It was my dad’s birthday last June 7. He would have been 64. A week after that was father’s day. Tomorrow, we will be commemorating his fourth death anniversary. As a way of remembering his life, I decided to write about the 7 things I miss the most about him (7 was his lucky number. Yes, daddy was not cryptic).
His “practicality” with money
My dad was kuripot. Unabashedly so. His prudence with money was so legendary that when he was in grade school, he won a national award. He was the thrifty boy of Makati. (My uncle, his older brother, beat him and won the regional award, the thrifty boy of Rizal. Yup, being frugal runs in the family, although sometimes it skips a generation or two. :P).
His stinginess was a running joke among the four of us and we loved to tease him about it. I started appreciating his money-savvy ways however, when I was much older.
You see, the fascinating yet perplexing thing about him was his abhorrence for credit. For him, if he didn’t have enough money to pay for something upfront, then he wouldn’t buy it. Borrowing was reserved for essential things like starting a business or investing but never for “happy” stuff like cars, gadgets or clothes. Infact, he first applied for a credit card when he was well into his fifties. And when he finally got one, they gave him a 5000 php credit limit because he had hardly had any credit history.He always preferred, as much as it was reasonably possible, to pay for his purchases, big or small, with the money he had on hand.
I realized however, that my dad was not totally, hopelessly kuripot. He was just very prudent with his finances and was uncomfortable spending on big things that he thought were unnecessary. And, thanks largely to the influence of my shopping-loving mom, I noticed that he eventually seemed to enjoy indulging himself and his family a little bit more.
I remember distinctly when he started loosening his purse strings. He had asked me to buy him a bunch of stuff from National Bookstore, and he had around 50 bucks leftover. When I tried to give this back, he very gallantly announced that I could “keep the change.” Naks.
Seriously, he really had a good attitude towards money. If he didn’t have enough, he learned to adjust. If he had more than enough, then he splurged on a couple of small indulgences and saved/invested the rest. Money was just money. It was merely a means to a prudent end. He was never consumed by it.
His high threshold for pain.
My dad was a rock star when it came to enduring physical pain, and this was especially evident when he got sick.
I remember our frequent emergency room visits. Because of his high tolerance for discomfort and kuripot tendencies, dad was always very reluctant to go to the hospital. Mom would usually have to wake me up because I was one of the few people who could convince him to go. (It wasn’t because of our exemplary father-daughter bond. I would just unashamedly play on his stinginess. What usually worked was when I threatened him that if he didn’t go to the ER right at that moment, things would get much worse, and we would end up having to spend more on his confinement.)
Because we know that he wouldn’t have agreed to come if he wasn’t feeling really, really bad, we’re usually frantic in the ER. I, in particular, would get quite insufferable and would badger the nurses and doctors to attend to him immediately. Dad however, would remain unperturbed. When doctors would ask him how he felt, he would just calmly munch on crackers he always had with him, and respond “Medyo… hindi normal. May konting shortness of breath.”
Doctors would give me a patronizing, we’re-dealing-with another-illogically-panicky-relative look and proceed to methodically run tests on him. But sure enough, when they get his results, several long agonizing minutes (sometimes hours) later, they would find out that his oxygen levels are really low and he’s in the throes of a massive heart attack.
(Taking this moment to express my beef with Medical City, which was the closest hospital to our place. We were in the ER a lot! They never seemed to have any sense of urgency and would never listen to the combative, half-hysterical daughter)
Even during his regular dialysis sessions, dad was a trooper. While everyone else was crying or giving the attendants attitude because the four- hour procedure was just so uncomfortable, dad would happily flirt with the nurses, listen to his ipod and sing very loudly to the Beatles.
He explained to me once that, pain was a state of mind. And most of the time, what really gets to us is not the physical sensation itself, but the fear that we feel when anticipating the pain. So he just simply willed himself to relax every time he knew that something excruciating was about to happen him.
I think his ability to control his body and discipline his reaction to pain is one of the reasons why he lived as long as he did despite having multiple chronic medical conditions. Everyone who knows him agrees that my dad passed away, not because his body involuntarily gave way, but because he decided it was time to let go.
