Thirty-two years ago, my husband left me.
He died, leaving a house full of daughters, young and adorable, innocent, with the world on their side.
In the face of adversity, we were not permitted to ask, “why me?” You can ask, but you won’t get an answer.
Through the years, I’ve learned the hard way.
Why some poems don’t rhyme, why some stories don’t even have a clear beginning, middle and end.
That life is a delicious ambiguity about not knowing, just taking the moment, making the most of it, without knowing what is going to happen next.
Through years of hair-raising fears and loneliness, along with joy and pride that tumbled in every widow’s brain, I’ve tried to create a vision of life for them in my mind.
I went through of four lawyers, four doctors, beauty parlors and boutiques, and four writers.
And God forbid, four spinsters!
You see, your children are either the center of your life or not.
The rest is commentary.
Having helped make them mine, I remember their arrival that still produced grave guilt in in one’s motherhood, because we have ached for sons, instead.
I have hatched them until they were ready to fly. I watched them grow from babies — whose moves toward independence were excruciatingly slow — to little children, and then into young adults.
From diapers to cap and gown for that law degree, Milkah, the eldest who taught everyone kindness, modeled respect and always looked rich and clean.
Through the scrapes and scratches, she is the indomitable one.
Raisha, stumbles out of the door line one of the three tenors, singing neopolitan love songs — upbeat, positive, and polite.
But somehow ancestral calls, and would delegate them as assistants to the most prominent lawyers here in Southern California and the nightingale married a hot shot lawyer in Nevada, but that’s another story.
Years back, they were little women that I caught falling into the fierce tentacles of first love. When their 10-year-old hearts were breaking, it sent convulsions that shook the house, weeping like Victorian heroines in immeasurable anguish and despair.
I remember walking to the front door,instead of their father, to shake the hands of their first dates, young men crippled with shyness. Soon, I was walking them into the wedding altar!
Like a gypsy reads tea leaves, I saw them merged into unmanageable ceaseless demands. Always bouncing on my bed when I was inside. Bouncing on my bed, when I was sleeping.
Natasha, the Christmas baby, emulated her father’s legacy…pleasant, thoughtful and generous.
Then there’s Veruschka, the source my joy and numerous excesses, always interrupting when I phoned in my stories.
They could occupy themselves endlessly with with friends, computers, malls, plays and concerts, husbands and work. And just when I’m feeling grateful for some peace, someone erupts with their call for…mother!
Their memories of their father include being perched on his lap and a kiss that cures broken legs and bruised egos. He had the uncanny way saying just the right word and to whom. His expectations, hope and commitment to us we were high.
Mr. de Leon gave us love, taught us reason and intelligence, made us feel certain we will succeed in any endeavor.
Today, it is the girls’ turn to give memories, not to take them away: their fathers 32nd death anniversary was a day of appreciation and respect. I can’t think of any other daughters who deserve it more than those who had to give their father back.
They are the instruments who were left behind to perpetuate the life that was lost and appreciate the time they had with it.
I’ve watched all my daughters grow up, now they are watching me grow old.
So why am I crying?