[ Note : In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then. Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]
IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.
Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator. Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with. Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.
Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most. And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department. LOLs and smileys all around after that one. 🙂
Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible. He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.
But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers. Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.
Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.
He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun. He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any meeting of the minds.
With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical. He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate. He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.
Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile. And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.
He is also, as you might expect, very old school. In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of. With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core. (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.) And that is what he will be to the day he dies.
And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world, about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.
In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns, and allays my fears. In a nutshell he tells me : I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing. Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.
This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son. Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt. The luck of the draw has helped me once again.
*** *** ***
Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it. Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things. That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.
My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless. The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.
But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today. The first, second or third?
I don’t know. Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.
Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you always!
(and to the rest of you as well!)