His calm, serene nature
My dad was not only a pro when dealing with physical pain, he also had this unwavering calm about him. It was very rare to see my dad showing excessive signs of distress.
During my teenage years, when my bratty emotional angst was at its peak and my outbursts would make even Gandhi forget his vow of non-violence, I could count the number of times dad raised his voice at me. Even in the midst of a crisis, dad always, ALWAYS kept his cool.
When we were kids, a good part of our house burned down. During this time, Papa was in Quezon for some business thing. His office got a hold of him and insisted that he go back home ASAP. (This was pre -cellular phones so communication wasn’t easy). The only thing they would tell him however, was that there was a family emergency. According to the guy who brought my dad home, he was completely composed in the car, and did not give any kind of nervous energy. This was how their conversation went:
GUY: Cool na cool kayo boss ah.
DAD: Wala rin naman kasing magagawa.
GUY: Ano sa tingin niyo nangyari?
DAD: Walang sinasabi sa kin eh. Siguro grabe kasi pinauwi nila ako agad… Sana wala lang naospital. O naaskidente.
GUY: O kaya sana walang sunog no boss?
DAD: Kung sunog ok lang. Basta safe pamilya ko.
Guy: Solved na problema niyo boss! Wag na kayong mag-isip masyado! Nasunog bahay niyo!
Sure enough, when my dad got home he surveyed the damage and methodically proceeded to take charge of the situation. His reaction did not at all mirror the devastation wreaked by the fire. Because he was calm, any lingering trauma that the incident caused was quickly erased from our minds, and pretty soon we were regaling him and my mom with funny anecdotes of how we dealt with the crisis.
That incident pretty much described how our family dealt with any kind of difficulty. Because of my dad’s unwavering composure, we grew up with an outlook that everything was going to work out. Every unfortunate event became just another funny story we could entertain our relatives and friends with. As long as dad remained unfazed, we were unfazed.
The thing is, for an old school kinda guy, dad really had a new age Zen attitude. Simply put, for him, sh*t happens. And you could either whine and lament on the unfairness of it all, or you could roll with the punches. As one of his favorite, go-to expressions go (take a moment and imagine him saying this to me, his melodramatic daughter while I’m blubbering, sputtering and crying), “Ganun talaga.”
His fun-loving childlike vibe
Until the last few years of his life, my dad, every morning, would baby talk my mom, coaxing her to stay at home instead of going to work or running errands.
Taking that disturbing yet endearing anecdote as a springboard, dad was really a child at heart and never really outgrew the simple pleasures of life.
While everybody else’s dads were busy playing golf and networking with business associates, dad was busy with his pellet gun competition with my brother and showing me his vintage matchbox collection. He was the perfect dad to have around when we were kids because he would wrestle, fly kites, catch spiders and play hide and seek with us. He never thought of these activities as merely “stuff you had to do to bond with your child”. He genuinely enjoyed them. Sometimes more than we did.
He was kinda little Prince-ish in a sense because he would talk about the stuff that really mattered to us. He and my brother would have in-depth conversations about video games. He would engage me in long-ass discussion on Guns n’ Roses and how Slash was the best guitarist, ever. (He couldn’t relate with my New Kids addiction though, and was totally outraged when I boldly proclaimed that they were way better than the Beatles).
Even his hobbies were pretty unsophisticated and child-like. He would spend hours on his work room building stuff (more on that later) and would be perfectly content watching boxing or Animal Planet the whole weekend. (I remember how he would gleefully exclaim every time a predator would catch an antelope or some other prey after hours of tense hunting, “Uy! Dali si kolokoy!”)
Because of my dad, I learned that the simplest things were the funnest. And you can keep on enjoying yourself like a kid even if you’re burdened with “adult” responsibilities.
My dad loved making stuff. His workroom was his happy place and and he would spend hours building, creating, repairing or taking things apart.
He could construct anything with his hands and was pretty indiscriminate about what projects he would engage in.
