Give Your Dad A Break
(This essay was also published on Rappler as part of their Father’s Day series.)
My father is misunderstood.
I blow up at him every time about utterly anything. Not because he’s inadequate or futile but because of my sick need to feel entitled to something. I expect something from him all the time even if I don’t deserve it. I didn’t appreciate him for what he is and what he’s done for us and our mother. Instead, I blamed him for things beyond his control. I didn’t give him a break.
He’s all we have now since our mother died and he worries about that a lot. He’s worried that he’s getting older and we’re getting older too. He’s worried that there are only a few years left before all three of us will be out of the house to college or to work. He’s worried that he’s going to get very sick and he won’t be able to take care of us. He’s worried about me not getting the right exercise and not going to church a lot. He’s worried about my brother being too young when he lost his mother. He’s worried about my sister not having another girl around to talk to about girly things. He’s worried about my choice in men. He’s worried about his job. He’s worried about his own elderly parents. He has to deal with a lot of crap and here I am being the self-absorbed, self-righteous bitch complaining about how he doesn’t do enough to make our impaired family work. I was wrong. I was very very wrong.
He’s also lonely and we don’t get that. He just lost the love of his life. I tend to forget that he knew and loved our mother way before we were even born. I am so engrossed in dealing with my grief that I forget he’s in so much more pain than I am. The woman who loved and supported him just died. How could someone get over something like that? My mother was 47. He was 46. They could have had 20-30 more years together but it ended so soon. I know that even though he might find someone he likes someday, he will always love my mother. He bought this huge lot overlooking the mountains and the field to be my mom’s resting place. It’s a melancholic and lovely view. It’s nothing like any other grave in the cemetery. It was special. We would go to my mom’s every Sunday and he would just plant kinds of flowers around the perimeter of the lot. Sometimes, he would just sit there and look up the clouds maybe hoping my mom sees us somehow. I haven’t seen another grave as flowery as my mom’s. It was like my mom is resting on a garden on a hill overlooking the mountains just under the fluffy clouds. When he feels ill or tired, he would sleep on the couch in the living room where he could see my mother’s framed picture on the tabletop. He would talk in his sleep. He’s asking my mom to be with him everyday even if he can’t see her. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.
He never faltered when my mother got very sick. It was a very painful place to be in for all of us. But it was more painful for him. He had to hide the truth from us for a while. He had to carry the burden of knowing that his wife is dying. He had to act like that’s not the situation. But it is. He served and loved and cared for my mother until she died in his arms. They told me he cried. He was with her on the last day up to her last breath. He was holding her hand when she died at dawn and he slept beside her until the funeral workers came in the morning. He was probably asking her to hold on some more but six years with metastatic cancer is a long time. She couldn’t fight any longer even if it probably broke my mom’s heart to see my dad cry that much. He probably felt like he was dying too. I never saw it. I wasn’t there. But I picture it in my head and I cry like it’s the first time I heard it. When I arrived home from Cagayan de Oro and saw my mother in the casket, I felt the strength in my knees leave my body and my heart drop to the floor. I hugged my father who was beside me. He told me it’s going to be OK.
He’s human, he’s flawed. That’s a simple logic I haven’t outgrew until now. As a child, I always look up to parents as people who are faultless and ideal. I always looked at my father’s marriage to my mother as infinite and enduring. I always looked at my father as someone who will never breakdown and cry. But I grew up and I saw things and went through phases of life that most people I know never had to. I’ve always thought I’d never understand my dad. But when I lost my mom, she gave me a beautiful gift. Her death made me appreciate my father even more. I saw him in a different light, a more grownup perspective.
Give your own dad a break. Don’t be a handful just for the sake of being one. I’m telling you this right now so you won’t look back at your teens and regret about how badly you treated your dad. Most of us are more close to our mothers but will you wait until your mother’s gone until you appreciate your dad? Be kind to your dad not because you owe him but because you acknowledge him for all the lengths he went through just to provide and care for you. He’s doing the best he can. There’s no parenting book or magazine in the world that will prepare any dad for the kind of children that they are going to get. He has struggles you don’t know about. Struggles that you will never know about but he doesn’t call you out on it because he doesn’t mind going through those hard times for you. You might never have to go through the pain of losing a parent until you’re old and you have kids of your own, but trust me, it’s better to appreciate them now than appreciate them when they are gone. Especially your dad.
Happy Father’s Day Papa.