the woman my father loved (emended): my autobiography 7

Originally published: Aug 25, 2016

Because I saw him irregularly when I was a child, my longing for my father’s love and physical presence was a mainstay throughout my long youthful episode. His constant absence at home intensified my deep devotion to him. Papa’s actual residence became an enduring mystery to me — as much as his whereabouts which I felt sure nobody really knew, not even his first legal family. “Where does his heart find loyal shelter?” Secretly, I might’ve been carrying the notion there was a third woman in the picture — another woman whom my father trusted could provide the right cushion for a full rest down of his body and spirit after the night had fallen. A notion of mine which the years to come would prove to be true.

Fast forward to more than a dozen years:

Her name was Lucrecia. Both her looks and her intelligence were nothing to write home about. Unsophisticated, uneducated – unmistakably a native from some faraway province.

But it was her character or perhaps her bearings that won my hidden admiration: her strength, diligence, resourcefulness, attentiveness. Knowing my father, I wasn’t surprised she turned out to be the kind of woman he was proud of. Their partnership began when she became his all-around assistant at the nightclub he used to own. They were together for the longest years. 

But it was a love put to an end by the complexity of our family situation.

Somehow my mother was able to convince my sister Lucrecia’s daily visits and presence in the house to look after my ailing father were ruining her image to the neighbors. The issue of money got in the way, too, as my sister had all the authority; the dispute between them got uglier and uglier. I had to remain civil in my dealings with Lucrecia and kept my distance so as not to add to the convoluted condition and out of fear I’d earn the combined wrath of my mom and my sister.

My sis and my mother made the joint sudden and final resolution to ban Lucrecia from the house. The latter had to give in but not without a fight (taking her case to the municipal hall). The outcome: She was given an amount of cash as settlement. She had no choice but to completely stay away from the man she loved and took care of for four decades or more.

My father, who was bedridden had no inkling as to the events that were taking place. I was told to be tight-lipped about the reason for Lucrecia’s unexpected disappearance. My sister persuaded me Lucrecia’s permanent absence would be best for our father and the rest of us. Since my voice had been deemed weightless for as long as I could remember, it’d be futile to go against their decision. And I had my own drama to deal with as a single parent caring for a sickly child and all. I was fed up with my own circumstances and tried to find solace at whatever temporary pleasures that would come my way. I also wanted to be happy, not be miserable due to this incessant flesh and blood theatricals. I myself couldn’t understand what I’d been feeling and going through. Yes, excuses that I have come to regret and currently pay for.

I never saw Lucrecia again.

I could sense how it broke my father’s heart so much. He thought Lucrecia simply got tired and abandoned him. I couldn’t tell him. His knowing the truth would be pointless. It’d devastate him, not to mention the family feud would escalate and things could only have gotten worse. His downward spiral, however, began as he moved on to heavy alcohol consumption; which my sister, my brother, and my mother came to allow – he was in his late 80’s anyway, they rationalized. I bid him to stop drinking, but he expressed his wish to end his life. He was clearly committing suicide.

***

Except on Father’s Day, nobody else really comes to visit my father’s grave. I have no idea what has happened to Lucrecia. She would visit from time to time if she had known. She must not know for sure where the love of her life now rests in peace.

 

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One Proud Mom Although… (emended) My Autobiography 6

Originally Published: April 17, 2014

It’s of utmost pleasure on my part to reveal here my son placed 2nd overall in the recent Board Exam for Electronics and Communications Engineers. People have congratulated me; they said I must have done something right in bringing him up singlehandedly. That made me feel good.

His success in the national exam was actually the outcome of several months of his commitment to diligent studying. In addition, he has always felt passionate about his field. His father was into the technical profession, too, by the way. Like father, like son.

Before starting his college studies I had expressed my wish that he take up Music instead. My son is also a talented pianist and guitarist. I made sure he had the best training at playing those musical instruments in his childhood and teenage years. I’ve been a firm believer that Science and Maths are the tools for living while Music and the rest of the Arts are the reasons for living.

Nonetheless, he was adamant in his selection to become a full-fledged engineer someday. I backed down.

Six years later, here we are. I am beaming with pride. I’m happy with the results, of course. My son seems to have made the correct choice.

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But I am here not just to tell you how proud I am of my son. It isn’t my style sugarcoating my reality. A spirit in pain is also hiding behind my smiles in our photos. For he and I are currently undergoing a difficult period in our lives. I am still hoping it’s an evanescent phase for both of us.

