[ Note : Despite NZ Father’s Day and Philippine Father’s Day celebrated on different dates, I will use any excuse to remember my dad, who is very much alive and quite healthy by the way, and besides his birthday is less than three weeks away. Happy dad’s day to everyone! ]
MY DAD, whether or not he realizes it, is a product of at least two aspects of his generation. First, that of the reality that Asian fathers are more or less emotionally inaccessible to their offspring, and possibly even to their spouses. Second, he grew up in a traumatic war period where to utter or make any gesture considered disrespectful to our Japanese invaders often resulted in dire, sometimes fatal results. The result is many fathers coming from his generation consider it not only normal but also practical to be distant from most members of their family, to both survive and to carry on “normally” as many Asian families do. Leave the feel-good and mushy stuff to Moms and female members of the family, I could almost hear this generation say.
That’s why it took a sea change for my own father when his turn came to be a dad. He wasn’t touchy-feely and the type who announced a “group hug” all the time, but he never spared any efforts to show how much he cared for all of his sons. He never hesitated to give (or for that matter, ask) for a hug and kiss from me whenever he got home from work. Asians are famous for being “inscrutable” and circumspect, and in that respect Dad was/is traditional, because he had a countenance that was perfectly neutral in front of new acquaintances and strangers. But before friends and loved ones, he always chose to engage rather than resist exposing his feelings and emotions.
He never ignored the template though. He expected and received unconditional respect from all of his sons, and in return he gave them his unconditional love. He made all the final decisions that concerned the family, but most of us knew that Mom was just letting him say out loud what made her happy. Appearances and saving face, after all, still counted in the traditional Pinoy family.
At the end of the day, when I think of all the good things my dad did to me, did for me and did despite me, nothing trumps just being there and being both a towering and nurturing presence in our lives. In his child’s eyes, a father cannot help but come to his life great and awesome, it is his life’s challenge to humanize himself, bring himself down to his/her level, and hold his child’s hand forever.
This you did with flying colors Dad, and I will never stop being grateful for that. I love you so much, advance happy birthday, and for the second time this year, happy Father’s day!