Thursday, March 31, 2011

“Atta Girl!” This one is for my DAD.


“Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.”Gloria Naylor

I miss my father. He passed away four years ago at sunset on Guam. My father was a once robust and menacing taotaomo’na of a man and without his good health, he deteriorated. In his final days, I could literally lift him as his weight fell below mine. He was six feet tall and once played high school football; scary enough for boys to avoid me altogether.

I was fortunate to spend the last three months of his life with him in 2007, leaving my duties as a military wife to oversee his return to health after a stroke. He was hopeful that he would be living in California with me, his toddler grandson, and my mom. We already purchased his one way plane ticket; instead I had to call my husband to our island home to bury my father.

I live my life and strive to achieve more so I can hear that “Atta Girl!” from him, even if he isn’t here to say it to me. He is the voice in my head. That internal drive that makes me yearn for more out of my life.

I remember this throughout my school days when I earned an A or brought home an award. I remember his pride when I bowed and received my Tae Kwon Do trophy after a hard win. I knew he was happy to see my name in print after something I wrote, even if it was an opinion piece in the local newspaper. And, I especially felt the “Atta Girl!” when he saw my five day old son for the first time at the airport parking lot like I had a hand in crafting my boy’s exquisite face—it helps my heart to see that my son looks so much like my father. And I’m certain his spunk and toughness lives on in his sassy granddaughter.

My father was 55. He had a lot more to accomplish, especially with his position as a high school Chamorro teacher, his role as a grandfather and as husband and father. He still had dreams and aspirations. His last words to me when the medics took him from our home, with fear in his eyes were, “I love you, girl.” Part of me knew that this would be the last time we would speak (and I believe he knew this too). In ICU, he was unresponsive, the individual components of his body shutting down one by one. I sang the 1958 Everly Brother’s tune, “All I Have to Do is Dream” to him and his eyes rolled forward and tried to focus on me. All I could do was keep singing, still trying to earn that “Atta Girl!” I stood by his bedside, mom clutching him and my baby brother being stoic as my father exhaled his last breath. The memories are too vivid.

I’m rambling on today because I miss him. I keep his memory dear to me because I don’t want unfinished business in my life. My father is my driving force and even though I’m older, I still miss my daddy. I still want his “Atta Girl!”