There’s a downside to having a child who’s endowed with way academic strength than his progenitor. Suddenly, nothing I say seems to matter anymore. Suddenly, there’s nothing left for me to do but take a backseat. It’s as if any contribution or suggestion on my part is necessary no more. So I just keep reminding myself oh yes he already turned 22 this April.

This made me ruminate on the following parental guidelines I’ve subscribed to for so long: Do your best for your child. Show him unconditional love. Make sure that he knows how much he matters to you, etc. I did my damnedest to follow them all. Now I realized all those loads of advice…are total crap. Nothing in life is guaranteed. No relationship maxim – even between mother and child – from whatever sphere on this planet, is a sure thing.

You might think I must have done something not right that brought about this predicament. I do own up to not being the perfect parent and to having committed some mistakes along the way. But God knows how hard I tried. How hard I really tried. And only God knows how much I have loved my only child. The love which made me swear to all the angels in heaven I’d be a much better parent at raising my child than my own parents combined in rearing me. I had thought I was succeeding through all the years my son was growing up. He appeared to be turning out finer and finer each passing day – at the same time that I’d been clinging to the notion the bond cementing us would be stronger than steel.

Nowadays, I keep on questioning my performance as a mother and asking myself what went wrong. Or I might’ve deserved this because I hadn’t exactly been an ideal daughter to my parents either.

Still, how poignant it is to discern I have failed in everything. Motherhood, I had promised myself, would be my redemption: The one thing, I thought, I could do well in life. How could I have been so mistaken.

After the oathtaking ceremony, my family and I went to a restaurant for a quiet celebration. During dinner, while my son was occupied shooting the breeze with his cousins, my mother and my siblings took time to ponder and talk about the situation.

“It’s hard having an only child, I guess.” I conveyed in somberness to them.

My sister responded, “No. You just had it hard being the only parent.”

The Father of My Son (emended) : My Autobiography 5

Originally Published April 28, 2012

This one I’ve been meaning to write for a long time as my son knows very little about his father. It’s been more than 10 years since we last saw him. I believe I owe my son this post. He’s 20 now and perhaps, if he’d come across this piece in the near future, he’d already have acquired more awareness of life’s complexities and thus be able to understand what happened in our past.

My son and I never talked much about the man who was once a huge part of our lives. Vague and hazy memories are all he’s got. We reckon we’ve got more important things to do than talk about the man who extricated himself and took the easy way out by totally disappearing in our lives. Nonetheless, I believe he deserves to know a few things about his Dad and our history together as a couple.

*****

Fine memories I keep hold of as to the man I married and loved for ten years. We met at work when I was still hacking it out in the accounting department of Data General Philippines. Quiet and reserved. Practical minded. Unassuming. Passionate and sweet. That’s my ex-husband, whose nature isn’t different from the timid ardent soul that I am.  Somewhere between our 20s and silly eccentricities we fell in love.

In hindsight, there hasn’t been any other who loved me as much. Nothing, before or after, could outburn the flame of romance we’d had. I remember the many heady days when he’d suddenly turn up just to ask me for a simple stroll around the neighborhood hand in hand. There was this one morning during our leanest financial days when we met outside my parents’ house out of impulse, I told him I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and was feeling hungry. Worried, he searched for the last remaining cash inside his wallet so he could buy me pieces of bread to munch on. Hence the satisfying taste of the bread got to be unforgettable from such display of caring.

He could cook and was the one who whipped up our meals (I never liked cooking), and he took loving care of me the times that I got sick.

We’d also hang around till late at night inside the mall waiting for the clerk stationed outside to go home — running and sneaking inside thereafter, giggling all the way, to watch a movie for free.

And every weekend we would meet at his sister’s rest house, located in a peaceful suburban village, and spend the whole day basking in the glow of our love for each other.

Heady times, indeed …

Months on end of passion until one day I mysteriously got ill — which aggregated to high fever for a couple of days, some vomiting and just feeling terrible.

My bothered sister asked pointblank, “Are you pregnant?”

“Of course not!” was my quick and bewildered reply. The probability hadn’t entered my mind — although I immediately rushed to him and together we went to the nearest maternity hospital for a test.

Result: Positive. OMG… We’d been careful, hadn’t we? How could it have happened?

We weren’t ready for anything yet like parenthood and responsibility. We weren’t even sure we were truly right for each other.

In the end, we decided to have the baby and got married in a civil ceremony. The officer who performed the rites joked about my husband’s cold palms after they shook hands. His brother and aunt served as witnesses. By the way, the man whom I married belonged to another religion — a highly tribal one at that. It didn’t occur to either of us then how that would factor heavily in the eventual disintegration of our marriage.

