Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The one on what missing my Dad and following his footsteps

Today makes it slightly more than four months since my father went home to Jesus. Since then, my mother has gone to the United States twice and my brother, who is based there, seems to be set on rebuilding his relationship with Mom. My dad's ashes are in his sister's house, and from all indications, at this point in time, with the exception of my own, I don't have a family right now.

I seem to have focused on taking care of raising my family, and with us living with Cathy's parents, well, I'm the in-law who's adjusting. Playing the role of God-servant, husband, father, and all the other roles is starting to take its toll.

Sometimes, I wonder if I moved on from Dad's death too quickly. Did I give myself enough time to really grieve, other than the time I wept really bitterly at the Makati Medical Center where Dad died, and the one painful time when Cathy held me and comforted me a few days after his passing, in church, where my brothers and sisters in Christ gave me a love offering that helped significantly in taking care of Dad's memorial expenses.

One never knows when one will go - it's for that reason exactly that we should take every moment, if possible, to appreciate life and the people we love and who love us.

Now that I'm a dad myself, I feel the pressure of making sure my son experiences many of the things a son should be entitled to that I mayn't have gotten from my Dad, not because he mayn't have wanted to, but simply because he was working hard to provide for us. With Christ in the center, I'm sure we can find a good balance.

In closing this entry, I'm posting an entry I made at Mere Madness for Father's Day. The words still ring true, and I do regret not being with my dad more. I have my Mom, though, and my parents-in-law, so I will ensure that the time I have left with them will be better in quality and quantity. I owe it to them.

What makes a father a good father, anyway? Hallmark?

My father never took me fishing, or to the zoo, or to playgrounds. I have no fond memories of him lifting me in the air, or playing any sports with me. When I was a child, he never encouraged me to play soccer, or ride a bike, or play in the mud. We never went to a park, and out-of-town journeys in the "family wagon" were next to nonexistent. What I do remember are the Saturdays, when he would take my mom, brother and myself to Shakey's, order a pizza, and watch as John and I watched "Tom and Jerry" on this big-screen TV while he and mom smoked while waiting for the pizza to arrive. I remember he and I watching "I Love Lucy" reruns at home, he with his cigarette, I with my orange Jello. I don't remember the Hallmark cards, but I remember my Dad and I sharing each other's company.

My father didn't try to set a good health example for me. He smoked fifty packs of cigarettes a week (that's five reams), despite my repeated pleadings for him to quit. He enjoyed a good Scotch on the rocks, and the occasional beer. He never exercised. I do, however, remember sitting on one arm of his favorite rocking chair, John on the other arm, and he'd tickle us incessantly. He didn't smoke during those times. I remember his warning me not to run down the stairs for fear that I would fall and snap my neck. I don't remember much physical activity, but I remember my Dad and I loving each other enough to warn each other to be safe.

My father was not a physically loving father. I don't remember rolling through the grass laughing in each other's arms, he lifting me up, I squeaking in delight. I don't remember him ever kissing my cheek, or showing much physical affection the way fathers and sons do now. Instead, I remember when he would look into my eyes and tell me, "you know what, son? You're a great-looking kid." I do remember the spanking when we did something wrong. It would be a belt, or a flipflop rubber slipper, and we would howl in pain, John more than I, because I had a greater tolerance and lesser infractions. I don't remember physical love, but I remember feeling every ounce of the love that he did have for me.

I have no memories of his ever going to church. He hardly ever spoke of God. But during the Mass when I graduated, he didn't smoke, and waited patiently, and when I got my high school diploma, he cried. He cried again when I graduated from university with a degree in English literature. He had nine children; I was his first college graduate. He was never more proud of me than at that moment; I was never more proud of myself, for having given him what he desperately wanted: a son with a degree who could follow in his footsteps. He told me then that he was the proudest father in the world; I told him I was proud to be his son.

And I still am proud of my dad. See, he worked for the government, and never stole a single centavo. He was always honest like that. He had the chances, oh yes! But he never stole anything, and often told his superiors of the possibility of bribing.

By all indications, my father is a non-traditional father. When he suffered his stroke, I saw that once-proud man buckle under his own weight, and punished by years of working to provide a future for us. I feared for his death, and when he survived, I saw the chance to love him the way he loved me - wholeheartedly, but with that slightest tinge of holding back. Right now, my Dad's probably at home, watching TV, and it is I who must provide for his needs. He can't really move much; I doubt he will ever walk again. It's not the best way he'd like to go, but hey! My father is never one to do things the way people expected him to.

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