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Familia

His face is etched into mine. As a child I studied that face as he shaved in his boxer shorts standing at the mirror over the sink, his face white with shaving cream, his eyes occasionally glancing over at me with amusement. I was captivated because he was my hero. He traveled a lot and home without him was not a good place for me, so when he was there I tagged after him like a puppy nipping at his heels. I never wanted him to leave and yet much of what I remember is him leaving with a suitcase in his hand, his suit and tie neatly packed, his blue eyes smiling and his black hair shining. I always wanted to go with him and when he would firmly tell me no and kiss my mom goodbye I remember running outside and watching the black Chevy drive away and then hiding in the Russian Olive tree trying not to cry. He was my touchstone, my protector and without him I felt adrift and frightened. This feeling lingered for many years until finally I found that some other boys could be equally as fascinating and he didn’t seem to mind the loss of interest on my part. We sometimes still went fishing together on the river or to a party on the 4th of July with my brother and my mom and I don’t remember much alone time with him, but he was often who I called when I was brokenhearted or afraid. He would listen to me and encourage me and let me know that everything would eventually be okay and I believed him and eventually it usually was. He rescued me many times from precarious places and some really bad choices and he let me learn some really tough love lessons too. As we both aged, I began to see him in a more realistic light and he became a friend. I started to worry about him more and want to take care of him and he would do things behind my back (like tell me he wasn’t driving when he was) or that he was fine when he was clearly struggling. We began a slow role reversal and I began the incredibly painful journey of learning how to hold loosely the love I have for the best person I have ever known. This picture was taken this past Christmas. I am 63 and he is 92. He is my Familia, the place I know and am known.