The saddest burger I ever ate

The other day I got these coupons in the mail that made me crave a whopper from Burger King. As I was cutting out the coupons, I couldn’t help but think of my dad. He liked his burgers from Burger King and his french fries from McDonald’s. 

My father’s last solid meal was a whopper from Burger King. Nothing fancy, if you ask me. That Saturday, I asked him what he wanted for lunch, and the answer was a burger. My mother, of course, quickly refused, as she worried about my dad’s sugar levels going up and his delicate stomach. “Mom, let him enjoy his burger.” My dad and I spoke the same language of mischief, so he knew that I would get him his burger.

It was his favorite pleasure. He was a simple man. He knew nothing about fancy restaurants or gourmet foods. In fact, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a salad fork and a table fork. He ate everything you put in front of him with delight and never complained about it. 

In fact, he didn’t complain much. Not even when he worked outside, under the 110 degree weather. During the scarce summers that I spent with him, I remember him getting home from work, wearing his dark blue, thick work uniform drenched in sweat. The Arizona sun painted his face and arms a darker shade of acceptable. 

He didn’t complain about having to quit school when he was 12 years old in order to help feed his brothers and sisters.

He didn’t complain about having to walk 4 miles each way to get to work at the tortilla factory. 

He didn’t complain when there was no more work in his country and had to move somewhere where there would be an opportunity for someone like him. 

He didn’t complain about having to live away from my undocumented mother so that his children could have a better life than he did. 

He didn’t complain when his oldest daughter died, or when his own children forgot about him.

He didn’t complain, he just did what he knew best.  He carried on. 

Many times I wished my dad would help me with my homework, wipe the tears off my face and take me to the raspado shop. I wished he understood what I was learning in school, so we could have conversations about expanding galaxies or the good poets . Many times, I simply wished we could have a conversation. 

Life handed him a tough card. He dealt with it the best he could, the way he knew how to. 

I often feel incredibly guilty that I get to have a much better life than he did.

I feel guilty that I didn’t have to fight to belong to a country as much as he did. I feel guilty that I didn’t have to work as hard, I just had to be born to have the privilege. 

I feel guilty that I didn’t have to spend my youth working in the fields or digging holes at a cemetery for a living. I feel guilty that I complained about how much homework I had, or how hard my math class was. I feel guilty that I didn’t understand that the callouses in my father’s hands were is his way of saying “I love you.” 

Many times I wish I wasn’t writing about my dad. Many times I wish I wasn’t triggered so easily by things like a cheap burger or driving around town with broken air conditioning. I wish I didn’t have to talk to the page as if I was trying to make up for the things I didn’t understand when I was young. I wish I understood then what I know now. 

I ate a whopper the other day. And it was the saddest burger I have ever tasted.