Last mid-September, I stepped outside for a moment to glance at the stars in Fairmont. The wind was warm and hit my face as I tried to orient myself in the sky.

There’s the Big Dipper, almost on the opposite side of where I’m used to in Mankato. Then I spotted Perseus. My eyes eventually set to dark mode where I could point out the other planets and stars.

Then my dad comes out and turns on the back porch light.

“What’re you doing?” He asked, walking around me from the stoop, head off to the side. He almost looks uncomfortable, but it’s his normal stance.

“Just … looking,” I said.

Which, by the way, was true. But I was feeling a little off, to be honest, and I think he knew that. September 2019 for me was rough. Feeling unsure of myself, where I was heading, and anxious as I began to venture closer to my 30s. Looking at the sky late at night in the town I grew up in has always helped me somehow. It slows the racing thoughts of uncertainty and doubt to a jog.

I looked over and Dad just stood there, looking at the sky with me in moments of silence. There were a few whispers of ruffling leaves from a fall breeze.

Dad’s been known for his comforting silence, but he always knows the right thing to say.

He’s always thinking, too. I could always feel the thoughts running through his head, but there’s hardly much that he says. He’s a man of few words, but when he speaks? They’re words that hold the weight of the world.

And that night, there was a full moon, making the stars drown. Then the moment of silence was interrupted by Dad’s soft, yet affirmative, voice.

“You know,” he began, shifting his legs, “This moon … this moon was the moon we used to see while we put the corn in the truck.”

I looked back at the moon. It had a halo around it. It’s known as the harvest moon.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

I know very little of my dad’s past. It’s always been sheltered, even when I’d try to pry something out of him. What I do know of his childhood in Mexico is that he was a hard-working man. That hard work began as early at elementary school. He used to sell candies and gum to people on the street, but that was the extent of what I knew.

This night though, he said that when he was a kid, he and his brothers would wake up as early as 5 a.m. to go work in the fields.

Sometimes it was on the weekends, when they’d go with his dad (my grandfather) in his truck to the fields which were an hour away.

But sometimes?

“We’d wake up, very, very early, and get a ride to the fields,” he said. “When we were done, before the sun was up, we’d go to bed and then go to school.”

Dad continued to talk about his childhood more in depth. He talked about his dad and his mom and his brothers. Things they had to do to sustain the family. And since this is being read by a lot of people, out of respect for my dad, I won’t divulge any more about these stories he told me.

That night, however, it made me think beyond myself and whatever had been bugging me. It made me think about Dad and his hands.

I’d always been fascinated with his hands — I call them Tarzan hands — thick and calloused. As a kid, I’d always like to poke at them and their tough texture. Hell, I still do it now as an adult.

Though I always acknowledged these hands — the hands of a man and a hard worker — I’d never realized exactly when that work started.

Instead of the self-pitying attempt to reach my center that night, I realized that my center of everything are my father’s hands. His hard work and sacrifices. The amount he has given to not only our immediate family, but his family growing up to put food on the table.

It reminds me now of those families doing the same work. They’re in the fields picking veggies, and fruits. They’re working in processing plants to bring us meat. During the pandemic, they have no choice but to work. They put hours into the hardened callouses on their hands to not only feed their families, but ours, too.

Here’s a shout out to all the papás and mamás doing their best.

P.S. Love you dad, thanks for letting me share this small piece of your history.

Diana Rojo-Garcia can be reached at 507.345.6305 or drojogarcia@mankatofreepress.com.

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