Happy Father's Day

My father passed away seven years ago. His legacy has touched many aspects of my writing, coming through in my blog posts, demanding a major role in my romantic comedy, Secret Shopper and creating ripples in many of my short stories.

To say that I miss him is a major understatement. There are so many reminders and echoes of my father, Tedy Gamboa Chargualaf in my everyday life. Not to mention that my son looks like him, in stature, in his handsome face, in his kind heart and also at times in his stubbornness. I’m reminded that my father is absent in my daughter’s life at major milestones like her Kindergarten promotion this week or the fact that she finally has one of her baby teeth loosening. I know he would have loved her, so I remind my children (my son was 1 ½ years old when his ‘Tata Tedy’ died), that they are extensions of this great man I love.

To honor my dad this father’s day, I just wanted to share 7 memories, some sweet, some sour.

1. I’m a Mermaid.

Massachusetts. I was the ultimate tag along. My dad was going fishing. I wanted to go too. I was about four years old. The pond, scummy and green looked otherworldly to my little girl eyes. My father went about his business of fishing as we sat in a tiny boat. He dropped tiny red balls in the water around us to attract fish, which was absolutely fascinating that I just had to dip my face in the water to discover where these things went and what they did. Along with heading into the water face first, the rest of my body followed. I had a few seconds of floating in a beautiful sea of green water, dotted with red. I’m sure it was cold, but I don’t remember that now. My father, with one strong arm, lifted me out of the water and put me back into the boat. His face was mingled with relief, horror and anger. But, in my memory I detected amusement too. My little dip into the unknown ended our fishing trip.

2. Pillow Rides!

Massachusetts. Sitting squarely on a pillow, my father grasped each side and offered my brother and I turns on a magic pillow ride. I remember soaring so high I could touch the ceiling and being in awe of my father’s strength.

3. Death Stare.

Guam. Red light. A man in a taxi stared at me while we waited at a traffic stop in East Hagatna. I was 13. I began to slink into my seat, trying to disappear. My dad, aware asked what my problem was. I told him it was nothing, but then he looked around us and found the man. At this point, I was completely on the floor of the car, both embarrassed by the unwanted attention and afraid of my father’s wrath. He told me to sit up, and in a flash flipped the bird to the man and yelled some choice curse words. The man mouthed, “Sorry,” and put his hands up in surrender. Green light.

4. The Second Love.

Guam. My first major heartbreak. A relationship of nearly seven years ended and my parents let me react the way I needed to, anger, sadness, hunger strike, desperation, chocolate binging. But, when I packed up two trash bags of my ex’s gifts and placed it by the back door, my father said, Atta girl. I never liked him anyway. Don’t worry, in this family the second love is the one that’s real.” And, he was right.

5. Common Nonsense.

My father gave tough love. And, in those times he questioned our maturity he would always say, “Wow. My kids are so smart, but sometimes you have Common Nonsense.”—his word play on our lack of common sense.

6. I’m Going to Knock You Out.

Guam. I don’t condone violence, unless it’s for survival, but my father grew up a fighter. Of course, being a family man tamed him, but my mother would share stories of my father’s shenanigans during his young Army days in Korea. When I was twelve, we were at a neighbor’s barbecue. A man, whose ‘common sense’ was soaked in the many beers he drank, set his sights on my dad. He sat next to my father and touched his arm. “Wow, you are strong.” He said derisively. My dad shoved the man, nearly knocking him off his chair and warned him not to touch him again. The drunk persisted. Then in an instant, my father had punched him in the face and he crumpled to the floor. “I told you not to f’ with me.” It was the only time I saw my father violent first hand. I was upset all day because we left the party, but also afraid that the man and his teenage sons would want retribution. We lived on the next street over and as they pulled their limp father into the bed of their truck, the son told my father he would come back for him. My father wasn’t ruffled and nothing came of it.

7. College Classmates.

University of Guam. As I was finishing my education/English degree at UOG, my father started taking courses too, already a Chamorro teacher at John F. Kennedy High School. “Would you mind if we were in the same class?” He would ask shyly. “You won’t be embarrassed?” It was interesting to see his concern, but I was an adult then and proud that my father was brave enough to step into the college realm to better himself. “I won’t be embarrassed!” I told him. “I would be proud! Just don’t ask me to do your papers for you.”


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