For many people, thinking about one person who has been the most important to them, or has been the kindest to them, is a very hard task. A lot of people can’t choose or simply don’t have anyone about whom they would say this. However, when I ask myself who has been the kindest to me in my life, I don’t even have to think about it. It’s my dad, Carlos Pineda. Of course, I love the rest of my family but I have a special bond with my dad. I feel his influence everyday, but the first story that comes to mind has been told to me many times by family members. I often wonder how I went through such a thing without being irreparably harmed in anyway. This story is a reminder of why I am grateful to have him in my life.
When I was one and a half years old, my family threw a party. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, sister, and parents were all in the backyard playing music and eating. I was asleep in my crib, but escaped and decided to walk for the first time. As I took my first steps, I left my room and headed to the front door, just past the kitchen where my mom and aunt were gossiping and cooking. No one knew I had escaped because I was so small and quiet. Because people had been wandering through all day, the front door was open and I went straight for it. Outside my small yellow house, with paint curling up at the edges, I saw a tree on fire. My dad had been burning the tree to create room for a driveway, but now he was starting to put it out by throwing sand on it. When I saw some sand myself, I grabbed as much as my chubby little baby hands could hold and walked up close to where the fire was burning. I tried to throw the sand like I’d seen my dad do, but as I did so, I lost my newly found balance and slipped and fell into the fire. As I fell, I could see dad carrying bags of sand around the side of the house, but when he realized what was happening, he immediately dropped everything and ran. My dad pulled me out of the fire and didn’t think twice about it. He didn’t think about whether he would hurt himself. He didn’t think about whether it was dangerous. He didn’t think about anything but helping me. He scooped me up as my other relatives ran to see what was happening. As he held me, although his physical touch hurt my skin, it was also comforting. I felt better and safer as soon as he was holding me.
For the next couple months, he and my mom used home remedies to make me better. My parents would not call for help back then because they were scared of being deported. They were scared they would have to give up all of the opportunities that my sister and I would have here. Still, they gave me the best care they could provide at home. I had to stay in bed all day, but I couldn’t let the blanket touch me because it hurt too much. Every second he could, my dad sat by my bed and held the blanket above my legs. When I woke up sweating and crying, feeling hot and panicked from the nightmares in which I had visions of fire, my dad would come rushing in to soothe me back to sleep. My dad would do anything for me. The scars on my right knee, right arm, two on my left hand, and three on my right leg remind me of this.
My aunt and uncle always tried to make me feel better about my scars by tracing them with their fingers, saying that one of them looked like a dolphin or the shape of Florida. Despite this, I used to feel ashamed of my scars, especially when kids would tease me about them. A particular low point was in first grade, when some of my scars ripped in school and bled out everywhere. My classmates thought my scars were “scary,” and no one wants to feel like they are scary to other people. Now, however, when I look in the mirror and see those scars, I never feel embarrassed of them or feel the need to cover them up. Instead, I feel so much gratitude for the kindness my dad showed me 13 years ago and has continued to show me.
Things have not always been easy with my dad. When I was nine years old, my dad went to jail. He was later found innocent, but only after spending six months in jail. I visited him as often as I could, and at the end of every visit we both put our hands on the glass to be together for just a second before he was taken away again. Once, my sister and I went to visit him and he had been transferred to another jail. I remember feeling shattered. My only form of contact with one of the people I loved the most was ripped away from me. We were able to video chat with him, but by the end of our chat I was in tears because I felt so detached from my father. Then my dad said “pon tu mano,” which means “put your hand,” so I did. When my hand was touching the cold glass screen, my dad looked at me and said “allí esta la mia,” explaining that his hand was there too. The glass didn’t feel cold anymore. It was flooded with warmth because of the love I could feel. At that moment, I vowed to never take my time with my dad for granted.
My dad is the person that would do anything for me. When he saved me from the fire he didn’t save me by calling the police or the hospital. He knew that doing that could limit my opportunities. Instead, he treated me at home and took risks because he wanted the best for me. He is the person who knows how to make me feel better with a single action. He has always known what I was thinking by just looking at me. Even when he couldn’t be with me, I could feel his love through that layer of glass. My dad has taught me to be proud of where I come from, to work hard, and to help others whenever I can. For all these reasons, I can say, without any hesitation, that my father is the person who has been kindest to me in my life.