Growing up, my dad was never a superhero to me - he was far too human, and made me laugh too damn much. He was, however, someone I always looked up to (until I surpassed him in height at age 16). Now I'm 21, he's 65, and while I don't live with him anymore, I always have him with me.
Three years ago, on the morning I left for college, I knew our relationship would be different. Since he was already the workhorse of our family, I had grown accustomed to being woken up by a goodbye kiss when he left for work at 6am and greeting him with a hug when he came home for a late, Latin dinner around 9pm. Now, I'd really see him even less. He was never the one I told about my school day, nor my daily dramas, and I feel a little guilty that he had to receive re-tellings from my mom because I was too lazy to re-tell him myself. Now, I'd really talk to him less.
When I was packing to leave for college, I remember realizing I could no longer run into his closet and grab one of his t-shirts to sleep in when I missed him. Those shirts were so comfy and so large, and I could always tuck my knees to my chest within them (to recoil and protect myself when he wasn't home and I was watching a scary movie alone at night). He and I wore those shirts so much that they were too tattered for me to want to tote at college, so I decided to discreetly "borrow" a sweater of his instead.
My dad, Mo, is a man of very few words as it is, so I was especially shocked to hear the ones he chose to tell me on our drive to the airport the morning I left. I was sitting in the backseat of the car, suffocated by all the suitcases I insisted on bringing with me to Boston. Mami was driving and Papi was classically asleep in the passenger seat. Right before we pulled into the terminal, he turned around and pulled something out of his wallet. Not cash (he had already direct deposited me money for airport snacks) but rather a drawing of an imaginary friend I had made him when I was about seven years old. As a kid, I remember not understanding why he was always away at work, and childishly wanting to make sure he always came home safe. So, with my seven year old artistic expertise, I drew him a little orange figure to "protect" him throughout the day. The more he kept it in his wallet, the older it aged and the more frayed it became. He soon laminated it, for further assurance that it (and he) would be okay. A decade after I had given it to him, he was now turning around and giving it to me, to protect me now that I'd be far away from him and all that he does to keep me safe. I've kept it in my wallet since, and despite spilling many things in my backpack, it has always remained solid and watchful.
But when I miss Mo a little bit extra, or when I want to feel enveloped by his big bear hugs, I wear that sweater of his that I stole. It's laughably large on me: the sleeves spill over my fingers and the whole ensemble hangs around my knees. But I love it. Apparently others do to. I always receive compliments on it, and one time was even stopped by my friend flagging it as a "Coogi" sweater - an old designer that now costs upwards of $300 on vintage sites. Little did I know that the sweater I wore because it smelled perfectly like musty cologne and hung comfortingly on my shoulders like a protective hug was actually an article of fashion treasure. In fact, I always thought the sweater looked weird on my dad... and that's how I justified stealing it from him in the first place.
Inspired by Emily Spivack's Worn Stories.