There is nothing new about visiting my father’s grave. After losing him at age four, I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. I would hop on the Motorcross bike (later a ten-speed) and head off through Little Havana to Woodlawn Cemetery on Calle Ocho to sit and talk with him, running my fingers along his raised name, spelling out my own.
What was new is that I hadn’t been there for almost a decade.
I approached his grave and began to make out his name with almost frantically probing eyes, his eyes, and the flood came immediately. As is the tradition, I sat on the ledge just above his grave plate that shoulders a wall of cherished ashes, surrendering myself to the soothing cascade of tears.
Below is an approximation of much of the conversation I had, his words like a translation from a language neither alive nor dead.
“I’m sorry it’s been so long, Dad. Life has been so crazy lately … so much going on. Sometimes I don’t know if I can make sense of it all.”
Silence, but I felt his presence very strongly.
“You see,” I went on, “sometimes I just don’t know if I’m heading in the right direction. I miss you so much, Dad. I wish you were here.”
“I’m always with you wherever you are.”
Many more tears. “Thanks, Dad. But sometimes I just don’t know what I’m doing anymore.”
“Your life starts now.”
“What? Really? I’m already forty-nine years old.”
“Things are about to happen for you. You just keep your head up and continue doing what you’re doing. You’re on the right path, Son.”
Doubt turned me to lead as I sat there, running my fingers over his raised, bronzed name, like I’d done so many times before, on the iron plate cast for him when he died at only twenty-five years old. Just then, an old ice cream truck went by playing the Christmas song, “O Tannenbaum.”
In Little Havana, Miami, FL.
I half-cried and half-chuckled because my current path has me living in Germany. “Yeah,” I went on, “I’ll keep doing what I’ve always been doing … walking in your shadow.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Son. You see, you never walked in my shadow. I’ve always walked in yours.”
Jesse Giles Christiansen