I like to think sometimes about what it would be like if my dad were still alive.
I think about bubbling pots of rice and picadillo on the stove, steam rolling up the kitchen windows. I imagine laughter around a table and shouting at the television when the football game is on. I hear him with his sharp, exasperated Tsssssssssssssssss and his grumbling about that idiot coach. I wish for the way the word sweetheart rolled off his Cuban tongue. I feel his calloused hand, fingers splayed wide, on my shoulder.
I can’t think about his bravery at the end of his life, or the way he looks out of my graduation pictures, eyes bright with pain. I can’t go back, or I don’t want to. I only try to fill him into the holes that are in my heart today, the places he might have been.
So I imagine us loving and smiling, but I imagine us fighting, too. I imagine him glaring at me out of the side of his eyes. I imagine him asking God to give him patience to deal with his stubborn daughter.
I imagine talking to him about school, taking him to sit on the library porch so he can see the mountains and listen to the trees move. And I am always holding his hand.
Because you see, I can’t imagine him whole and healthy. I can only imagine him as someone whose hand must be taken, someone who needs care. And every time I come back to that, I can’t quite wish him here any more, back to the sharp-shining eyes and the hospitals and the shambling walk. I can only imagine him on the other side of time, waiting for me.