An Open Letter to My Dad

Hey, Dad, Happy Fathers’ Day to you.

Those who know you say that I am a spitting image of you. So, I rummaged all my stuff here in the eight square meters of space that I now call home. Sadly, the family album that keeps the memories of our once happy, complete family is still in a box in my old office which I recently left. I have a recollection of your face, though. My mind can paint an image of you from the collection of the precious years of memories I have growing up with you, of the photos sent from the other side of the world, and of the last image I have of you: teary-eyed seeing me all grown up, looking just like you, after being physically away from you for 15 long years.

A flash of the last image of you through the dusty screened windows of the second floor room that was home to you, mom, and my two sisters rushes through me every time I remember how you left me behind, your only son, to toil the rest of my puberty and adolescent years – and eventually the rest of my life – without a father figure to look up to who is physically with me. It hurt so much more because you left just four days before my 10th birthday. How will I celebrate my birthday knowing that this and the next few will be spent without you by my side? How will we celebrate your birthday and the other celebrations, like Fathers’ Day, if you are not physically with us? I asked myself those questions as you hugged me one last time before you left.

Of course, the promise of chocolates, toy cars, Lego blocks, shoes, clothes, and whatnots was as thrilling as it was painful to a sickly boy who much desired to play ball with his dad or to play arcade games in the basement of SM Megamall after the family attends mass in Christ the King church along E. Rodriguez Ave. I had to be satisfied with the snail mails, overseas telephone collect calls, and pictures you sent along with all your gifts for mom, me, and my sisters for several agonizing years of celebrating birthdays, Fathers’ Days, Christmases, and New Years without you. Your voice from the very far end of the other line inspired me to continue growing up. I asked so many material things from you. To you probably they might seem like simple toys, bags, and clothes. But to me, they were so much more than that. It was my lame attempt to fill the empty space that your physical absence created in my heart.

I waited for you to be in my elementary school graduation. I wanted you and mom to adorn me with the medals I worked hard for because I wanted you to be proud of me. I was not much of an athlete, unlike my male cousins. So, I tried to win every quiz bee, writing competition, and receive the highest grade in all my subjects just so you and mom will be proud of your first born. It was sad that you were not there with mommy and Eunice and Ella to celebrate my successes. But I hoped then that when I graduate with honors again in high school, you would be there. But in my Junior year, I knew then that it was no longer possible for you to be with us when I graduate in high school.

It was Ella’s 10th birthday. As you always did in the past, you called up to give a happy greeting for our birthday. But, that day, it was not only your voice that mom heard from the other end of the line. The other voice was from a young girl who called you daddy. To say that it broke my heart is nearly not enough to describe what mom, my two sisters, and I felt that night. Only the four of us had the right to call you daddy. But now, two others call you by that endearment.

I wanted to break the computer you bought for me as a gift for graduating valedictorian in grade school. But I did not want to. It was one of the few physical things that I owned that was from you. So, I ate my heart out, filling the void in my heart and soul because I was no longer really going to face the rest of my life with you in our lives. Still, I wanted you to continue being proud of me. But I failed you and mom because I did not graduate a valedictorian. I do hope though, dad, that graduating a salutatorian suffices to repay all the loneliness, sorrows, and pains you had to endure all those years that you were not able to see your children grow up, especially Ella who only had five short years with you. She looks more like you than mom. Do you know that?

Despite having another family there, I am thankful that you still financed my sister and my education. However, I grew so much hatred in my heart because you left us. You never went back to see us. Not until Tita Marie’s mom died in 2009.

When I saw you again for the first time after almost 15 years, I was shivering. I did not know what to do nor what to tell you. I hugged you and failed to stop myself from welling up in tears. I missed you so much, Dad. So much that when you hugged me, I became my nine-year old self again: in tears as you bid me, mom, and my sisters goodbye to be with Papa Totoy and Mama Cion in USA. I wished, then, for the world and time to stop. I wanted to hold that moment with you, Daddy, as long as I could.

I miss hearing your voice, Dad. And until this very moment, I deeply regret saying things to you that you did not deserve to hear from me. We have not talked for two years now. Two Fathers’ Day celebrations have passed since I last heard your voice. I was not even able to introduce to you properly my girlfriend then because you already stopped talking to me. I wish that you will talk to me again. And to my sisters. And to your granddaughter Amberly Blake who is as adorable as Eunice when she was a baby.

I have never said thank you enough to you, Dad. You tried your best to be there for my sisters and me. Thank you, so much, Daddy. I will not be where I am now if not for the pride that you have for having a son like me. I am sorry that I did not grow up to play basketball like you did. But I hope that you are still proud that you have me.

Daddy, I wish I can talk to you again. I want to patch up things with you. I want to hear the stories that you were not able to tell. I want you to share with me all the pains you endured for being away from us for a very long time.

I always told others that I am not affected by anything related to fathers. Little did they know that I was just putting up all these walls because I know that I will be my nine-year old self again when someone talks about fatherhood. Every topic about fathers brings back so many nostalgic memories which my heart cannot bear. I am very emotional when it comes to family matters, especially to matters about you, Dad, and mom. I wished for a perfect family. I did not get it. But at least, I still have my sisters, mom, and you, even if you are thousands of miles away from me.

I owe you so much, Dad. This is my small way of trying to make amends with you as the whole world celebrates Fathers’ Day. Happy Fathers’ Day, Daddy. I wish in my heart that I can celebrate the next Fathers’ Day celebrations with you. Let me share this song – Dance With My Father Again by Luther Vandross –  with you, Daddy, for you to know how grateful I am and for me to tell you how much you still mean in my life.

I hope this letter reaches you. I love you, Daddy. I hope you still love me too. Happy Fathers’ Day, Daddy.

– TJ

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