One year later: the loneliest father’s day

A year after his passing, this is the first father’s day I can pay my dad the respect I should have given him last year. I was sleeping on a floor full of dust mites, with no money or friends, and being abused by someone who pretended to be my friend. The difficulty of giving my father the respect he deserved on this day came from me being too bitter, blaming him for leaving me with nothing, and for getting me into the situation I was in. Coupled with denial that I had lost him and how I still didn’t really feel like I had lost him yet, I just didn’t know what was going on in my head and heart.

Looking at the sole entry on his blog, it seems to fit in some odd way:

“I leave no traces of wings in the air, but I am glad I have had my flight.” Rabindranath Tagore, poet, writer, mystic, Nobel Laureate. Life is a solitary journey, and for the most, it looks like we’re traveling with others, but we’re essentially alone. The childhood and formative years we had at the Ateneo at the time the Philippines and the rest of the world were recovering from the II WW, and then entering the cold war, and then experiencing the economic boom of the 60s: were truly interesting times. We learned much, lived much, experienced much. And so we’re now “returning to our source” so to speak and, in a way, interacting with those whom we journeyed with in our younger years, so that we may better understand ourselves and confidently return to our true home.

This past week, if he were still alive, he’d be proud of me for having finally entered the legal profession, because as of 15 June 2011, I became a certified paralegal, completing my program with a B-average. Though he’d want me to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer like he and his father were, he also would be pleased with my entry into graduate school in UCSD this fall. There are too many thoughts and feelings that make father’s day one of three most difficult days out of the year for me, the other two being the day he died, and his birthday.

Recently, I’ve begun embracing my spirituality again, meditating and chanting, reading uplifting books, and going to the temple. That would have also brought us closer since he wanted me to be a good Buddhist like he believed he was. This came out of a personal choice to help get over my grief, because without my daily struggle to be successful and balanced spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, and socially, I wouldn’t be able to live anymore. Why? Because my father is the one person I love more than anyone else.

Sure, I may joke around with my friends about how I’ve fallen for Ellen Wong, and I am serious about pursuing her. But in all honesty, no matter whom I ever end up with (if anyone), I don’t think I can be whom I want to be. My father is no longer around to meet that special someone whom I take home to his apartment, for him to smile and approve of, to call his new daughter and for her to call a father as well, to hear his stories of hunting in Africa or scuba diving around the world, to hear him sing or to read his poetry. A part of me will never be there for others to see and meet.

I mentioned in an earlier post how my old taiqi master taught me how the laws of energy state that it cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed, meaning he’s around still, even without his corporeal state. From my recent meditations, this has also become a bittersweet revelation: almost all that I am came from him. My love for video games, comics, spirituality, philosophy, travel, scuba diving, fighting, adventure, music, philanthropy, eastern culture, alternative medicine, singing, writing, science fiction, and acting; my Third Culture Kid upbringing; the virtues of being a gentleman and good person; paying for my food and education–all that I am is because of my father raising me until he passed. Not to discount my mother, but I spent most of my life thinking of my family as being my father and my younger sister since we grew up together the longest after my parents separated, and I only reconciled with her after his passing.

On my Skype contact list and phonebook, I haven’t the heart to delete his contact info. I still want to scroll over to his number and call him at midnight from Los Angeles to talk to him midday in Manila. To call him, telling him about my accomplishments and make him proud; to talk to him about world events, philosophy, and share what’s going on in our respective corners of the world.

Memories of my father are not without their difficulties though. I still remember growing up how I felt unloved and ignored at times, like when I was told I couldn’t get braces since we couldn’t afford them, while my sister did years before me, and I never finished my own treatment. Or how I would see her travel to Malaysia, Korea, Spain, Thailand, and other places, while I’d be asked to try and understand as a boy and his son that we needed to save money, which made me question his financial planning if we were to save money while sending her off on her trips. And when his girlfriend was over, I’d never have time with him, for we’d always have to go out with her or travel with her, again asking me to understand, but then kicking her out whenever my sister was around. Approaching his deathbed, he kept giving me the idea he wanted to train me to take over the estate, but as he lay there, it turned out that he made one thing clear: that my sister was to be put in charge, as he and everyone else thought I had no experience or responsibility.

