Dad

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

— Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado (1846)

***

I’ve found that when traffic is heaviest you can have the most meaningful conversation of the day.

“Are you inviting your dad to the wedding?” my fiancee asked me as I drove her to work this morning.

“No, I don’t think so. Everyone there will be pretty upset at him, including me.”
“Nothing, just wanted to know if you’ve made up your mind.”
“Well I haven’t. I’m leaning towards not inviting him, though.”
“When you have kids of your own you’ll understand.”

As if she’s got any kids. We’ve decided to hold off on the procreation for the time being, at least until we get solid financial footing under our feet.

I hope the contempt is clear on my face.

“It’s his birthday today, you know,” she says as she gets off the car, and she’s right.

***

I haven’t seen eye to eye with my father in around seven years, which just about corresponds to the amount of time since I left his side. I guess I couldn’t stand his womanizing any longer. I couldn’t stand the petty lies and the million little issues that made me doubt his sincerity.

My mother, having left my father two years prior, was only too happy to welcome me to her arms.

So begins a long and harrowing sequence of events that can put any telenovela to shame. In fact, I don’t get to see him anymore, and the times that I do see him it’s either in court or in the shopping mall where we turn our backs on each other.

It’s still going on, our reality-telenovela, and the latest sequence involves Kiko getting married without his father, that is of course, according to Kiko the director, screenwriter, and producer of the telenovela in his head.

***

I call my father in his office as soon as I get to work.

“Hello?”
“Dad? Until when are you in your office?”
“WHY?”
“I have to tell you something.”
“You can tell it to me here.”
“It’s personal. It would be better if I told you personally.”
“No, tell it to me here.”

So I tell him I’m getting married. We exchange perfunctory congratulations.

“I hear this around, ha, don’t take it personally but are you getting married because your fiancée’s pregnant?”

MY ASS. My fiancée isn’t on the motherly way. In fact, she has a hard time getting pregnant. If she indeed was, I think I’d be the first to know.

At any rate, the bastard’s fishing for moral ammunition to use against me. He does that all the time. I won’t give him the pleasure.

“She may be round but she isn’t pregnant. Unlike you, I don’t get women just because they’re pretty, and just because they’re with me means they’re pregnant.”

“Anyway, good luck and congratulations.”

CLICK.

I forgot to wish him a happy birthday. Maybe next time.

***

My father was born two lifetimes ago in Siniloan, Laguna, the second oldest son in a Chinese family that eventually grew to ten siblings.

His father came to the Philippines and worked as a cook in a small restaurant in Cebu (which isn’t much as far as Chinese restaurants go). After a few years, my Angkong (Chinese for grandfather) moved to Laguna to live with his sister.

Because times were hard, Angkong was forced to split the family into two: half of my father’s siblings would live in Santa Cruz together with Angkong, the rest would stay with my father in Siniloan under the care of his aunt. Those who went with Angkong were generally treated as the favored ones; those left behind were treated like nothing more than dregs.

According to my mother’s retelling of my father’s story, my father grew up an unloved and unwanted child. Nothing he did gave him the love and respect he thought was due him.

Dad married once, had four kids, met my mom, had two more kids, and when my mom left him, he got the daughter of his former lover pregnant, which makes us seven in all.

***

“You’re his favorite son,” Tita Jodie* told me over dinner last week. “He still talks about you, about how smart you are.”

Tita Jodie is my father’s point man (or woman) in Cebu for his other family’s trading business. She also works for a bank there, or used to work, I’m not really sure. When she does come over, it’s usually about my parents, and my father’s never-ending obsession with my mother. Last week wasn’t any different.

“In fact, we talked this morning about you.”
“Really? What bad thing did he say about me this time?”
“Nothing. He’s heard rumors that you’re getting married.”
“I guess I better tell him then.”

For Tita Jodie, that’s like her reprimanding me for not telling my father sooner.

We don’t say much for the rest of the meal, which had me staring at my plate until everyone pretty much left.

***

I call Tita Jodie after work and tell her about my conversation with Dad.

“I know. He told me.”
“And then?”
“He said it was his mistake.”
“La, let me talk to your father.”
“No need. I don’t need any more insults from him.”

Have you ever heard a pause’s heartbeat?

***

In Humanities 1 class, Dadufalza force-fed us Dostoevsky’s tale of the evil father. Although at that time I could relate to the characters in the story with their unbridled hate for their father, I thought that it was just a phase you go through and sooner or later life becomes a sitcom and everything turns out for the best.

At least that’s what we like to think.

Later, fiancée and I lie in bed like your ordinary sitcom couple and talk about the day. It’s funny that although you might look like you’re in a sitcom with all the punchlines and laugh tracks punctuating your conversation, what you actually talk about is anything but.

“So, are you inviting him?”
“No. Too much bad blood.”
”I’d still invite him, if I were you.”
“You’re not, and I’m still not inviting him.”
“Aren’t you afraid of karma?”
“This IS karma. His. Nemo me impune lacessit.”

When you’re younger, Dad is everything, your idol, your friend, your mentor. Now that you’re older and you see him for all his faults, he seems less like Superman and more like the Joker.

Truth be told, I AM afraid of karma. I’m afraid that my son will do the same thing to me when I get older and that close to death. What can you do? Pray? That’s a laugh.

Hopefully things work out in the end this time.

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