Sunday, April 30, 2023

I like to imagine

Over the last few years, some dear Loyal Readers dropped messages in my inbox asking if I was ever going to talk about Papa because I said I would. I promised it in "When peace is a complicated thing," and maybe you should read that first because it will help you understand this post. 

Papa died in April 2019, and while I had peppered my blog with stories of how Papa and I had drifted apart in the last two decades of his life, I still thought I would feel his loss. People told me that I would regret our distance. That I would regret not trying harder. 

But I'd already tried. Talked, gave (how much I gave!), forgave, tried again. I was always trying because I felt that I owed that to him because he was my father, and that I owed it to Mama, who also always tried till the day she died. I found out later from my aunt that Mama regretted trying to make it work all the damn time. So that informed my decision to walk away later on when the straw finally broke the camel's back. 

That was the day when I visited him yet again with my little baby boys, and he just kept watching TV. Nakwento ko na ba ito? Anyway, there was a basketball game. He loved basketball. But I was there, and with his grandsons, too! Surely he loved us more? So I said, "Papa, look at your apos. Play with them. Or play the guitar. They love music! Get to know them. We're only here once a month, and they grow so fast." And Papa, without looking away from the TV, said, "I don't have to. I know all I need to know from your Facebook posts." 

I was shocked, but not surprised. I guess the shock was him saying that in front of my kids. I tried again. "But you know Facebook is just the highlight reel. Don't you want to know how we really are?"

And still not taking his eyes off his stupid basketball game, he said, "I'm okay with Facebook."

So I let him be okay with Facebook. He shared my sons' photos with gushing updates and his 5,000+ friends liked and commented, "You're such a great lolo! So blessed!" They never knew he never asked to see my sons, never even asked about them. Kahit text man lang na "Kumusta na ang mga bata?" wala. He went out of his way to see friends and relatives na mas malayo pa sa bahay ko, but my sons? No. Ni ha, ni ho, wala.

I can forgive anything done to me. But it's a different story when it comes to my kids. If you're not making an effort to get to know my kids, then they don't need to know you. It took me a long time to learn that I shouldn't force myself on friends, guys, jobs, situations. Kung ayaw, eh di huwag, diba? 

Why then should I force my children on people who don't care about them? My sons don't deserve that indignity. I say this with no anger at all. I'm over it frankly. Papa and I had forgiven each other before he died. Tapos na yun. But people ask what happened and here is the story. Now you know. It's sad. Some people say, "Para yun lang." It's not "yun lang" for me. Reject my kids, I reject you. Any good parent will do the same to protect their children. Even then, believe it or not, I have no anger or hate at all. Not even disappointment. I expected it after all.  

People still ask sometimes, "Do you miss him? Do you regret not having a relationship with your Papa?" And I know they want me to say I do. And you know what? I also wish I could say I do. 

Listen to this song. Remove the romance aspect of the lyrics and that's how I feel about Papa. 

I want it to hurt. I want to hurt so badly because that would mean I lost something so vital, it hurts to breathe. 

When Mama died, it truly felt like someone punched a hole through my chest. Until now, I whisper sometimes into the void, "I wish you could see me now, Mama. You'd be so proud of me." And I'd tell her about Vince, our perfect boys, my imperfect ways of mothering. I'd ask her did she feel as lost or as amazing as I do. I'd tell her my heart breaks when I realize she didn't have money many times, and I only understand the despair and fear now as a mother, too. And I come from a place of having enough when she raised us with barely enough to get by. I still talk to her, and for 15 years she hasn't talked back. I think I'll do this until we finally catch up in heaven.

But with Papa... I remember only one time when I cried. I was in a taxi. This was a few months after Papa died, still before the pandemic, and I was stuck in traffic. I saw another taxi idling by the curb on the other side of the street, the driver helping an old man load suitcases into the trunk. A young woman hurried to him with another bag. They both hugged like they'd never see each other again, and I knew she was flying off to work in another country. The taxi drove off (it wasn't traffic on that side of the road) and the old man stared after it for a long time. And that sad, longing, proud-parent smile broke me.

I never had that with Papa. When I left home, when I got married, when Mama died, when he left to live in Leyte, when my kids were born. Nothing. He was like, "Hey, this is it. So good luck." No joke, guys. Talagang wala lang talaga. I got more emotion and support for my life events from you, my blog readers, than from my own father. 

I don't hate him. I'm not even angry at him. After our talk at the hospital as he hovered near death, I realized he didn't know what to do with me or act around me. He felt inadequate as a man, a husband, and as a father. He was ashamed. And he was afraid. That's why he never even tried. I came away from our talk reeling because Papa was one of the funniest, smartest, incredibly charming, and unbelievably talented men that walked this earth. And he had a beautiful wife! And beautiful, talented children and grandchildren! How could he not possess the confidence and grace of one so gifted? 

I still feel this immense sadness for him, for Mama, and for my siblings. All the pain we went through! Sana nagalit na lang ako kasi I know how to deal with my anger. Kahit na ano pang laki ng liyab ng galit, nauubos din ito. But sadness is like the sea. And my sadness for this poor old man who lived his life in fear of disappointing everyone and so ended up disappointing everyone, who was so afraid to give so he took and took... My God, how my heart aches with sorrow for Papa! 

But does my heart ache for him? 

You know, I wish I missed him. I do. He doesn't occupy my thoughts unless people ask, and that so rarely. I miss the idea of a father. I see Vince being so involved in our sons' lives. I see Vince's dad swooping in when we need help. I see my friends doting on their daddies and their daddies still doting on them - note that my friends are middle-aged women like me! I read about God's provision, protection, and care for His children. And I miss that kind of fathering. And yet how can you miss something you never really had? 

So sometimes - not all the time, and only when I stare long enough at fathers being daddies - I like to imagine that things were different. 