It was that feeling of betrayal that pushed me out and made it hard to stay around him. That anger was what was used by some “friend” in Pennsylvania to influence me to leave and start of new, living with someone who actually cared about me in an attempt to rebuild myself in a new environment without the negativity of my father, my “family” and friends who turned their backs on me, or girlfriends who just didn’t care. Stupidly, I believed him, including his persuasion to chase some medschool girl to help get over my father, and as history goes, he didn’t care, he just wanted my money and to get into my pants, which is what led me to wander across the east coast for weeks. At that point, I didn’t hate my father nor did I feel angry, but I went back to blaming myself and not feeling good enough to live.

Here and now, that’s all behind me and I’m moving forward. What happened, happened, and it pushed me to soldier on in life. When I think of last year, I don’t remember the traumas anymore of washing myself with dirty sink water in the bathrooms of the New York City subways or sleeping on the blue line and waking up every 45 minutes to move to the next bus back from Queens to Manhattan for another 45 minutes of sleep. No: I remember dad and me going on Sunday drives to have lunch together before he went to play golf, then an afternoon at home relaxing, and dinner and a movie at the mall later.

No matter how many things I have accomplished, from having two articles taken here and revised to be published on another site, finishing my paralegal program, acting, getting into my dream graduate school program, making good friends, and finally taking charge of my life with the respect and admiration of a few people, I haven’t found that emotional happiness I thought I would have when it all came together.

This past week I’ve had dreams about him. One that sticks out is when I’m on a mission to enter this office, sneaking past guards and sentries, to acquire the information I need to make a difference, save the world, and do great things. Just before I get there, I’m caught and thrown out. I walked into an elevator to sulk, and suddenly, it stops and he enters, tall and dressed in a grey suit, healthy and happy to see me. He hugs me and tells me he’s there for me, always watching me, that I’m a good person, he loves me and he’s proud of me, and knows I’ll do great things in life. After our long embrace, he takes me to my room and sees me off, then I wake up.

I’ve spent the evening before father’s day remembering him, meditating, and wishing he were here now. Breaking down and letting tears flow finally, I’m just not where I want to be, because the one person who is my life isn’t here anymore. I still would give everything up to have him back, because that’s how much he means to me.

I started writing this blog to chronicle my personal journey, and it evolved into a collection of articles about the diverse topics I have now, with occasional personal entries like this one. I’m not going to hold back or be afraid anymore because this is me. With that said, I’ve had friends die in church bombings in Pakistan; friends beheaded by the Abu-Sayyaf; and I’ve had my own experiences that have scarred me for life, but in the end, what hurts me most is losing my father. I have friends who care and my mother still, but nobody can ever be what my father was for me.

The Tori Amos song at the beginning of this entry resonates well with me at this present moment. It came to her in a dream, and she dedicated it to her lover, who lost his father. In its lyrics, she sings about the loss of someone, and how grief-stricken she is, crying a thousand oceans, only to realize that because she can’t let go, he can’t move on. Knowing this, she vows to let him go eventually, even if it means she’ll have to cry another thousand oceans before she can finally be ready to let him go.

For me, every time I stand by the ocean to meditate, to remember, to dream, to wish for, to hope: sometimes I’m tempted to jump in and hope that when I reach the bottom, there he will be, waiting for me. It’s only from knowing him that I don’t do this, because I’m not ready to face him until I have accomplished what I can in my life in order to make sure we spend the rest of eternity together sharing stories about our lives on this earth.

Maybe some random jerk will say something rude and make fun of me for being honest here. Maybe this will jeopardize my chances at success for posting something so personal here. In all honesty, I don’t care. If being ridiculed by people who either know no loss or insult others anonymously for their entertainment is what I must endure to see my father again, then so be it. If it means being alone in this life and never being successful because people judge me for my openness and honesty about my loss, then so be it. I want to be with my father, no matter what cost.

I love you dad.

My father and me in 2005, both sad I was leaving Manila to go to school in the U.S.

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