How are you?
I’m currently in a coffee shop, and it’s playing some smooth jazz.
It reminds me just how much you love Frank Sinatra.
It’s been a while since we really talked. I remember, back in the 90s, especially on sunny Sundays when you would sit in the garage, and just listen to Frank’s old CD’s (well, they weren’t old for you). You had them in little decks, I think you called those things “Disc Changers”. Disc changers were signs of royalty then, I remember the big kids wanting them in their Toyota Corolla’s and their box type Mitsubishi Lancers and their fancy Hatchback Honda Civics. I know we weren’t that well off, especially since you and mom had to stretch owning our old (but ever so reliable) VW Beetle, even though at times, the engine at the back would cough like a fireworks display on New Year’s eve. Eventually, you guys were able to buy a Nissan Sentra. I really loved that car. I like the gold paint job, even years later when the shade turned into faded cheap bronze.
And on Sunday afternoons liek this, we would take that california-scents-pine-smelling car to Greenhills, even if there was hardly any parking. But we went their for the bargains. I used to hate going there because there were so many people. But you guys wanted to buy cheap stuff, and I made the visits worth it by stuffing my face with DEC Siomai.
I remember you always had a box of tools in the car in case something goes wrong, and you had to get down under the car and magically fix that segunda mano Sentra. Those tools were then, for me, your weapons of mass correction. You were our Batman, and they were the accessories on your utility belt, equipment to battle the evils that lived under the hood and chassis of a car.
I had a set of tools too! Albeit, they were plastic; but they were branded “Stanley”, the epitome of both real and toy tools! The stuff of real men. I remember, I had my own wrench, hammer, saw, and I was always tinkering around with stuff. Not too long after that, I was playing around with the real toys of the big boys. Do you remember? How I sneaked into your tool box, and took out the screwdrivers? I remember how upset you were when I dissected our old trinitron remote, and even angrier when I couldn’t put it back together. You knew we wouldn’t be able to watch TV, which we used to see all the Tyson fights. You were always for Iron Mike, and I was always for the Brunos, the Lewises and the Holyfields. Nor would we be able to watch basketball and YOUR Chicago Bulls versus MY Supersonics, Suns, and Jazz.
My life was really built around TV then, Dad. And even if I was afraid of Vegeta, Megatron, Krang, Shredder and Cobra Commander from those morning cartoons, you still beat them all of them as the scariest man I’ve ever seen. Actually, you were tied with the Undertaker. At any moment, I thought you were gonna Tombstone Piledriver me to the ground because I broke the holy grail otherwise known as remote control.
But that day, after a few grunts, frowns and profane murmurs kept to yourself, you made your way to the hardware store to buy a universal remote (which cost a fortune back then). You always used the PI word, but never to attack anybody. You always blamed yourself. I’m sorry, Dad. But I’m glad that not a single spank was laid that day. No belt snapped. No tombstone was set for me.
I believe I grew up in that way too. I’ve never raised my palm nor fist on a child (even if honestly, at times, I thought I would) And I’m mighty glad to have that record.
A few years passed by, and you had to retire because of circumstances out of your control. Your eyes were giving up on you, and it wasn’t exactly easy for a CPA like you, when you couldn’t tell whether a 1 was a 7 or when a decimal point was a comma. I knew that saddened you, not because you were gonna be bored as hell at home, but because you wouldn’t be able to help Mom provide for us. You were always a hardworker, and you never had idle time. Even when you were free, you’d always spend it reading (which is pretty admirable coz you had bad eyes nga).
I always knew you wanted the best for me and my sister. When you were part of the workforce, you always brought home donuts as pasalubong, and even though it would be cold because you were always working out late, they’d still taste as sweet in the morning because they came from you. I loved the strawberry filled ones, and you always got those and took out the bavarian, because I hate those. I miss those donuts.
But when you retired, even though you were sad and frustrated (and oftentimes you kept it inside) I have to admit, I was a bit happy. I got to see you at home all the time. You managed the house with the same efficiency and passion you did back as an outstanding employee. You even took care of the laundry, the dogs, the dishes, the cleaning. And most importantly, you took care of us. I remember how you would religiously – even when you were sick – wake me up in the morning to go to my classes, and you got angry at me when I fail to do so on time. 5:30am I should be up so that I had enough time to shower, and eat before the school bus honked outside our house at 6am. You attended a cooking class, and you discovered the perfect Sinigang recipe. I can cook now too, dad, but I can never get your Sinigang. You should really show me how you do that. Your Sinigang is still the best, Dad.
