Coming home from a mountain climbing trip, we passed by a fastfood joint near a city medical center. Thoughts came flashing back in my mind, and I saw a younger version of me enjoying a hamburger and spaghetti with my father and my brother inside the joint. We used to spend our time there whenever our dad would bring us to work–he was a ward clerk in one of the more prestigious hospitals in the metro. It never occured to me how that little time off of dad’s work has been etched in my mind up to this day. And now I long for days when me and my dad would have quality time with each other.
These days, “quality time” with my dad means having to spend lunch or dinner with him in front of the television. There were no cozy fast food joint tables and food; only us, quiet as we could be, delighting on home-cooked meals (read: canned goods) while laughing our arses off watching noontime shows or late night movies. Sometimes, my dad would break off spontaneously and tell of stories from the hospital he suddenly remembered while watching the television. Most of the time, it was just silent.
When I was young, I used to hold my father in very high regard, most of the time even higher than my mother. He had command, and I would always follow suit. I respect him even more than the president of the country, and he was my idol, my hero. I even had thoughts of entering med school then, because I thought my dad was a doctor (I didn’t know what a ward clerk was back then). Whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’d always say I wanted to be a doctor, just like my dad.
I remember one night when I was just around seven years old, when my mom asked me ever so casually if it was okay for me for dad to resign from his work. She never explained to me why, or even what “resign” means and all its repercussions. There were no dramatic introductions, conditioning statements or anything to make me feel comfortable to blurt out what I think; just plain question and answer. Sadly, I couldn’t remember what I answered that night.
But my father resigned nevertheless. He was homebound most of the time, and he would no longer come home late at night or very early in the morning. I thought it was great, at least I would have more time to spend with my dad. He drove the jeepney he bought a few years back, and sometimes he would take me with him to be his “conductor” (kunduktor).
I remember one day during an English class when I was in Grade 5, when we talked about a poem about a father and a son. The teacher started off by asking the class who we loved more: our father or our mother. She asked for a raise of hands, and I was the only one who said I loved my mother more than my father. She then told me to stand up, and asked me to explain. She asked me why I don’t love my father. Having difficulty communicating verbally even then, I never got to explain that I never said I didn’t love my father; I just love my mom more than my dad. I told her that my mom would be the one to take us to malls and buy us toys and everything, and that my dad wasn’t able to do those things for us. That was the first time my eyes spontaneously welled up with tears and cried in public. I guess I was just too sensitive with matters concerning my relationship with my father.
I would often confess about this little “sin” I’ve been doing. I would often tell the priest that I would lose respect for my father most of the time because of his incapacity to provide financially for his family. Even if I promised I’d never do it again, I just couldn’t help myself. I can’t anymore hold my father in high regard as I used to before, because I couldn’t anymore see him as a model for me when I grow up. How are you supposed to look up to your father when people are telling you that when you grow up, you should have a job or a career and that you should never be unemployed, homebound? That you should study hard and finish college in order to have a secure future and a stable lifestyle?
I find it hard to take things from my father. Whenever he’d advice me of something, I’d do the exact opposite. I never heeded his advice on what to take on College or what school to go to. I did every decision making on my own. I find it hard to listen to him, mainly because of his current state, fearing that if I ever follow him, I’d end up just like him.
I never understood why my dad resigned from his stable job in the hospital; nobody made a conscious effort to make me understand, either. I just know that for whatever he did, there was a good reason. And now, I’m letting time lull and make me understand what made my dad resign from his work. I know there’s bound to be a good reason behind it. I just know. And I’m not going to let go of this belief until I find out what really cost us this gap. I’m not going to stop until I find out where daddy had gone wrong, or if he had gone wrong at all.