Whenever I say that the earliest memory I have is the accident wherein I had my left arm somewhat toasted, I lie. My earliest memory is, in fact, months before that.
It was a Saturday morning. I woke up to see the house in complete disarray. It seemed like we had been robbed. But there was no thief. There was only my father, rummaging through the house, looking for something. That time, he had just undergone surgery. He had a nasty liver.
I went out to see a number of people looking at my dad on the roof. He was also searching the roofs. And he kept on yelling, “Where are my millions?” It sounded silly because we were poor and there was no way our family savings could reach the million mark. But my dad kept looking for his “millions.” Take note, “millionS.” Plural.
I was looking up to my dad on the roof acting like he lost his mind, giving our neighborhood a free show. My sister, totally mortified by the situation, kept on mumbling “He’s gone mad. He’s crazy.”
This was my earliest memory. I was four.
It never occurred to me that this very vivid moment would mark the beginning of my family’s transformation from being average to absolutely dysfunctional. Since then, Daddy started accusing my mum of hiding the millions from him. And because he thought he had millions, he didn’t want to work anymore, forcing my mum to work like mad.
It made my sister despise my dad. My brother wasn’t very vocal about how he felt about it. Me, yes, I used to hate my dad for it, too.
You see, the earliest memory I had of my father was the day he started accusing my mum of theft. The day he decided not to work. The day he gave in to alcoholism yet again. I never saw a “responsible” father. He was just, you know, my father. And a lot of times, I thought he did not have any significance in my life, other than the fact that I was one of his sperm cells.
Because my mum was working, my dad was with me as I grew up. He taught me a lot of things as a child. But I didn’t like it. Somehow, I blamed him for not being able to play with my mum because she was always tired after work.
Yes, I thought, he had no significance in my life. He was just a crazy housemate. An ornament. A decoration. A living “press release” for other people to think that we were a normal family.
For 19 years of my life, I never felt I loved my dad. I respected him, yes. But loved? No, thanks. Many times, I wanted him out of my life. Or me, out of his.
And then, a bitch called “cancer” heard my little wish. It gave the family the worst period of our lives. All chemo did was drain us dry of our energy, money and hope. Soon, my dad succumbed to the disease. His liver finally took a toll on him.
It was exactly five years ago.
The eve of his funeral, I met some of my dad’s siblings. And then they told me a heartbreaking tale. It was about my dad.
They said that before his first surgery, a few weeks before we saw him on the roof, my dad actually had a “business deal.” Together with his co-workers, he made an unsavory deal with a group of people. My dad worked at a sea port, so you know what I meant by “unsavory.”
To cut it short, each of them should be receiving millions of pesos after successfully doing the “favor.” They did it. And yes, all of them got the money. All of them, that is, except my dad.
A few days before the payment, my dad’s nasty liver decided to be such a bitchass on him and got in the way. Talk about perfect timing. He was rushed to the hospital and was confined for a number of weeks. Where was his share of the money? It was with his co-worker — a woman. A beautiful woman, in fact, who had once shared a romantic relationship with him before he married my mum.
My aunts said that this woman had always been in love with my father. And she used this money to blackmail my dad into being with her and leaving his family — us, his family. My dad knew better.
He chose us.
He chose us.
But right after the surgery, my dad received a call from another co-worker saying that the money had already been sent to my mum. My mum never received anything from anyone. My dad believed otherwise. And the rest is history.
When I heard this, I just shrugged it off. Still, as far as my memory was concerned, he was not a good father to me.
Until I realized something very recently. He did have some significance in my life. A lot of wonderful things have been happening to me now, and as I was thinking whom to thank for all of it, my dad crossed my mind. Like I said, because my mum was working, it was he who taught me a lot of things when I was growing up.
He taught me how to write. I’m a professional writer now.
He taught me how to count. I never flunked a maths exam.
He taught me how to cook. I’m a great cook.
He taught me how to play badminton. I play tennis. (Hey, they both have rackets. Wag kumontra.)
He was with me when I watched my first film. I’m a Film graduate.
He read me TIME and Newsweek articles to sleep. I’ve just passed the Foreign Service Written Exams.
You see, a big part of who I am now is because of him. No, actually, a big part of me is him. And it’s not just because he was my father. But because he was actually there. He chose to be there. He chose us.
And never had I thanked him. Never had I told him how sorry I was for ignoring him. Never had I told him how I regretted not giving him a chance. Never had I apologized for not looking up to him since the day I saw him on the roof. Since the earliest moment I can remember.
That’s the most ancient memory I have. It was a Saturday morning. I woke up to see the house in complete disarray. It seemed like we had been robbed. Well, the truth is, yes, we had been robbed. I lost my dad right there, right then.
And it wasn’t cancer that stole my father from me. It wasn’t cancer that took that one chance of having a great relationship with my dad. Whoever did, I have a pretty good idea.
But wherever the thief may be — taking the Foreign Service Exams, perhaps; or playing tennis; or simply blogging — he is sorry. Very sorry. Believe me.