I could be coming home to a home with my daughters scrambling for a hug or a kiss, or my wife smiling with promises of a delicious dinner waiting at the table. It’s what fathers, stereotyped providers that we are, were led to believe, the whole happy family trip our teachers and catechist seem to have hammered into our innocent minds back then – the unmoving, immovable, strong pillar that keeps the house standing through fire and rain. Well, maybe not fire, but rain, flood and storms.
Instead, I open the door into my third floor apartment, what nowadays get categorized as studio-type, dark, with a hint of stale cigarette smoke, leftover clothes from the weekend washing that didn’t make it to the estimated time and detergent considerations, and here I am, 400 kilometers from my wife and daughters, renting space, no one to welcome me home but a small mouse stealing bits and morsels from my trash bin.
The things we endure to make a living.
Most of the time I spent thinking is when I come back to this matchbox of mine, after I put the water to boil, and linger by the kitchen sink while I read the days text messages on my mobile phone. But I had to smile, from the greetings my three angels sent, greeting me Happy Father’s Day last Sunday.
I am a father.
But how can that be? How can I be a father to my daughters if my works keeps me in the city, and they are growing, fast and furious, beautiful and intelligent, while I’m away. How can I be a husband when I don’t get to kiss them goodnight? Is that what a father has come to? Earning barely enough to pay for the bills, for new shoes, school supplies, food on the table. This is very much like going abroad and just work till my back breaks so I can send some home.
Is this what a father is supposed to be?
I never knew my father. That is, literally I don’t know him. Oh. I know his name and how my mother and father met, and why I have this music bug ringing in my ear. But that is all. I often look at his portrait when I was young, a tall, handsome man in starched white uniform, holding a trombone. I may even imagined him as Rogelio Dela Rosa, suave in his slick, swept back hair with a cowlick neatly dangling on his forehead, carving and shaping wooden blocks into jumping horses and “last suppers”, madonna and child, football figures and trophies. I secretly thought, well maybe my dad is that good-looking, maybe also had girls swooning, you know, stuff you thought up as a teenager.
Mythos. Stories. Maybe even fiction.
But my father died of liver cirrhosis when I was two years old, hence what I know about him is really just third hand information, from my brothers, from my mother, from relatives. I have never seen him in the full light of day. Never spent some time playing around with the trombone. We have never had an argument. He never had the chance of hitting me low on the gut If I ever did something that might have roused his anger. I will never know how he would have handled any of the bad things I’ve done, the triumph of having been to the provincial meet at Quiz Bee, or maybe we could have shared a beer or two for some man to man talk.
I’m chasing a ghost.
I do not, for the life of me, know what or how it is to be a father. I do not know my father.
No behavioral pattern to follow. No discipline measures to emulate. Nothing to copy.
Sipping my coffee, I often wondered what could be if my Ama and Ina were still alive today. I could use some thoughts on raising a family. Not that I’m bungling all the time, but sure could use some info. Of course, I could be entirely off the mark. An uncle once hinted that he knew my father to be short of temper. Maybe that liver gave out because, well, usually it was from too much alcohol.
Too many maybes. Too many nevers. A whole lot of guessing.
And as I try to relax a bit and sit in front of my laptop, I’m still guessing at what to do next. Draw some more? Maybe. Write? Guess so. Will it rain hard tomorrow? Hope the kids get to school dry and on time. Will I find some quick solution to this financial rut I’m in? I hope so.
But then again, when I feel a bit unnerved by what’s happening, there’s this vestigial hand that often slaps me sober and asks –
‘What would Father do?”