Welcome to my housewarming. I wrote this in August 2001 and I am sharing it to all of you. If you find it worthy to share it with others, via email or by referring them to this entry, please do so. Enjoy the ride…🙂
I was watching SOP a year ago, August 6, 2000, and I wowed at the sight and sound of three of the greatest artists who ever existed in this world. My sister, Gilda, and I were like front-row concert freaks raving over Gary V, Regine, and Jaya’s fabulous rendition of a medley of R&B and sentimental songs. Commercial came, my sister and I were still enthralled when her cellphone beeped, signaling the interruption of The Boyfriend. I paused while she read her message. Then, tears fell from her eyes and she gave me her phone. It was a message from my half-sister—my father died last night.
I am a love child. I was raised single-handedly by my mother. She told me the whole story about her affair with my dad, how they met while she was having her OJT where dad was working. She was 19 then. She had me when she was 25 and my father made this cowardly choice of leaving me when his wife found out and went to my dad and mom’s love nest. From that moment on, mom was left with the “joys” of raising me. When I was 5, she met Gilda’s father, a wealthy Chinese Businessman. No room for disapproval on my part. Aside from the fact that I was still young and innocent, I was really more concerned about the toys that I have been receiving almost on an hourly basis. For me, this relationship was a two thumbs way-up! When I was 6, my mom had Gilda and I was really excited. I had a little sister to play with, toss around, throw around—things like that. When she hit her first year as a human being, I also amassed toys, clothes, a ton in weight from trips to Coney Island and Aristocrat in Roxas Blvd. riding Gilda’s father’s orange Toyota Corolla. I was having a blast—so did my family. Months after my sister’s first birthday, the most devastating thing happened to my family—Gilda’s Father suffered an internal hemorrhage and was declared completely paralyzed. A year after, he died. Along with his death—the affluence died. Thus the beginning of another struggle for my family.
After being caught, our life proved to be an interesting roller coaster ride. My mom gets an excellent rating for raising both Gilda and I. I was first year in high school when mom surprised me with a reunion of sorts with my dad. I began seeing him almost on a monthly basis. I was “sort of happy” with the fact that I “have” a father. None of that cliché mush about me envying other boys with fathers attending the PTA or playing basketball with and all that crap. It just made me feel…well, complete. Second year in high school, I was winning provincial competitions and I was glad that I have a father share it with. Father’s Day, I went to his office in Quezon City. I brought him a gift—a set of filters to be used with a beautifully hand-crafted wooden pipe. We went to the restaurant where we usually ate. I ordered a huge T-bone steak and he ordered his favorite sizzling tanigue. He was so quiet—not saying a word while I kept on babbling over winning 2nd place in the provincial spelling bee competition. He fiddled his food with his fork. I finally asked him why he was so quiet. Then he dropped the bomb—his family is leaving for the States—and he will never be seeing me again. I was stunned. When it finally sank in, I bolted out of the restaurant leaving Dad and my half-finished steak. Running like hell with a broken heart and shattered dreams of having a family again.
MOVING ON (?)
Fourth year in DLSU in Dasmarinas—alive and kicking ass in school (in academics anyway). I was to graduate with Best Thesis and Outstanding Student in the College of Arts and Sciences under my belt. I was wracking my brains out on my other research when my mom surprised me at my dorm. She brought me news that my dad was confined in a hospital within the area and that she did not know the room number. I don’t remember what I felt specifically but I decided that I’ll go to the hospital the next day to see him. The next day, I went to the hospital and I was able to get the room number at the nurses’ station. As I came closer, my heart beat wildly—maybe from excitement or anger, I really do not know. I entered the room, a nurse was removing sheets from an empty bed. The first thing that came into my mind was that he was already dead. I asked the nurse where the patient was and she said he was released an hour ago. Damn!!! What the f*&%#k do I have to do??? I was so close! I dragged myself out of the room. As I passed by the nurses’ station, the nurse called out to me and handed me a pair of sunglasses and said, “Your father left this.” I felt the familiar feeling rushing back to me—that feeling of “coming from” someone. A person who does not know me acknowledged me as someone’s son. I thanked her and left the hospital. Then, I just made up my mind: I have to see my father. I did not know why but I mustered all my strength, went back to the nurses’ station and poured out this sob story to get my dad’s address. I got it—along with tears of empathy from all nurses and a phone number from one of the cute ones who offered a shoulder to cry on if I needed one. I felt triumphant. As I waited for a ride, it now came clear to me why I wanted to see my dad. I wanted him to see me that I survived his absence. I wanted him to feel that he did not matter to me at all. In short, I wanted vengeance. Thus, my quest for vengeance began. I wrote him letters and sent them through LBC asking for a meeting. My girlfriend (then) even went with me to different meeting places but he never ever showed up. Graduation came, I sent Dad another letter, attaching all my credentials plus a resume and a letter inviting him to come. He did not show up. After that, the drive just gradually died. I got work five months later. After a year with the company, I was earning a 5-digit salary as a fresh graduate. The urge to seek revenge re-surfaced and I sent Dad a telegram on December of 1996 with my office number. I got a call January of 1997—from my half-sister. I stammered because I was not expecting her to call. The good thing was, she agreed on a date for us to meet. When I hung up, I could not wait for THE day to come.