I am a Catholic, though not a practicing one. His family had been generations-long members of the second most powerful religion in our country that has been considered quite clannish by many. They had repeatedly asked me to join their Church. All I managed to do was attend and sit out at some worship services and that was it. I couldn’t possibly bring myself to do or join anything that doesn’t feel natural for me.

In the course of time, he managed to make one thing quite clear: his mother and siblings would always come first. My son and I could only come second. He reasoned they needed him more. I guess he inferred his immediate family was more of a sure thing in his twilight years than my son and I combined. He could have also realized I was capable of bringing up our child on my own. That fact apparently granted him the audacity to pursue his own goals that don’t include his wife and only child.

He worked in the Middle East intermittently as a contractual electrical engineer. But everything he earned went to his family, that is, his mom and siblings. I’ve always been capable of earning my own money so I hardly asked for his share. Still, I got increasingly frustrated that he didn’t make any attempt to pitch in. How come I failed to detect these ominous elements earlier in our relationship?

As time went by, our stark differences took a more profound shape, too. It’s like we each belonged to disparate worlds. Our dissimilarities in choice of leisure activities became more pronounced. He branded my tastes in TV programs, movies, reading and music as being uppity and was never able to relate much to the literary leanings I had had.

He had wanted me to share in the glee as to the things that gave him amusement. I tried but couldn’t be genuinely upbeat about them. A huge stone of discontent came to lodge as it slowly dawned on both of us how different our preferences were in many ways.

Admittedly, I’m not that much of a wife material. I might have been the wife that made sense only on paper but not from day to day in its domestic essence.

To his credit, he had been faithful in the years we were together as husband and wife — I never had to confront or grapple with a skirt-chasing husband.

Before our marriage completely came unglued, we got to see less and less of him until he drifted away for good. There was not even a final farewell from him.

That was a little more than ten years ago, when my son was barely 10 years old.

My son’s idiosyncrasies and occasional flash of outburst now is sometimes reminiscent of the man I once loved. Whenever that happens, I can’t help but go “Oh, it’s his father alright” inside my mind.

This is my side of the story. My ex-husband’s side will never come to light because I have a feeling we’ll never see him again. Whatever reasons he might have had for his unconscionable deed of turning his back on his son carry no weight upon me anymore. Besides, we’ve fared just fine.

Maybe he’s in a very far away land now or, for all I know, he may already be in another dimension. There’s a chance I will never get to know for sure and frankly, I’m fine with that.

And so is my son it seems.

my autobiography 4 – Bud Impressions

Nothing much occurred that could be adjudged astounding befits as part of my early childhood and pre-pubescent memories. Father would come home at night, usually every other day or thrice a week — and right before he’d walk into the living room, his three small children would playfully hide somewhere shoulder to shoulder. As soon as they were found, they’d lovingly sing “Oh My Papa” in unison.

Some nights we’d be having drawing contests and Father would judge on the best art piece. My bond with my favorite playmate — my younger brother, who looked up to me and followed me around — I also held close to my heart. And there were incessant modern dance practice and occasionally Hawaiian hula in preparation for clan parties on our mother’s side which took up a good deal of our weekend schedule.

During our brief Caloocan city stay, there was this time Papa didn’t come home for several days that brought about a vision of my mother crying by the window in the evenings as she was worried he might never show up again. Until one night when we heard the familiar car honk and we successively, for a considerable moment, all jumped for joy. It turned out Papa had suffered from appendicitis and underwent surgery. The three of us ended up (deep inside awkwardly) kissing the stitches on his tummy — I forgot who made us do it (Mommy, for sure).

Father was forever tinkering on some particular car he had bought and intended to sell for a nice profit; several mechanics and car painters came to work for him throughout his long term as a car dealer. And I remember how any of us would open the gates of our house, without any apprehensions, to mostly total strangers whom we viewed as potential buyers of the newly-spruced-up vehicles parked in the garage — something very dangerous to do in this day and age.

The fact that two of my half-sisters had won a couple of prestigious beauty pageants here plus being the younger sibling to a beautiful talented eldest daughter of our family gave rise to a feather-brained illusion within me that if I tried harder I might grow into a lovely swan too someday. Eager to earn my father’s pride and attention, I exerted over bosom-expanding and leg-shaping work-outs, side by side with extremely stupid exercises (illustrated from a pricey pamphlet I bought) which were supposed to add inches to my vertical measurement. Alas, my height got stuck permanently at 5’1 — in comparison to my sister’s 5’3. Well, in hindsight, my early childhood insomnia could be the only one culpable for my inadequate stature 🙂 .

