Most Tuesdays I listen to a podcast called Radio Ambulante; they tell Latin American stories. For a while now, I have been on a journey of rediscovering my Latin American roots and listening to this podcast in Spanish has been a huge part of it. I have a complicated history with Latin America… For a long time I conflated the culture with some of the traumatic experiences I had growing up. I thought they were one and the same. Only in the past three years or so have I started unpicking all of that and understanding a bit more about myself in the process. One of the most difficult things to process is my relationship with my dad.
This week’s Radio Ambulante episode was about football; my dad loves football. In the episode, two people reflect on their love for football and how it was passed down from their families onto them. I remember the first time my dad took me to a football stadium to see a match, I must have been seven or eight. I mostly remember people shouting and how chaotic it was. I barely took notice of what happened on the pitch; the people were so much more interesting. Listening to the people in the RA episode tell stories of their families, and how football was this thing that they shared, reminded me of how when I was little my dad would talk about it a lot and we would play.
The relationship with my dad deteriorated when we migrated to Europe. His behaviour made it very difficult for me to connect with him. For a while, I did not want to have anything to do with him. And the things that he liked also became tainted by the way he acted within our family. I guess I was trying to protect myself so I put aside the things I had learnt from him. He still tried to make a connection by talking about football with my brother and I but I turned away. We didn’t play anymore. I wasn’t a little girl anymore.
I have learnt so much since that time. Moving out and growing up has helped me see my dad in a different light. Even though the things that happened are still painful sometimes, I can see how a lot of his behaviour grew out of his own unresolved pain. I know that, to some extent, he still carries that pain with him. I felt a fierce bitterness once that has slowly melted away and given way to compassion. Football was always a way of connecting with him in some small way so I am following the World Cup this year and choosing to see the man I knew as a little girl. The man who took me to see a football match for the first time and carried me on his shoulders.