Read an Excerpt
The Gift of Time
Why I'm Writing
Time is the longest distance between two places.
My Dearest Paola and Nicolás:
Life is so unbelievably short. Time together is a gift whose value we cannot discount.
I'm writing these letters to you before it's too late. No, don't worry; this isn't a good-bye. Actually, it's the opposite. These letters are an embrace. I'm writing to tell you things I've never told you before, or at least things that I haven't told you in their entirety. (It's not that I've been keeping secrets.)
These pages aren't going to be filled with advice, or at least I'm going to try and keep it on the light side—I know there can be little more irritating or aggravating than unsolicited opinions. Rather, I just want to recount some of the more important things I've learned in this half-century-long adventure—as a father, as a son and brother, as a journalist, as a foreigner, as a traveler—and to share them with you.
You might also be thinking that you've heard this all before, or that we could have discussed this ourselves over dinner some night. It's never a bad time to talk, and you two hang on my every word, right? But just in case your eager young minds don't always absorb every sage word uttered by your dear old dad, here is a backup.
But just in case your eager young minds don't always absorb every sage word uttered by your dear old dad, here is a backup.
Someday, I hope, you'll pick up these pages in search of the answer to some question: one ofthose unspoken gaps that always exist between fathers and children. I found myself left with many unanswered questions about my own father, and I don't want this to happen to you. My greatest fear isn't of dying—it's of dying before I've told you everything. I want you to know the special way in which you two have enriched my existence. Simply put, I want you to truly know how much I love you. I've accepted that it is possible this may come off a bit sappy. But it's inevitable that, from time to time, I'll stumble through the weeds of sentimentality in order to explain just how I feel. Lo siento.
I've heard fathers complain about how their lives were complicated by the birth of their children. For me, it was just the opposite. After each of you was born, my life became more simplified: I knew, during those moments, that nothing and no one was more important to me. And I've felt that way ever since. The rest is simply that: the rest. You do the choosing for me. I have inner peace knowing that the two of you come before anything else.
After each of you was born, my life became more simplified: I knew, during those moments, that nothing and no one was more important to me.
Nicolás, as I'm sure you're tired of hearing by now, nothing is more important to me than you and Paola. From time to time, I'll smile at the look on your little face (your eyes looking up at me as if I were crazy) when I repeat for the umpteenth time that question-mantra that's so essential to me: "You know you're the most important thing in my life, right?"
"You already said that, Dad," you tell me. And though hearing that response calms me, a few days later, I'll find myself needing to ask you yet again.
With you, Paola, I don't say that as much. Maybe it's because you're older. There is no manual on how to be a parent, how often to say these things—and we've each had our hits and misses during this chancy and beautiful adventure between first-time fathers and their daughters.
Firstborn children, and I also speak as a firstborn, have the honor of being the guinea pigs. We are test cases, experimental subjects. This is not born of sometimes, it's because we're fumbling through the darkness. We don't know whether we're doing a good job or not. So we stumble on through, though questions abound. For example, you might ask me why I've chosen to publish this book, something so private? The three of us, I know, are a shy group. Airing our own private laundry isn't for us.
Well, after twenty-five years of living externally, pursuing the news, I've decided to give myself permission to pause for a moment and take a look inside. And I've found myself to be a very incomplete being. For years now, I've blocked or avoided so many things that—at times—I don't even recognize myself. The letters that you're about to read have helped me to reconnect with my emotions and—someday—with you and with the people who surround and care about me. It's very affecting, almost a surprise, when you rediscover that spark buried deep within you. And now that I've found it, I'm not about to let it burn out again.
These letters contain everything that I've always wanted to say to you, everything I want you to remember. These letters are the result of the time that we've spent together. Unrepeatable time. And, above all, these letters are the clearest proof of the fact that my life is much, much grander thanks to you both.
Mountains of love,