The Greatest Gift My Father Could’ve Given Me Was Not Believing in Me
My father was a man of contradictions. Being his daughter — much like the beginning of a Charles Dickens novel — was the best and worst of times.
On the one hand, Don Lorenzo Ramirez de Arellano was Victorian in his thinking. He believed women should know their place and not have too many opinions. That, to him, was tiresome.
On the other hand, he taught my sister and me never to depend on a man, gave us a top-drawer education, and sent us off to succeed.
It was confusing, trust me.
A man with style
Don Lorenzo carried himself like Spanish royalty and dressed fine as hell. He always wore Italian suits and loafers, tailored shirts, and beautiful handkerchiefs in his jacket’s front pocket.
The finishing touch was a splash of Vetiver cologne. You knew my father was nearby by the smell of that perfume.
He was handsome — in a rough Marcello Mastroianni kind of way. He had classic features, dark eyes that burned if displeased, and thick, beautiful black hair that turned a perfect salt and pepper with time.
Hair was a big deal for Don Lorenzo. I used to watch him do his hairstyle as part of the morning ritual. He would rub a small amount of a La Sirena green pomade between his palms until it melted.
Then, he would run his pomade-slicked fingers through his hair, styling it with a comb until he looked like Elvis during his comeback days.
I adored him and looked up to him, but I was also my mother’s savage daughter, as the song says, the one who would not lower her voice. And that was the problem.
The daughter my father never expected
It must have confused such a conventional man to have brought up a daughter like me. I bet he would have approved more if I was a boy because boys could have opinions and outrageous dreams.
But I was not. And, much to Don Lorenzo’s chagrin, I was just like him, pity about the wrong gender.
My father’s nickname for me was “Pico de Oro,” which means golden beak because I talked too much and answered back. I stood my ground.
“I am your creation,” I would reply. That infuriated Don Lorenzo no end. I imagine he loved me, but I don’t think he liked me very much.
His biggest disappointment was that I wanted to be a writer and journalist and not a lawyer, as he ordained. I had other plans, and none of them included staying put.
There were many roads I wanted to take, especially the ones that few people had traveled on.
Whether he realized it or not, Don Lorenzo gave me the resources (and the ovaries) to do so. He let me go, closed the door behind me, and locked it.
I was exiled, but I was free.
Later in his life, my father and I became estranged. There are many reasons for it, but probably it was because I confused him. I kept on refusing to do what he wanted.
When he died, one of his associates read an eulogy at his funeral. In it, he mentioned me and how my father admired my courage and determination.
Hearing it, I was surprised. What? Are you sure that Don Lorenzo was talking about me? My father never said anything like that to me. Never.
Yet, not believing in me was the greatest gift he could have given a savage daughter. It made me determined, resilient, and persistent.
It wasn’t easy to accept that he was never proud of what I had accomplished, of what I dreamed of, but it made me strong and allowed me to become, well, me.
Perhaps, that was his intention. As I said, he was a man of contradictions.