Source: nordicsublime, Tumbler

my autobiography 3 – I got to be Miss Universe at least

School was an odyssey of mixed feelings and happenings from my end –it had done me good as well as ruptured my interiors throughout its lengthy span. For months that I was attending kindergarten in our town’s modest exclusive all-girl school, my hands would get cold as ice — out of heebie-jeebies — each morning before class would commence. A classmate sitting behind could’ve caught aware and took advantage of my wussiness. She would pull my hand, position it beneath her desk and dig her nails onto its flesh for an entire breaktime. I was afraid of her, too wimpy to pull back my hand, so I let her do it to me again and again. My mother saw the fresh wounds all over my hands one day and off she went to complain to the teacher. A transfer of seats took place and that seemed to be the end of it.

It was the same teacher, however, from my kindergarten days who’d cause me humiliation when I was too shy to shake my hips during a whole-group dance competition. My self-consciousness engendered a silly supposition the audience–many of them my neighbors–eyes were mainly on me while the music was blaring over the expanse of the school playground. When our class failed to bag the top prize, no need to guess who she blamed it on. She even bitterly recounted and reenacted my lethargic dance moves in front of the class for more than a week.

Then I turned Grade One and grew brilliant at spelling English words and was awarded 2nd best at an annual Spelling Bee contest. Unfortunately our family had to move from Caloocan to Quezon City. A major academic change — this time to a smaller substandard coed elementary school. From Our Lady of Grace Academy to Our Lady of Salvation School. 😛

Mestiza types especially the fair-skinned ones with noses on the prominent side could catch attention around average-class localities. Even though my looks were hardly impressive in the traditional sense I was deemed lovely, somehow, by regular citizens due to my Spanish roots. So throughout gradeschool, as part of our recreation during recess or break periods, all the passably nice-looking girls including me would line up to take the role of Miss Universe contestants. (Filipinos by the way are forever enamored of beauty pageants). “Miss Spain” as my frequent label; winners would be announced one by one from fifth to second runner up. I’d always finish as one of the two remaining candidates. “And the Miss Universe goes to …!!!” Surprise, it would be me. Often. Unanimously. Persistently. 97% of the time. Got used to paper crowns being placed on the top of my head. Still perplexing to this day…. Had they been pulling a prank at my expense 🙂 ? Probably not. It doesn’t matter; it’s become one of the fine memories I’d want to keep.

***

my autobiography 2 – “Where Exactly Is Papa’s Home?”

The age gap between my parents was 20 years. My father had already had eight children before with his lawful wife — yep, my brother, sister and I were in point of fact illegitimate. But that didn’t weigh down on my core even if illegitimacy was then frowned over. My kind couldn’t care less regarding neighborhood whispers and other people’s judgment.

I remember the era of Martial Law and strict curfew hours from 12 to 5 a.m. The country had started to grow restless under the Marcoses and freedom of speech was kept highly suppressed. Malls and gadgets were nonexistent; the computer age was yet to burst forth. Filipinos could find leisure simply through Luneta park strolls, single department store shopping, or from listening to their hi-fi stereos. The late 70’s kindled my love for contemporary music. I’d lug my tiny cassette radio around the house, settle in a vacant room and wait endless hours for radio stations to play my favorite songs. I was Kacey Kasem’s American Top 40 baby and heavily patronized scores of Billboard hits.

A couple of times my sister and I were sent away for a two-week stay to a rich paternal relative’s abode in the exclusive village of Magallanes. Except for the comfort of airconditioned bedrooms we shared with our cousins, nothing within that span of 14 days emerged interesting. Affluent surroundings slightly pleased me. The city might’ve raised me into the quintessential urbanite, but my very marrow kept yearning for country life and authentic rural backdrops. Nonetheless, acquainting myself with my aunt’s several pet dogs helped establish my soft spot for four-legged animals.

My father would come home intermittently at 9-10 p.m., retire by midnight, only to wake up promptly at 4:30 in advance of sunrise. Many a time I’d be lying in bed awake and could hear my parents’ conversations — which normally preceded Papa’s setting out to the dark dawn of the day.

