Stuck in traffic, I watch the cold rain brush against the windowpane’s surface; a drip leaves its misty blush on the glass barrier that separates me, my boyfriend and my father from the dimming skies and endless cars that lay out on the horizon of the Connecticut I-95.
After spending 13 —!!!— hours in the car that day and a slightly more manageable ten hours the day before, I struggled to laugh even at the bizarre Italian film that played before us. Traversing from Tampa, Florida to New Haven, Connecticut via car was not exactly my preferred mode of transportation, especially given the direct flight from Tampa INTL to Tweed with a duration of a mere three hours. Driving back to Yale that Nov. 19, I was tired. I was anxious. I was craving a dining hall dinner. But most of all, I was bitter.
My father has a deathly fear of flying. From a young age, especially after moving to the United States, I’ve watched him try to protect my brother and me like his life was on the line — which, in a sense, I guess it was. No touching frogs because warts, no stepping near the lakes because gators, no walking the dog because kidnapping (and dognapping?), no sleepovers, no driving with anyone (except him) and absolutely no planes porque te vas a morir.
I think, really, what my dad struggled with was control. When he isn’t the one on the one on the wheel, he doesn’t feel like we’re safe. Given the options, he once chose a 24-hour train ride over flying from JFK to Tampa, despite already having purchased a return ticket on the plane. When I chose to leave the sunshine state for the northeast, my dad declared that he would be driving me to and from campus for all eternity.
What could have been six hours of travel turned into a 40-hour round trip, stripping days off my time with family at home, costing my dad days off work and hotel fees. Thanksgiving recess wasn’t eight days — it was four. And those four days were shadowed by bickerings, disagreements about my traveling restrictions and jaded by the unfair, often strained position as the eldest daughter in a Latinx family.
Even my former-priest- (another story for another day) extremely-kind-like-literally-
saint-like boyfriend had to admit that it was all a bit much.
So when it came time for winter break, I refused to make the drive down to Tampa again. Two airports, a couple white lies about when my final exams ended, an Avelo flight and one very, very flabbergasted father later, I was back home, safe and sound. To my surprise, my dad didn’t scream. He didn’t yell. I mean, he didn’t talk to me for a couple of days, but to save my mother’s sanity and his own, he pulled a “classic dad” moment: he wasn’t upset, he was just disappointed.
I had big plans for winter break. For as long as we’d been together, I wanted to visit my boyfriend’s home in San Diego, and I hoped to do so this break. On New Year’s Day, I decided to break the news to my father, only to be met with an angry uproar — my father isn’t himself when he thinks his children are at risk, and to him, my flight to California was a plea for the death sentence.
To say the least, I did not end up going to California. In fact, I spent the majority of my break at home, visiting nearby family and spending time with my baby cousin (my favorite being and mini-me), all pretty much within a five-mile radius. But when it came time to come back to Yale, I swallowed my pride as I stepped forward and tried to compromise with my dad.
“I need to fly.”
“There’ll be snow. You’re not used to driving in the snow.”
“You can take the train.”
Eventually, my father agreed to let me fly to New Haven with my boyfriend and a friend — but only after a couple hours of lecturing on the safety of planes, begging us to let him drive us and strict instructions on how to proceed through the airport.
But as I watched from my window seat 30,000 feet above the earth’s surface into the mounds of opaque white jellies to my exterior, I didn’t feel proud. I didn’t feel angry. I felt sad. Sad at his inability to let me go; I was grateful for the immense love that he holds for me — enough to nearly drive the both of us to the brink of insanity. I felt a twinge of guilt for my desire to travel and freely venture the world, for I don’t know if he will ever find peace with my actions. I realized I would have to follow my ambitions without his support.
I once heard it said that growing up is realizing that your parents are messy, hurt people too. And sometimes, that means forgiving them for the things they can’t change.
I just hope that one day, he will forgive me too.