Daddy's Bye-Bye: The "Valeria" Shoe

“Alright, niños [children]! Who’s up next to recite our bible verse for the week?” Ms. Laura looks over all the hands raised in our Sunday School class. “Hmm...let’s see.”

Abruptly, she looks up towards the back exit hallway of the room. Her smile slowly begins to droop as her eyes jump quickly back and forth between the back exit and the children.

“Umm, how about you, Sammy! Come on up - I saw your hand up first.” As Sammy walks up to the front of the classroom, she looks at me. Her cheeks begin to flush pink. “Go ahead, Sammy…” she says gently as she walks over to my seat. Sammy begins to recite the verse: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing…”

Ms. Laura leans in and whispers, “Franchesca, your dad is at the door.” I stand up and quickly turned around. There he is, in a dark brown suit, looking over at me.

“Papi!” I yell as I run over to him. I can't contain my excitement - I haven't seen him in two weeks. He has been coming home once in a while to stay, but sometimes he leaves for weeks at a time and my mother just tells me he'll be back soon.

“Papi! Papi!” He crouches down and opens his arms as I run into them and wrap my arms around his neck. “Hi, Papi,” I whisper. “Hi,” he whispers back.

When I pull back from my grip, he takes his handkerchief out of his suit pocket. I notice that his eyes are bloodshot red and glossed over. He wipes them a few times. Suddenly, I feel a sadness I have never felt before. Why is Papi crying? What did I do?

He sighs deeply and looks up at me. “I came to say bye-bye, for now... Tell your mother to take good care of yalls, OK?...And tell your sisters I love them.” He keeps wiping his eyes between his sobs. I'm so confused and I don't understand what is happening. All I want is for my dad to feel better and to stop crying. I look down at my shoes and respond, “OK, Papi. I’ll tell them.”

“I love you,” he says as he embraces me one last time. “Take care now.” He lets out another deep sigh and looks at me. He stands up and quietly walks out the door. I hold the door open behind him and watch him walk away. Is this a dream? Papi wouldn’t leave me…

But he does. And at 6 years old, I watch my father get into his car, drive off, and not look back.

I stand at the door waiting for a sign of his return, listening for the engine of his car again. Maybe he'll come back, I keep telling myself. He’ll come back...

After 10 minutes, he still hasn't returned. I don’t know what this feeling is I'm feeling right now, but it's like a rush of wind was knocked out of me and someone reached between my chest and gave me a sharp pinch to the heart. Suddenly, I break down and cry - alone on the church steps - for what seems to be an eternity before Ms. Laura arrives with my crying mother.

Life changing moments will leave marks on you. Some would say that growing up in urban DC and not having a consistent father figure present meant I was going to be another statistic: a dropout, a rebel on the streets, or pregnant before I graduated. While all of my surroundings were strong indicators of this, I learned that in the end I had a choice in life, regardless of my father’s decision to stay or leave. Yes, maybe I would have made better relationship choices or financial decisions had my father been around more. Maybe it would have been easier to form friendships and trust others not to walk in and out of my life. But I pushed on, I made mistakes, I learned from them, and I kept moving forward.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar position. Someone hurt you deeply, something in life didn’t turn out the way you wanted, or you’ve been carrying pain from your past that has been hard to let go of. Whatever your situation may be, you have a choice to feel sorry for yourself (eventually people will get tired of feeling sorry for you) OR you can make a decision to live an abundant life by picking yourself up and pressing on.

Your past is not an excuse for bad choices. Others’ bad choices are not an excuse for your negative attitude concerning life. Your negative attitude is not an excuse for lowering the standards of who you are and what you deserve. Others’ low standards or opinions of you are not an excuse for failure. Always remember that you are better than you think, wiser than you know, stronger than you can imagine, and able to rise above any circumstance you have to face!

**Fictitious names are used in this post to maintain privacy. 

Each post is named after a pair of "fictitious" (for now) shoes. For this post, I chose the name "Valeria," which means strength and valor.