People always give me an, “I’m sorry, your dad is how old?” every time I tell them he’s 75. I’ll be 29 this year and he’s 75. When I was 5 or 6 years old, people will think I’m his granddaughter and they’ll laugh when he would tell them I’m his daughter (I had two more younger siblings aged 3 or 4 at that time). We are two generations apart, and yes, he could easily be my grandfather. But God made him my father and I will not have him any other way. In here, you’d also get a glimpse of my mom – both have been together for 35+ years.
Each experience is unique and depending on what a “difficult” childhood is for you, I found my childhood quite challenging because my siblings and I were raised old school by a traditional set of parents – in a patriarchal household – Dad was the sole breadwinner and Mom was the sole homemaker. We’ll have help along the way but no one stayed with us significantly, so it was mostly just Mom and Dad for us – all seven children: laundry, ironing and folding; cook, eat and wash; budget, pay the bills, grocery; assignments, school works, drop off and pick up; and any other errands you can think of. The parents were a team – Dad was out of the house to make a living, and mom was running the household.
At home, my dad was authoritarian – he will have the last say in everything – if you cannot figure it out, he will figure it out for you and you have to suck it up, like it or not. We did not have television for a long time (according to him, it was not a priority), so we had books, bible comics to read – he made me read the bible when I was 8 or 9 years old and I could not understand a single thing. Every day after work, he would bring home that day’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, and make me/us read it and he would ask me what the news is. He was already quite older than my friends’ parents so he no longer played physical games with us – we played scrabble and chess instead. I learned board games because of him. We would rarely get toys (I never had a Barbie doll) unless someone gives us, but he will always buy bible comics every after church and my siblings and I will read it the whole week – we have to share, then I get to keep the copy once everyone is done. You figured that out, my love for books and everything in print is because of my dad. He didn’t want us to prefer TV over books. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs were abhorred. In his words, “Unless you see me do it, don’t dare”, and “do not use my money if you plan to try.”
He is a serious man. His job as a government auditor was quite stressful, so he does not have enough humor in him – but he has since been so funny over the recent years, in fact, he’s the funniest guy I know.
Recently, I have figured out the best thing about having a septuagenarian father – you get personal accounts of real and credible stories from history. He is a breathing archive of everything and anything about life. You will not believe the wisdom, stories and experiences and everything that he’s overcome. To give you the tiniest bit of idea, he is a World War II and Martial Law survivor – the atrocities recently is nothing compared to what they experienced at the time. He is a fountain of stories and learning; and is perhaps the most sensible human being I know.
He raised (and is still raising) seven children – all millenials now – can you imagine what it must have been like? Financially, it was quite difficult for him too – we were all in school and no one had to give way for another sibling. He made sure we were all in school at the same time, at the right schedule and would always tell us: I’m not asking for high grades, I just want you to study well and finish on time, because if you don’t, you’ll be wasting money and it’s not fair to your brothers and sisters. In a traditional Filipino family, the parents are judged by how their child/children fared in school – if they finished college and earned a degree. He did well, I guess.
My dad is a very complex human being – between him and my mom, he’s the one who takes a bath for an hour and needs an additional hour to get dressed; he is moody and temperamental; he pays close attention to details, among all other things that’s cliché to women. I was in the fourth grade when he announced that he was going back to school – he enrolled in the University of the Philippines (Cebu) – the most prestigious higher education institution in the Philippines. He was 55 at the time and his co-students in his MBA Class were fresh grads being sent by their parents for post grad studies. He was a proud student, father of seven and a government employee. All seven of us and our mom attended his graduation and the man was the most applauded. I was grade six at the time, and the moment was immortalized in our one and only family photo – he was wearing the UP Sablay: UP grads do not wear a toga, they wear the sablay, complete with alibata and all.
About a year into retirement, he had a mild stroke that left him significantly weaker than the invincible, sharp-tongued and temperamental dad that I’ve known – in his words, his reflexes were not the same as before. We have since been constantly watching over his health and are making sure both him and my mom are medically supervised. He turned 70 and had an almost run-in with stroke again, while I was in another time zone. He has been in and out of the hospital every year, mostly for preventive stays and executive check up. He is regularly seeing a Cardiologist, Neurologist, Nephrologist and Opthalmologist – he said retirement is quite expensive.
And you would think he has long forgotten his dreams – no he didn’t. And the funny guy that my dad has evolved into is like living his life yet again. Sometime, about a year ago, I was putting together my own travel plans and my dream places to visit, and I joked about travelling with him to America – the only place in the world he dreamed to visit, partly because his entire family is based there. Like a spur of the moment, the US Embassy in Manila granted him and my mom a 10-year multiple entry non-immigrant visa. He was 74 years old – I laughed at him because the Consul actually thought he will travel for the next ten years. And in true surprise fashion, the stars aligned and the universe collide and both he and my mom found themselves in a tri-city-state visit to the great United States of America – Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Grand Canyon, Arizona. Are you kidding me? I sure am not. I was in euphoria and in a stand still for weeks because I could not take it in immediately – that there is a perfect time for everything. Life and God surprises with things you have never ever thought of – dad’s American dream was 40+ years in the making, long before my mom and all 7 of us came into his life. Well, life is being speechless at the turn of events.
He has a travel buddy – my mom. They’re competing with my travel plans and I get secretly pissed because they can go anytime they want and I can’t.
I am in awe, and even until now, I cannot put into words what Dad’s last year must have been. He started living his life again, with a newfound obsession, and a piling bucket list – the man has a freaking BUCKET LIST, for real.
And dare I say it again, he is halfway through his 70’s, has lived through how many governments, survived stroke twice, among others. Just, WOW Dad. Way to go. He’s a living wine and cheese – only gets better with age.