Hours before heading to my in-laws for a night of games and lots of food, my wife, my daughter, and I headed to theaters on Thanksgiving day to watch Pixar’s newest film, Coco. The film was a great opportunity to spend time with my family, eating popcorn and whispering our likes and dislikes throughout the movie. We had very few dislikes, as the film was very entertaining, created by some of the most talented men and women in the entertainment industry. The plot was developed exquisitely, and the visuals were among the most colorful and vibrant I have seen in decades. It was an enjoyable experience; it was an experience that left a lingering thought.
I will not reveal much of the film’s plot. After all, this is not a film review, nor do I intend to spell out any spoilers. I will say, however, that the film touches on the importance of altars and ofrendas erected for the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Altars containing pictures of loved ones who have passed are erected, and ofrendas are brought to the altars with the belief that those who have passed return on a single night to gather what their family has brought for them. However, if a picture of a loved one is not placed on the altar they cannot cross into the world of the living, and are thereby slowly forgotten forever.
In the film, the memory of a father depends on his daughter’s fading memory. As the daughter’s memory fades, so does the father’s existence. Watching this scenario play out while sitting next to my daughter made me wonder–how will my daughter remember me? Will my daughter’s memory of me be pleasant, or will she be left wanting, desiring more of my attention, more of my love, more of my hugs? Do I work hard enough to create fun and playful memories for my daughter? More importantly, if my life depended on my daughter’s memories of me, would I be around for much longer?
My mother saw her father die of alcohol poisoning when she was only 10 years old. She removed a blanket from what she describes as “a purple and swollen face,” and quickly realized that her father died while lying on his hammock, asphyxiated by his own regurgitation. My grandfather left three young daughters behind, and he was only one of millions of fathers who were not, and are not, around long enough to create lasting impressions on their daughters. For millions of girls, their first male role model deserted them, either by choice or by life’s circumstances. I am well aware of this, and for this reason, I make a concentrated effort to be the best male role model I can be for my daughter.
Still, I continue to wonder if I do enough to create a better memory of me for my daughter than my grandfather created for his daughters. I want my daughter to have warm memories of me. I want my daughter to learn that all men should honor and respect her just as I honor and respect her. I want my daughter to know that my imperfections are not aspects to normalize in other males. I want my daughter to know that I try to live out my role as a father as if my existence depended on her memory. When my daughter gets older and reads this piece, I want her to know that I care deeply about how she perceives me. I hope that she harbors only our best memories so that my role as a father can comfort her in this world and in the next.
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