DAY OF ATONEMENT
January 20, 1997. I was all pumped and psyched as I entered the restaurant where I was supposed to meet my Dad and my sisters. I wore a beige and green Ralph Lauren checkered long sleeve shirt, neatly tucked in a pair of Giordano denims. I looked great and as expensive as the clothes I was wearing. Armed with a piercing, heart-breaking speech, the plan was to go in and tell my Dad that I graduated with honors, that I landed an officer position despite my being a fresh graduate, that I was already earning a 5-digit salary, that his presence did not matter even the minutest bit, that he can go f*%&k himself, then give him the finger. As I gazed around, I saw him—with these two women whom I assumed to be his daughters. I walked towards them. As I drew nearer to my dramatic moment of truth, I saw them smiling and giggling. I was standing by the table, ready to fire away when both my sisters hugged me with genuine warmth, verbalizing an unexplainable longing. I was brought up in a mushy and affectionate environment but this was just too much. I said to myself, once this stops, I’ll fire away. Then my dad spoke—his speech was slurred, he did not stand up, he just shook my hand. I decided to suspend my wrath for a moment and engage in chit-chat. After a while, Dad excused himself to go to the restroom. That’s when I saw him in full stature after 9 years—the power-dressed lawyer/division chief I knew then was now wearing a worn out white shirt and old, torn denim pants and was taking baby steps to reach the restroom. My sister explained that he has been like that ever since the stroke. There was a certain heaviness in me. Was it pity? Happiness? Relief? I did not know. Hours later, I found myself in my sister’s house, where I met her two sons—my nephews (damn, I have nephews…). As dad went to his room to rest, us siblings went on to talk some more. Dad was living under the care of his eldest daughter. Contrary to what Dad told me before, they did not move to the States. Only his 3 sons did and Dad spent 6 months in the States and 6 months with my sisters in the Philippines every year. As the conversation went on, I could not help but feel that they are happy that I was there and that they have someone to share the responsibility of taking care of Dad. I did not comment. After that day, I visited him two months later on his birthday (March 18). My family faced a series of terrible financial strain and I just did not have the time to visit or even call him anymore. All I remember when I left that day was, I felt sad for my Dad and happy for myself—happy that karma stepped in and spared me from becoming a cruel and heartless son. My dad suffered enough. I forgave him in my heart—it was time to move on.
It has been three years since the last time I saw Dad. After receiving news of his death, I did not know what to feel. Gilda got angry and left me with harsh words. I just wandered off to my Sri Lankan friend’s house, made some calls to my best friends. After that, I went home and just sat on the front porch. My mom came home around 6:30 p.m. and found me there. I told her and she hugged me. I cried and sobbed—now I know what I felt. It was guilt and sadness—my dad died not knowing that I forgave him—that I loved him.
SADNESS, GUILT, STRENGTH
I went to the wake on Tuesday. My sister was there. For three years, it was the first time that I will be seeing my Dad—lying lifeless in a coffin. Seeing him broke my heart even more. I wanted to hug him but I had to be content on running my hand on the glass, fervently hoping that he could feel my touch. I cried my heart out, silently shouting that I loved him and that I have forgiven him—silently hoping that he could hear me. I stayed with my sister up to the time of his burial. For the first time, I met my cousins and uncles and aunts from my Dad’s side. Everyone thought of me as Dad’s youngest son from the States. I told them that I was not him and they immediately understood. By the coffin, some even stopped from crying and paused in confusion once they see the extra ribbon with the name “Jerome” next to Dad’s children’s names. His four children who were abroad, chose not to go home. So my sister and I were the only ones who took care of everything. My friends came to my Dad’s funeral. The night before my Dad’s burial, my Mom and sister came during the mass. As the priest led everyone to sing, Sino Ako? (Who Am I?), I again cried and sobbed to the piercing lyrics. I was lucky my Mom and Gilda were there to comfort me.
