To dad: for his patience, and his persuasiveness, and for his amazingly never-ending, unconditional love for us…
For the past 12 years of my life, I have been saying almost the same prayer every night: that one day, our family will be together. Happy. We are all scattered all over the world, and I just want us, at important times, and sometimes I even dream that maybe at permanent times, to be together. I seldom got to spend birthdays and holidays together with my family for the past 12 years and it’s sort of an emotional roller coaster for a very closely knit family like ours. It started out being unbearable, then it moved to being a matter of fact, and somewhat easier, but there are times when the distance just becomes as sharp of a pain as a toothache. Just insupportable!
It would have been one of those times, if my dad was denied a visa once more when he asked the US Embassy to come to my wedding! For some odd reason, although everyone else in my family got a visa with not much fuss, my dad has been denied for years. Although everyone else got visas good for ten years, his only granted one was for a month. He is the sweetest, funniest man you’ll ever meet, and yet he must look like some sort of threat to the US government for them to deny him to come visit his daughter.
It’s been a long 12 years without him here. Especially since he’s the one that raised me and my sister with the love, respect of America, and the dream of becoming an American one day. It’s been a painful journey not being able to share all my “American accomplishments”, really, my whole adult life, without the man who prepared me for it, and mentored me into living free, living independently, living simple and living honestly! All things impossible in my home country!
When I got the call this week that he was granted a 10 year visa to the US, it was one of those moments where you don’t know whether you want to cry, laugh, scream out loud in the streets, or just contain your happiness for fear of jinxing something!
I felt much like when Communism fell in Romania, or much like I felt when I became an American Citizen. Another door has opened. Another set of heavy locks were smashed. The world just became a little bit freer, and our lives, my family’s life, has become a little bit more “together” and happier.
I cried. Within myself. I kissed dad virtually (for now), and thanked God and the American authorities for their help and generosity! I thanked the Government for finally granting their new citizen the very basic (you’d think) right to enjoy her family for a while, whenever she needs to.
My dad will not live in the US for the next 10 years, so I can get to see him every day and so that he can benefit from the US free and bountiful life. But just to know that we’re ONLY a plane flight away from each other anymore, in either direction, makes me melt with joy, and gratefulness! Just to know that he can escape what he calls “The Prison of Romania” whenever he feels like it, feels like the biggest blessing we have been given. And it doubles the feeling when I know I could give this to my dad who has taught me that anything is possible if you take the right opportunities, and who has taught me that living in America is just as doable as anything else in the world. Even when you come from “The Prison”.
I know it’s unfathomable to most Americans, who are free to travel the world with no visas, and no screening from any governments to know what it truly means when a huge door like this opens up. It is very weird, indeed: the hardest thing I have found for the past 12 years is to try to explain to most Americans what freedom feels like. They talk about it, with their fist clenched across their hearts, they take pride in being the freest nation on Earth, and they are, but I don’t think they truly know, deep inside their gut, what it feels like to get it. What it feels like to truly appreciate it, when you’ve been deprived of it for most of your life. I guess it’s only fair, because there is really nothing they can compare it to.
When you’ve had something all your life, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like if you were ever forced to fight for it yourself. I hope, one day, I’ll find the words. For now, I am just grateful once more for good things in history, and for governments making justice, sometimes, and not just destroying lives. However long the wait, however bitter the sacrifice, it is always worth it. Those 12 years of waiting melted away with that one phone call.
I am also grinning from ear to ear and waiting for my family to come join me in front of the altar. After all, that’s where it all begins.