I like to imagine that Papa cried at my wedding and gave an embarrassing speech that made everyone laugh and cry. I like to imagine he was there all the times I was pregnant, getting emotional that his daughter was now a mommy. I like to imagine loud Sunday lunches and my boys around their Lolo and his guitar on his knee and him singing to them in his wonderful voice. I like to imagine him giving me advice when I found marriage, motherhood, and life overwhelming and he'd say stuff like, "I wish your Mama could see you now. She'd be so proud of you."

I like to imagine he was proud of me.

The mind is a malleable thing and maybe my imaginings will turn into memories, which, though false, will be something I can hold on to. And maybe then I can finally grieve.

"I still love the people I've loved, even if I cross the street to avoid them." 
Uma Thurman


  1. I also have an "absent" father. (mom and dad separated when I was 3yo) . Didnt grew up with him but unlike your pops, i think, he wanted to "somehow" reach out. It's just me who's okay with "ayos lang kahit wala ka or andyan ka. Same same".

    I am an only child and I lost mom when i was 28. I am 31 now. Just got married last year. Same thougjht. I hope my mom could see me now. For sure she'll be so proud.

    I frankly could say I dont know what to feel with my dad. Tamang "sakto lang".

    I loved this. Sobrang nakakarelate ako.

    PS. Pero buhay pa tatay ko 😆

    1. Natawa ako sa P. S. 😂 But yeah. People expect and demand that we children should be the one making the relationship with our parents work. Why? It doesn't make sense.

    2. Maybe because as Filipinos we were raised in a Christian community and was instilled Ephesians 6:1-3 but stopped there and forgot about the next verse.

      After reading this blog, I just felt sad. no other emotions, just sad. for you and your Papa.

    3. Ah yes, how that commandment has been used and abused by parental figures throughout history. Mama used to say the next verse nga, yung Ephesians 6:4, to Papa kasi Christians kami dapat pero walang effect. Sigh. Thank you for your empathy, Nerisa.

  2. Hugs, Frances. Binalikan ko Talaga ang 2019 post to connect everything. I am sad with you on different levels :( Through the years, I have seen you as a loving, super giving and honest person. I just want to say that surely your Mama is beaming with pride looking at you now. And wishing for the same also hopefully with your Papa. Hugs

    1. Thanks, Chrissy! Thanks also for being my friend and understanding me ❤️

  3. I missed your story telling F.

    1. ❤️❤️❤️ Thanks! Who's this? Few people call me F so kilala kita 😊

  4. I am crying so much reading this. My father never cared about us. And here I am trying all the time to have a relationship with him to make him proud of me. Thank yiu for making me see that a relationship only works if both of us are trying.

    1. HUGS! True. It's not a relationship if it's a one-way street. Sorry to hear this. Please know you can move on. For your own peace and sanity.

  5. Ngayon lang ako ulit nakabasa ng blog from an OG. Kamiss. Stay safe Ma'am.

    1. Haha everyone says that about me! I feel so old (I've been blogging for 17 years!).

  6. My father is still alive and I can relate so much to this blog. I have also tried, but there are relationships that aren't meant to work out, I guess. With my parents, we are better off without each other. They do not feel "disrespected" and I do not feel "rejected."

    It's sad because we live a few properties away now, and I really wish we didn't make this decision at all. We were happy and content where we were.

  7. Beautifully written. I also had an arms-length relationship with my dad, who is the epitome of an Asian dad - good provider but distant and cold, never the type to express his feelings. We lost him in 2021, at the height of the pandemic. Up until his last days, I was still wondering if he was ever proud of me.

  8. “And yet can you miss something you never really had?” Indeed.

  9. "He felt inadequate as a man..." -- that perfectly describes it. So relatable because I had the same relationship and experience with my father. One thing I realized after his passing is that parents have their own issues that they themselves cannot comprehend or resolve. Hence, they post this wall to be invisible or isolated or as if they do not care. Tao rin sila. This realization was strengthened when I witnessed my husband having similar issues with himself. I now understand what my father had to deal with. Life is really crazy like that sometimes. It is giving us lessons that we do not expect.

  10. I already commented earlier but let me share with you my thoughts. I may not have expressed fully what I wanted to say. Your experiences with your father are somehow parallel with mine. I just want to share that my experience with my father had a big impact on how it really made me understand my husband.

    My father came from a good background. He had a comfortable life. He was very good looking too...artista level. When he married my mother, he did not save up and then he lost his job. I was almost in high school that time. Nawala ang self-esteem nya. Then, my mother had to be the sole bread winner. It was really a struggle for her kasi me and my siblings studying in a known private school tapos college tuition fees pa became an issue afterwards. From what I observed, my mother focused on us...providing for our needs. She was not able to fully understand my father's situation. She may have helped him but I realized now that that was not enough. She did not show affection and became quite distant. My father went to depression and he did not fully recover after that. What I heard from his friends was that he was very proud of us and also his grandkids, pero parang he was afraid to show it to us. Probably because that he felt inadequate, just like what you said. He probably felt that we were not be proud of him.

    When my husband became jobless, I sensed that he has slowly started becoming like my father. Unti-unti nawawala ang bilib sa sarili. I became scared...really scared. I do not want a take two. I think I became like my mother as well...distant and unaffectionate...because I was busy earning a living for the family. And then it hit me in the head that I should not do what my mother did. I tried to be more patient, understanding and caring. This has greatly improved our relationship.

    Sometimes this kind of experience will be a lesson to us, one way or another. Looking back, I wish I understood my father better...what he was going through. Ang nakita ko lang before was the struggle of my mother. Mahirap talagang maging magulang and asawa. Tao lang sila...tao lang tayo.

    Wishing you all the best in your family and career life, Frances.


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