The change to the tone of his voice was discernible on the other line, from being lively to becoming cheerless. There were some pauses in between, silence and unclear utterances, until tears fell on his cheeks as he narrated that after all those long years of marriage, they both survived and hurdled all obstacles. And now that he needs much support because of a prevailing heart ailment, Nanay is still always by his side.
“I never did anything to tarnish our marriage, neither did your Nanay, and we will always stand together until death do us part,” Tatay emotionally said to me over the phone on the occasion of their 46th wedding anniversary.
That day, I called home to say my heartfelt wishes to both of them. The phone just kept ringing until Nanay answered and told me that she was bathing the baby. I thought it was my sister’s then she laughed and said that she was bathing Tatay. She was bathing her baby da mulag. The conversation continued until they were done. The phone was set on loudspeaker mode so I could hear them on the other line. They were both cheerful just like little children. There was both laughter and jokes.
After they were done, the conversation continued and I spoke to Tatay. Emotions were pouring from him while he narrated some of his realizations. Perhaps one of the greatest questions a father could ask would not be how his children love him but how he has been as a father to them. Very apt for Father’s Day to personally hear Tatay asking the same question. It was a question which he never bothered to ask before, a sincere and emotional self-assessment he first revealed to me. It was such a compelling and a moving question from a selfless man. I knew it was not a spur of the moment enquiry. Tatay, reflective as he is, told me he had been contemplating very early in the morning of June 10, perhaps after he greeted Nanay that day.
I was silent when I heard him asking not because I was busy at my workplace doing my job or I was insensitive. His question brings me back into my childhood memories instead. There was one occasion he invited me to take a swim at the river a few meters away from home. The idea of swimming excites me, however, my floater had a hole and it was broken. Since the city was too far to buy a new one, he fixed it with paper and glue. Then off we went to the river. I enjoyed swimming so much until the floater shrunk. The paper and glue got washed away. But that temporary burst of happiness wading in the river with him was more than worth it. There was also another afternoon when he invited me to take a swim in the river again. I was enjoying the water since there was a bit of a current with the shallow water. That time I was just learning how to swim on my own. Then he called me to come near so he could scrub my back. While scrubbing, he told me that a clean body will give a good night’s sleep. And it did! I was eight at that time.
These were just ordinary happenings in my life, probably unnoticeable, but the affection and the joy of being with my father in these two ordinary afternoons have been engraved in my mind and my heart. The love of a father to his son is reflected in simple gestures of care and togetherness, of spending quality time together. I once made a card on his birthday with a message saying, “You may have not given us the material things this world can offer but the love you have for us is immeasurable.” Suffice to say that these two ordinary afternoons are not enough for me to fully answer him because it will take my lifetime to tell him how he is as a father to me.