What He Taught Me

By Valentina Falavigna  |   From : Brazil  |   School : Everglades High School

My name is Valentina Falavigna. This is my story. My parents met at a bar just like one of those cheesy movies. He asked her if she wanted to go out sometime and they hit it off. They were already engaged in 2004, the same year they had me. A couple months after I was born my mom had found out my dad cheated on her for almost four years. He left us and my mom and I stayed with my grandparents. Three years later there was a knock on my door. My mom walked to the door and ran back to the living room where my grandparents and I were watching novella. I don’t remember the things she said, but I remember the worry and heartbreak in her voice. She picked me up and took me upstairs to our bedroom which we had to share at the time. My mom locked the door and told me everything would be okay. I started to cry because I was confused and scared of the way she was acting. I heard mumbling downstairs. A man’s voice. Without knowing at the time, it was my dad. He wasn’t alone though. He brought a little baby boy in his arms. My half-brother.

Later, my mom decided it was time for me to meet my dad and spend time with my brother. She stayed with me the whole time because she didn’t trust him yet. I still didn’t have much of an understanding of who they were because I was so young, but over the years I did see them more often. My dad was very outgoing when it came to family. I would go over to his house and he would take me on his motorcycle or we would all play board games together. He always got us to have fun together. As I grew older, I wasn’t very close to him due to the fact that I always felt let down by him. For example, when we would make plans for little things like going to the movies, he would always have an excuse of why he couldn’t make it. I also started to resent him knowing that he cheated on my mom. I had just always wished for him to be better because if he had been maybe things would’ve been different.

In 2017, me and him began to have a closer relationship. I was tired of holding a grudge. We would talk on the phone whenever we could and now thinking back to it, I avoided him because I didn’t want to be let down again after making such a breakthrough with him. I didn’t see my dad for almost a whole year. I spoke to him on the phone the day of the Superbowl in 2019 while I was at my friend’s house. He got a little upset that I was at my friend’s house instead of being with my mom and I thought it was strange. That night we ended up having a big fight about something that I can’t even remember. I blocked him and that was our last conversation.

A couple days later my cousin Nathalia texted me asking if I heard what happened with my dad. I told her that I hadn’t heard from him, forgetting I had blocked him on my phone. She told me he had gotten in a big motorcycle accident and that he was in the hospital in a coma. I didn’t know how to feel. I felt numb to the situation. I hadn’t seen him in so long that it didn’t feel real. I told my mom and she called my stepmom right away.

That night my mom when my mom got home from work she told me that my dad was in critical condition at the hospital. She said that we would go to see him together because she didn’t want me going alone. The day before we went, my Dominican family from my dad’s side asked me to go with them. I told them I wanted to go with my mom because I didn’t want her to be or feel alone either. They got upset with us and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to make everyone happy and I was just making everyone more stressed.

The next day my mom and I went to the hospital. I finally saw my brother and stepmom after months of not speaking. We went into the room and I was in shock I didn’t know how to react. He was full of bruises, road rash, bloated in his hands and feet. It was unbearable to see. I tried to collect myself, but it was too hard to do. I immediately started to cry. My mom hugged me super tight and said I could still talk to him or touch his hand if I wanted to. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I saw him a couple more times, but there was no progression. I held his hand every time I saw him again, so he would know I was there for him. About a month later he passed and we had a celebration of life ceremony. There was a slideshow and a lot of people had speeches. I felt so empty without him and alone that I didn’t have the courage to say anything in front of so many people. Towards the end of the ceremony, my mom told me to look behind me. When I turned my head all my friends and family were there. I felt so blessed that I couldn’t help but cry. Everyone came to hug me and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. 

As the months passed I learned that everyone in your life is special. You’re never gonna know what can happen to your friend or family member today, tomorrow, or even the next few minutes of the day. I gained knowledge on that and ever since have made it so important for others to know I’m a shoulder to lean on. I made it happen by showing I care and love others with not only words, but also actions. I never want anyone to feel alone because there is always someone else who has been in that same position. My dad taught me all these things.


“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with a little rain.” -Dolly Parton

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