father was denied entry to the United States for years due to his Chinese blood. I can walk down the street and *only* worry about being harassed because I am a woman, and not because of the color of my skin, even though Asian people, food, and heritage are part of the fabric of my life. Today I will bake a birthday cake for my friend who is part Chinese, and greet my husband who is Filipino at the door, and eat fried rice we made for dinner, and I will grieve for the eight people who were senselessly gunned down. And I will grieve for the country that claims to stand for “liberty and justice for all,” but in fact, often delivers it only to a select few.

Here are several ways you can help:

Kintsugi

Kintsugi : (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

This week we lost our oldest dog, Bailey, rather unexpectedly. He was 17 years old, so we knew our days were growing short, but it was heart-wrenching to have to suddenly say goodbye all the same. He and I had a deep bond — he was a mama’s boy in the best, sweetest sense. He saw me through many highs and lows over the pat 15 years, always patient and sweet, loving and attentive. When our other dog would run to the door to bark at a potential intruder, Bailey would head straight to my lap to protect me, his low warning woofs reverberating through his soft little body. He loved to play fetch, unceasingly bringing back his toys for yet another throw, excitement lighting up his whole face. He would sleep in the crook of my knee every night, a warm and solid assurance, until arthritis and age prevented him from getting up and down from the bed safely. Even then he slept next to my side of the bed most nights, ever devoted. He’d lick my ankles and keep me company. He loved food and treats with a zeal that matched my own, the little foodie, and ever the optimist, he’d lay on the floor near us whenever we were cooking, earning him the nickname “lil’ chef.” Family and his pack were deeply important to him — for years he’d balk at going for walks unless all of us came along. When he scratched at the grass with his hind paws, he’d leave each leg stretched back for a beat or two, like the smallest dramatic ice skater. And in his last days, his intuitive attentiveness never wavered. He was clear-eyed and trusting to the very end, showing me love even as his little body was failing him.

My heart broke on Wednesday. But I am honoring Bailey as best I can, filling the cracks with golden memories. He would want me to feel safe and loved, the way he always worked so hard to do. He will always be in my heart, and I am forever grateful to this little dog for a lifetime’s worth of trust, care, and love. Rest well, my little bear. We will be together again. I love you.

nap time, winter 2020

Grief and respair

  • respair: the return of hope after a period of despair

This week, a post on anything but grief feels wrong. We lost the formidable Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, and Breonna Taylor’s murderers walked free — charged only for the bullets that missed. I am gutted.

Instead of trying to parse my own grief into words, please let me share novelist Jesmyn Ward’s piece On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic. Ward loses her husband, suffers through the pandemic in a grief-fueled depression, sobs and bears witness to racism protests — and does so with lilting grace and courage.

I hear you, Breonna. I hear you, Jesmyn. I hear you, Ruth. We are here. We aren’t going anywhere, except forward.