The next day, I was outside the chapel watching my Dad’s coffin being carried out into the hearse. I cannot explain it but I felt my knees buckle and for a moment I thought I was going to faint. I was just moments away from not seeing Dad forever. During the burial, my sister became hysterical. I, on the other hand, became her shoulder to cry on. I was now the one doing the comforting instead of the one needing comfort. I did not cry much. I stood tall. I felt I was a complete person that time. A supportive brother. A grieving son. A man.
We returned to my sister’s house to serve lunch to relatives and friends. I told my sister to sleep and I cleaned the house until it was back to its normal state. She woke up around 7:30 p.m. in the evening and we decided to talk. We sat on the porch and I sat on the same spot where Dad spends his day fixing things and smoking. I took his place, my sister said. She then asked me if I want to go through his belongings and take some home. We went to his room and I was faced with Dad’s shirts, shorts, pants, and watches. Touching his clothes made me shed more tears. As I chose to take three shirts, four pairs of shorts, and 2 of his watches, my sister took out something from the drawer and gave it to me. It was my Dad’s wallet. When I opened it, its only content was the picture I sent him when I graduated. My sister began saying that Dad had kept the picture and has showed it to his brothers and to my relatives saying that I was his son. I lost it. I kept on saying to myself, “why does this have to happen to us?” My sister began telling me how Dad always talked about me and was always asking her if I called or wrote. I felt happy…and more guilty. But I felt sad for my sister at the same time. I could feel the hurt and the pain. All the time that Dad was living with her, she felt Dad did not love her despite her devotion to him. The bitterness in her was so obvious—for her, it seemed like her presence did not matter. The irony of it all? My absence mattered to my father.
EPILOGUE: FINDING LIFE IN DEATH
I left the next day and before I went home, I passed by Festival Mall to buy some cards for my mom and my sister and my friends to share with them the lessons I have learned from my father’s death. I spent the rest of the day at Starbucks, writing down my feelings and how profound my experience was. Most of the lessons I have learned are just affirmations of what my mom has taught me through the years.
FIRST LESSON: We choose the life we want to live. One chooses to be happy or lonely. My dad chose his family but despite that, he died lonely. He could have made his life happier by investing time for himself and his children—after all, he was physically there with them. Maybe he was lonely because he made a trade-off, without acknowledging the consequences of his choice. Acknowledging consequences of our actions would help a lot in moving forward.
SECOND LESSON: Parents should show affection to their children. Constantly verbalizing parents’ love would make a LOT of difference. Parents seem to resort to assuming that their children “automatically” know that their parents love them just for biological reasons. In my case, it would have made A LOT OF DIFFERENCE, don’t you think?
LAST LESSON: Children should express their love to their parents. My mom raised my sister and I in a very emotionally open environment. We grew up not having problems saying “I love you” and expressing our emotions. It would have made a lot of difference to my Dad should I have let him know that I forgave him and that I loved him.
I guess the real tragedy of my father’s death is not his death itself—but because there was SO MUCH LOVE UNSAID. My dad loved me and I am sure he loved my sister and his other children. But no one ever expressed affection…no one ever knew. My sister loved Dad but he did not hear it. I love Dad but he died lonely, not knowing it. From this tragedy comes the ultimate affirmation of a very abused cliché—LIFE IS REALLY TOO SHORT. By dying without knowing comes another tragedy—a life full of regrets which could be so incapacitating to move forward. The final lesson? Love to the fullest, live to the fullest.
As much as my father’s death was a depressing event in my life, it proved to be an enlightening, profound learning experience for me. I have learned to love those close to me even more as if by the end of the day, I will be taking my last breath of life. My mission? To share with everyone my experience. Through this recount, I hope that people would look at love and family in a more serious note. That life is really too short for us to love and be loved—the way we should…and deserve to be.