The coffee shop is playing a Rivermaya Song now, “You’ll be safe here.”
Ironic, it’s how I feel now. I remember being safe around you.
I remember, and I made friends, which I still have today, you were always the one who picked me up whenever we did school work or hung out. You drove to fetch me in different houses of my friends, even at night, despite your failing eyesight. I should’ve been more thankful for that than I was. I’m sorry if at that time I thought you were being a buzz kill because you didn’t want me to go home so late. I loved going home late and spending a few more extra precious minutes with my friends. Looking back, maybe I should’ve spent more of them with you.
I remember how disappointed you were the first time I came home drunk. What’s more, I drove home drunk. We are both fans of Pale Pilsen (though nowadays, I only drink Light), I know this having shared a couple of beers with you. But you were terribly pissed that night. I remember you not talking to me for days, maybe even weeks. I was acting pretty brave, thinking “Hey, if you don’t wanna talk to me, I won’t talk to you too,” but deep inside, I knew I made a huge mistake and it was all just an act. The rebel kid was just a role I played to keep myself from feeling too down. Eventually, I realized the error of my ways, and I vowed never to drink and drive again. I know I missed that vow a couple of nights, because of things I went through. And I’m sorry.
There are so many things I want to apologize to you for, and maybe I should’ve been more upfront about that. But more often than not, I just kept those regrets inside, because I never want to burden anybody or make them feel guilty or worse, make them blame themselves coz of my mistakes. I guess I got that sternness and silence from you. You were the same way. You were the typical “man of a few words,” but, I know I never told you, you are an exemplary father; the silent, but a diligent driving force in keeping our family together.
I remember that day you and mom fought. Looking back, I guess you guys could’ve separated that day. But you told me to call mom and ask her to bring something home, a pasalubong like your donuts, so that you were sure she would still come home. And you never split up. Despite everything.
I guess, this was my first lesson on relationships. I still carry it today. People that love each other can have fights, and still not end things with each other.
Truthfully, we all had fights. You-mom, me-you, mom-me, you-ate, me-everybody, etc. etc. etc. It’s just as most families do. Maybe it’s inevitable. But in all the fights, we never made irreparable wounds.
And even if you got so angry with me for picking a job in productions, which consisted of a recipe of things you did not like for me — long hours, late nights, stressful people, drinking, smoking, disappointment — not once did you ever make me feel bad for doing so. You would shrug in disappointment, I guess I got kinda used to it, but you always supported me. You always gave me a slight praise or soft pact on the back whenever I did something of merit, and you criticized me mercilessly when I committed occupational errors. I guess I should’ve been more appreciative of that. Thank you dad. I’m sorry if I could not give you your dreams of me becoming an MD or an Engineer. But I hope you know, that I continue to do my best in my new field. And I put forth the same effort and passion you did in caring for us, at least to my clients and to my co workers.
I know you don’t like cheesy stuff Dad.
But it’s father’s day.
And it’s been almost 8 months since I last talked to you. I still remember your voice. I still sometimes look back at the house before I leave, just to silently say goodbye to you. It still brings a tear to my eye remembering that last day you spent with us. I am just hoping that these words are enough to express a lifetime of gratitude for you being a wonderful Dad.
Thank you for being the guy who taught me the difference between using tools, and being a tool for the care of others. Thank you for teaching me how to be steadfast, especially when I am hit by waves of problems. Thank you for teaching me that even something so small as a strawberry donut can mean so much to a person. Thank you for making me see that being angry is okay, so long as it’s for the betterment of another person; more so, that it can coexist with nonviolence. Thank you for the support, even if it is masked as disappointment at times.
There are so many things I wish I can still share with you. A couple of beers. Campagne on my wedding. My future child.
I know it’s not gonna be easy, but I promise to be as committed to being a dad as you were.
The coffee shop is now playing a Rod Stewart Song.
And thank you for the slow Sundays. I am no longer the little boy playing around in the garage. I grew up to be a decent man, and I hope I can be as well of a man as you were when you walked the earth.
One man is just a man, until they have a legacy. I hope you know that you had one hell of a legacy. At least for your family. And that’s not bad. Heck, that’s amazing. I don’t think everybody can boast such a record.
I miss you and ate.
For everyone reading this, I hope you can give your dad a hug. Or a high five, or a fist bump, if that’s how you roll. They might not need it, but it’s pretty cool to have that with your dad. I wish I can give mine one last one. The last one was when he breathed last. It still pains me, to be honest.
But life goes on. Maybe someday we can hug again.
Godspeed, Dad. I love you.