Early childhood fun with my father consisted of him picking up each child to sit on his shoulders as he proceeded to walk around our small house especially along dark sides to give us a merry scare. And I’d squeal in victory as well every time my hand could reach the top of every door frame. He would narrate tales of goblins and giants — the usual stuff small kids wanted to hear — while we were all lying down under a big mosquito net during bedtime. He must’ve been exhausted from working the whole day (I’d seen his tired eyes water which slowly trickled down like tears while telling the stories)…yet he managed performing said fatherly tasks for the amusement of his three kids. Papa would also drive us his children to the movie theatre; we’d watch mostly action and thriller films. It was Roger Moore’s stint as agent double OSeven — nevertheless we’d join altogether in concurring Sean Connery played James Bond best. Eating out was one more casual tradition in strengthening the family bond; with Papa, we could eat anything and as much as we want because he unfailingly had money to pay the bill.

Oh have I mentioned a big bottle of Coke on the dining table would be enough delight for us all at family mealtime? 🙂

Because I saw him irregularly, my longing for my father’s love and physical presence was a mainstay throughout my long youthful episode. His constant absence at home probably intensified my devotion to him. Papa’s actual residence became an enduring mystery to me…as much as his whereabouts which I felt sure nobody really knew, not even his first family. “Where does his heart sincerely find shelter?” Perhaps I had been partially carrying the notion there was a third woman in the picture — another woman whom my father trusted could provide the right cushion for a full rest down of his body and spirit after the night had fallen. A notion of mine which the years to come would prove to be true.

***

my autobiography 1: Remembering Isn’t That Easy

Although still tentative, I may have to embark somewhere far again this year. It’ll be my last — and once more, I’m feeling the need to finalize my autobiography — plus add in an outline of who I am, what I am, you know, just in case… Several of my posts have already covered some of my stories — still, I hope to expand on my chronicles and personal constitution. Failing to keep a journal in my earlier years, only memories that have survived in my consciousness are making it here. Hence, the random mode series and disordered form— as everything depends on my recollections and what I can manage to put into words.

Take heed: If I sound so much like a loser, well, because I actually am. Endure with me. Anyway, if there’s anyone who should complain about it, it could only be me. And yes I’ve long been deserving of a WordPress Shameless Award.

*

Born in Manila, middle of three children. My family wasn’t exactly poor but we hardly belonged to the well-to-do bracket either.

My father had always been a businessman and identified for his industrious manners: he’d been a car dealer, a club owner, and managed a funeral parlor once. I guess he also liked dipping into the construction business because the houses we dwelled in were always undergoing renovation, some repairs or full structuring.

My mother worked as a barmaid in his club — that’s how they met. Both came from big families. Papa had an authoritarian demeanour; mommy was melodramatic. A particular blend of those traits were undoubtedly passed on to me. Because neither of them were introverts, they must’ve been puzzled that one offspring grew up to become socially passive, a dreamer, a bashful misfit. Having a beautiful outgoing elder sister and a similarly gregarious younger brother didn’t help. Lacking in good looks and ideal height in addition to being painfully shy and quiet solidified my status as the perpetual outcast.

When my father built a basketball court in our garage for my brother, I played the sport during my teens. I like the sense of motion so physical games and activities were among my childhood pleasures. I could fair adequately at running, skipping, roller skating, bicycle riding etc.; jumping (chinese) garter has held a spot as a memorable girlhood recreation.

I’m no mental heavyweight yet I’ve spent most of my time as a ponderer, mostly fantasizing of another realm where I’m regarded by others for my perfection. In another sphere, I am taller and a gorgeous svelte actress who can do drama or comedy or musical and who’s been going steady with this clean-cut very handsome action star from the 70’s. I’m not kidding.

These days my regret not having labored harder toward academic achievement is palpable. Why? The Internet has exposed me to diverse minds who’ve got bright, intelligent things to say about a whole world of topics. And my role has remained as a bystander…or a mere reader who pathetically has nothing to contribute to such elite conversations. My family used to marvel at my good reliable memory, though specifically after they’d sought me to name out actors and movie titles they couldn’t recall.

I can never consider myself a good person; not being a people person has got something to do with it. My acute sympathy and affection for animals in general, however, make me feel not normal at times. That explains my fondness for white Americans– their compassion for these less fortunate creatures (excluding peeps who have concern only for their pets) is touching. I’d loved and taken care of a number of pet dogs. Losing each one was crushing to me beyond words. Poor street cats and dogs and animal sufferings equally break my heart. I’ve been a cat lady for the last 14 years, btw.

At this stage, I’ve been doing my best to be ruthless in discarding stuff; not easy for someone like me who’s got attachment issues. As I make my transition to an old woman, certain measures have become valuable: being organized, simplifying my life, letting go.

(To be continued….)

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You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love”, back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.
Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again