From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Learning to Fly

What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and how you remember it.

Gabriel García Márquez

I never really knew my father, even though I grew up in his presence. His love affair with booze kept him occupied most of the time, but when there were glimpses of affection, they were magical.

My father could make a completely aerodynamic aircraft out of a piece of paper like I had never seen anyone do. Every opportunity I had, I asked him to build me one of those planes. He took what seemed like hours—folding and tearing and licking and scrutinizing. The end result was a plane that, if launched under a stiff wind, could travel a whole block.

My father knew about my fascination with his planes, yet he never took the time to teach me how to make one. Perhaps it was because he knew that his planes were the price of admission into my heart until his next appointment with the bottle. If I knew how to make one, he would no longer have the currency. Or perhaps I never really wanted to learn. Those special moments with him were so rare.

As I got older, I lost interest in his planes, and we kept growing apart until eventually we rarely spoke.

Today, I make paper airplanes for my own two sons— not nearly as well as my father—but I see and feel the same magic and enthusiasm in them that I felt during the special times with my father.

I wish he were here to see what a great pilot he was, in spite of everything.

I miss you, Papi.

Steve Peralta

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