30 June 2010


Tonight was a momentous event for my dad: he got a Facebook account. As my mom and I helped my dad find old friends, I could tell that he was both thrilled and anxious about the idea of reconnecting.

My dad did not have the best childhood. I knew very little about his youth partly because he interlaced bits and pieces of his life story in his very stern cautionary lectures to my sister and I. Since it is a truth universally acknowledged that most (if not all) teenagers are hardwired to ignore and zone out during lengthy parental speeches, they all went in one ear and out the other. He is the only male in our household (guinea pigs excluded) and I think it's difficult for him to speak candidly with me or my sister. My dad also isn't the most tactful person and certainly isn't the one my sister and I shared our feelings with. It's not until recently, actually a couple of months ago, that my dad spoke to me about his rough childhood.

I don't exactly remember what brought it on - it may have been a phone call from one of his brothers. We spent nearly an hour in the kitchen, him reminiscing, me cooking and listening intently with a lump in my throat. What I do remember is that his stories broke my heart. He spoke about his mother who he loved dearly, physical abuse, growing up nearly dirt poor and hungry, and most importantly surviving. I remember crying in bed that night.

What my dad did have growing up was a great group of friends. Every year, his high school plans a reunion parade for all alumni. It has been 17 years since he last attended one.

Fifteen minutes after sending friend requests, one high school friend accepted and a chat window popped up. Five minutes later, my dad was reconnecting with Pat on the phone. They spoke for half an hour. After all the excitement of finding old friends and learning what many have been up to since 1993, my dad returned to the basement to finish his beer. An hour later, I found him sitting on the couch in the basement, nursing his beer with the TV off. He told me he was reminiscing. I could tell he was also mourning.

Some of his friends have become quite successful. I know he is saddest about his career. He was a brilliant lawyer in the Philippines. Had we stayed, there's no doubt in our minds that he would've made a name for himself in the political circle. I was most proud of the fact that he worked for the justice/civil rights department. My favourite story about my dad's work experience came from my mom. She told me how my dad cried when he saw young girls working at a strip bar when he was investigating a case. In the Philippines, he fought for human rights. Here in Canada, he is a maintenance worker.

Though both my parents regret the lucrative careers they could've had in the Philippines, earning Canadian dollar enables them to send money back home and support our relatives. This is something that they wouldn't have been able to do, regardless of the wealth they would've ammassed by staying in the Philippines. In the end, it would still be in pesos.

What I learned from my parents was compassion and humility. They sacrificed a lot so that my sister and I can have the best education and lifestyle possible. Not a day goes by that they remind us how fortunate we are to have grown up in Canada. Every few months, I set aside money to send to our family in the Philippines. I know that if something were to happen to my parents, I would be the one expected to step up and continue financially supporting our relatives.

Nearly every day I worry about my future. I am 27 and still I have no career plans. Though I've had a pretty good education, I lack ambition. I find myself always settling for mediocrity. Responsibility terrifies me.

Sometimes I think about seriously pursuing law like my dad. It's always been his dream for me. All these years, I rejected the idea. But now, thinking about my dad's story, I am most inspired. And though he is still holding out for the day I announce I'm going to law school, I know that he just wants me to realize my full potential and have confidence in my abilities. And not regret anything.

[My first attempt at a serious piece, inspired by my dad.]

No comments: