Fathers Day Tribute
(I agree that any occasion that purports to honor the people who have made significant contributions in our lives is a welcome thing, particularly in this day and age when nobility seemed to have already lost its place in society. Having said that, however, I do wish that such occasions are not milked to such ridiculous extremes where people, particularly kids, are conditioned into thinking that honoring someone requires spending huge amounts of money. This is a futile effort, but I hope that mall and restaurant operators go easy on their campaigns; or at the very least, put more emphasis on propagating the right values. Reminding people about the heroes in our lives and the significant roles they play in our own existence is heartwarming; luring them into buying expensive stuff, or celebrating the occasion in a grand way is another thing because it really is not necessary.
I must admit, however, that there is a part of me that welcomes the celebration of Fathers Day, if only because it highlights the complexities associated with being a father in our society. Fatherhood, particularly in our culture is such a complicated thing. There are many stereotypes and social conventions that define or for that matter, obscure how fathers are supposed to be like. Unlike motherhood, the job description for fathers is very ambiguous, to say the least.
What follows is my own tribute to my Tatay, the one person who has always been and continues to be a steady presence in my life. Pardon the cliché, but he is truly the rock in my life and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be without him having been there all this time.)
Fathers are supposed to be tall because if they weren’t, who will children look up to? My own Tatay is taller than I am by a few inches. But that wasn’t – that isn’t- the only reason why I look up to him.
Fathers are supposed to have huge hands so that they can balance kids wobbling on a bicycle or catch baseballs without gloves. Tatay has two of the largest hands I know. So large they could contain all the salagubang, rubber bands and the million and one things I would empty from my pockets as a kid, yet somehow surprisingly small enough to cup my face when I was sad.
Fathers are supposed to have few words so that their children would listen to them when they chose to speak. True to form, Tatay seldom spoke. But his eyes and body language always conveyed volumes to us. His voice was soothing when necessary, and fearsome when required. But always, his silence was a powerful language that I listened and continue to listen to.
Fathers are not supposed to cry because tears signify weakness and fathers are supposed to be the epitome of strength. I have seen my Tatay cry only once – when my elder sister got married. But strangely, his tears only fortified his image as a pillar of strength and authority.
My father is many things to me. He is my friend, my drinking buddy, my driver, my conspirator in many juvenile and not-so-juvenile crimes, my generous provider, even my own conscience. But above all, he is the man who braved all conventions to become father figure to my sister and me. My father and I do not share the same blood - he is actually my stepfather – but this has never gotten in the way of our relationship. In his own words, it takes more than sharing a gene pool to create a father-son relationship.
Tatay is now pushing 70. The years, however, have not diminished his stature in my life. But there are days when I feel that our roles have been reversed somehow (for instance, I now find myself playing father to him like regulating his cigar intake or mandating compliance to his diet). But I guess old habits are hard to change. There are days when he seems to forget I am fully grown up. He still waits up for my siblings or me at night. He still checks the tire gauge of my car. He still does the many things that assert his stature in our lives.
But Tatay is far from perfect. He has his own idiosyncrasies. But I guess time and experience do reshape how we see things. Thus, what used to be vexatious have become endearing somehow. And I guess we all have settled into our own comfort zones, fully reconciled with the fact that in this world, there is nothing that can not be soothed over by love and affection.
When God created fathers, he custom-made one just for us. And we are truly blessed.
Happy Father's Day, Tatay!