By Michael Armijo
I stood there in the courtyard, and waited. Her little eyes, her bright smile, her warm hugs…I was waiting for them all. It would be just a few minutes before that bell would ring, it would be just a few minutes before my little love of life would run out smiling, wrapping her arms around me proclaiming, “Daddy, I love you.”
The bell rang and I stood there. I watched; I waited. I sought her out, but she didn’t show. Hundreds of kids ran by and I made eye contact with each and every one of them. There wasn’t a chance that she would’ve gotten by me. My mind knew what she looked like, what she resembled, and all her characteristics. I was like a machine, scanning the crowd, like a robot with a mission. I was waiting for someone who made my life complete, who I had given my heart to, who I trusted with my feelings, my spirit, my life.
After most of the children passed me by, I felt a sensation of panic. I felt a sense of fear. I was afraid that I had lost one of the only people in life that I knew loved me, unconditionally, and now, who would be there in the end?
When I felt that panic, when I felt the fear of losing someone I really loved, I wondered why. Why did I feel so fearful? Why was I so afraid? Why did I feel such a sense of panic? And then I remembered what had happened.
I remembered my mother, my father, my family. I remembered how much they loved me, how they took care of me. I remembered giving my 8-year old heart to those who I thought I could trust. And then I remembered how one day my life changed. I still don’t recall how, and I still can’t understand why, but for some strange reason, when I was growing up my life was filled with love and joy, and then one day it was all taken away. All that I knew as a child, all that I trusted, was ripped from my heart, and then ripped from my soul. And no one explained why.
After the inconsistency of that environment, I found new love from girlfriends in high school. And then they too, like my family, left me, and took parts of my heart with them. I remember, at 16 years of age, standing in the aisle of Sav-on, stocking shelves, while tears poured from my eyes. I was hurt, I was devastated, and I was alone. Again, someone whom I had given my heart to had taken away a piece of my inner self. And again, they left without a word.
It took so long for me to love again, to fully trust people, but somehow I did. I began to give my heart, or what was left of it, to others whom I felt I could trust. I slowly began to rebuild my life, or so I thought.
The way I felt that day so many years ago when I couldn’t find my daughter, when that sleeping giant of fear woke up and looked around – I remembered the pain, and the sorrow and I remembered how much love hurt. I guess that when I waited for her, those feelings of abandonment returned, and I was afraid of losing yet another love in my life. I didn’t have much heart left to lose; I couldn’t stand to go through what I had experienced so many times, and so many years ago. But I faced those demons of fear and abandonment and grew from my pain. I simply refused to let my past interfere with my future. I had worked too hard to let irresponsible acts of yesterday interfere with what I had built for today. That day, I found my daughter, and I faced my fears.
As each day passes, I thank God for the opportunity to feel feelings and emotions that some people will never feel. I thank God for being able to enjoy my life with a smile and a hug. More importantly, I thank God for allowing me to understand that someday I may lose the ones I love, but not to fear, because today is the day I will enjoy their presence, their love, and their joy. And when they’re gone, I will still make wonderful memories, so that I can remember that God has given me a beautiful place in my soul – free from past pain, free from fear and abandonment, and free from lost love.