Today is Fathers’ Day. While most of the kids would probably post pictures of themselves and their fathers, wide-eyed and ecstatic on that captured moment just to greet them for all the world to see, I opted to post a picture of myself and a lifeless stone. Greeting him would entail my bravery to be shattered and I’m not a fan of my teary self. Instead, I will just tell of how the man held my hand.
He worked overseas when I was a baby. When he came back, I stared at him, long enough to figure out that he was indeed a lanky man with an excited face I could not register. He was looking at me as if I was a long lost treasure. He smiled and slowly walked towards me. I ran. I hid behind my mother’s floral skirt. This man wanted to take me! However, he just laughed and cooed. “Ava, he’s your Tatay,” my mother explained. I won’t move though my brother would re-introduce the man. Then, there he was, slowly reaching my hand eagerly and firmly. I felt it, the unique way of how he warmed my tiny fingers.
Years passed and I’ve gotten to know the man well. My father, my Tatay. He was humorous, sweet, and protective. When I was in nursery, he would peer to my classroom’s door along with the mums of other kids secretly. The teacher was instructing us that particular day to dab some color on a picture of a boy. I scratched the brown crayon hard so that the color would be vivid. “You color the figure by having light strokes on the inside lines,” Ms. Brenda announced. I looked everywhere and found out that my figure looked so dark-skinned compared to other kids. I crumpled the paper and threw it on the floor. I sulked. Then there he was, running towards me, picking up the paper and smiled. The bell rang and we head home. When I was well-rested, he told me he had a surprise for me as he uncrumpled the paper calmly. He held my hand and he taught me to be patient while guiding me in coloring the boy. He told me that if ever I would have mistakes, I should try to correct them rather than leaving the mess behind. That day ended while he turned the boy into a black cat because he wanted to make me laugh.
First day of kindergarten came and I was so eager to talk to him after the school day. “Papu, papu, what’s the spelling of (guy’s name)?” His forehead creased infinitesimally and then he smiled at me. “Why?,” he asked. “He’s the most good-looking guy in my class,” I answered flushing. Then, he held my hand, taught me how to write his name and whispered to me to take it easy. He did not chastise me but rather he told me that I was smarter than the guy and that I should study hard. I did.
Then when I was on my fourth grade, he held my hand again as he handed a box to me. I opened it and I saw a pair of rubber shoes. I was so happy. He pushed a button and wheels came out! Holy smokes, my shoes had wheels! Thanks to him, I was the first one to own a skate shoes on that public school. I was a star!
Time passed as if in a blur! I went to an arts and sciences high school. Nanay left to work abroad so that we could sustain the lifestyle that we had while supporting Kuya in college. He gave up his job and became a full-time Tatay. He cooked food for me and Kuya, washed my blood-stained undies when my periods came, and helped me with my projects. He supported me during my first recital in UP Abelardo Hall while me and my classmates sang alongside the Madrigal Singers. After the concert I ran to him. “Did you hear me? I was the one who hit the highest note! Did you notice?,” I excitedly asked. He reached for my hand, held it firmly like the first time he did and he beamed widely, “Yes, you were the best.” It was all that I wanted to hear. He reminded me later that day that I should always value teamwork.
College came and I told him stories of my nerdy classmates, peculiar profs, and how sleepless I was all the time. He always, always took time to listen. He held my hand during the commencement ceremony and told me he was so proud of me!
When I got admitted in PwC, he was one of the happiest souls! He would always brag about me to his co-workers. Every time I went home late, he would always open the gate for me and asked me if I had eaten already. I saw how happy he was every time he looked at me neatly dressed for the day. One day, I went home and ran to my room. He did not follow me and respected my privacy though I was certain he knew I was crying. For two weeks, he silently waited for me to open up to him. I was having breakfast with him one day and was ashamed to look at him. He reluctantly reached out for my hand, and asked, “How are you bunso?” Tears free flowed from my eyes and told him I failed, I was not promoted. I wanted to hide and told him “I think they don’t like me. They don’t believe in me, Tay.” He squeezed my hand and told me, “Always remember these words, be humble towards authority and always do your best. You are too young to see yourself as a failure. Love your job still. I believe in you. Always.” He had so long waited for me to be promoted and was even more excited than me. He held his sadness at the back of his heart and helped me heal mine.
This particular man held my hand for years. He was larger than life as depicted in this picture. I was his little girl, his bunso and he would always be the lanky man who saw the bigger picture of all things. He could have been 59 years old next week.
Yes, June has been a trying month for me. Fathers’ Day and his birthday rolled into one. It has been a month of sleepless nights and days filled with grief attacks. I always sob silently and sometimes my heart is just so heavy I want to pluck it out of my system. The sadness? It drives me crying on the road, drinking late nights, and heaving hardly. After so many months of avoiding bereavement, I think I won’t be able to turn from it anymore. However, knowing my father, I know he is holding my hand like what he used to do. So right now, maybe, I just want to reach out to young people.
Take your father’s hand and hold it tightly. Thank him for holding yours first. Let your hands be intertwined. Don’t forget how it feels to hold his hand on flesh. That will be you lasting memory.