He obsessively worked on various endeavors from practical stuff like making tables and repairing broken gadgets, to sculpting little statues and drawing posters and even to sewing costumes and repurposing old t-shirts. He once decided to create an AM radio from left over electrical pieces and used an old intercom as the casing just because it was fun.
All my cousins have at least one costume made by dad. I remember for one school activity, my brother won an award for coming as a banana that my dad sculpted from paper mache (Yes a banana. He went to a Catholic school that had no concept of cool. The whole class was made to dress up as fruits. The other section had to dress up as religious leaders. So my banana brother shared the stage with a tomato, a rabbi and a monk during the awards ceremony. I’m not making this stuff up).
Growing up, we rarely had to call “a guy” for anything. Whether it was a leaking faucet, some faulty wiring , a broken vhs player or even a torn shirt, we expected my dad to fix it.
It’s one thing that I really miss now that I have my own household. I would try to channel my dad every time I would engage in a new DIY project (Apparently creative genes are not inherited because I always ended up with dismal results). My husband also gets a lot of judging looks every time he calls the maintenance for repairs.
Okay, this is going to sound like a daddy’s girl gushing about her beloved papa’s extraordinary talent. But dad was a genius.. My lola, always claimed that among her highly intelligent brood, my dad was the smartest (she had an MA in guidance counseling and had the standardized tests to back it up).
All of her children were extremely accomplished in school and received various awards. Except unfortunately, for my dad. He was, how do you say this nicely, the least academic. Papa hated school and actually flitted from one university, and one course to the other.
He however, absorbed information like a sponge and knew a lot about everything. Before Google was invented, my brother and I had our Papa. And we would badger him with questions for school or just because we’re curious about mundane, everyday things. He usually had an answer for everything we threw at him, and if he didn’t, he would patiently research on it and would try to explain things to us in a manner that we both understood.
Even for aches, pains and other medical problems, we expected my dad to fix things. Most of his recommended methods and medicines produced great results, so I still swear by them until now. (Well except maybe for his weird attempts to practice acupressure. I used pretend that I was all better just so he would stop pressing on my palm.)
But I guess aside from being incredibly proud of having an smart father, what I learned from my experiences with him was that academic success does not really measure intelligence. Even before I took up psychology in college, I had this appreciation for how every person had a different way of learning, and consequently also had different ways of showing their intelligence. I also learned not to automatically dismiss anyone, just because they did not have the same academic or work credentials as more “learned” people, so to speak.
Likewise, I also realized that it’s not enough get good grades or to have a prestigious job to be considered intelligent. Although school will give you the much-needed tools to build on, knowledge and skills are more importantly acquired through observation, a voracious curiosity for things, an openness to try new methods and and a genuine love for learning.
His Love for Family
Although my dad was well liked at work (we were actually quite overwhelmed by all the touching anecdotes shared by his colleagues and associates during the wake), he really did not have friends he hung out with on a regular basis. My dad instead, devoted a lot of his attention to his family. Infact, when he was growing up, his main barkada were his cousins. And towards the last few decades of his life, he considered his oldest brother as his best friend.
My dad was not the demonstrative, affirming type. I don’t think he ever verbally said that he loved me. Even his demonstrations of love were not grand or poignant. But I felt it. And even when we were at odds with each other, I never doubted it.
You could never call him sweet nor was he a romantic. He showed his love the same way he dealt with life; in a cool, subtle and almost pragmatic manner. I remember one Christmas, mom wanted a purse. As with any other female, she did not care if it was functional, she just wanted a pretty one. My dad happily presented her with one of those trendy body bags, because in his words, it was big and had ‘lots of pockets’.
Despite his cerebral tendencies however, dad had a gentle, caring and considerate side.
A few years after my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she came to live with us. My dad, no fail, would talk to her every night. Even when it got to the point that she lost the capacity to respond. Even when he knew that she didn’t understand a word he was saying.
During their retirement years, he gave up his beloved sports channel and started watching my mom’s telenovelas instead, so she didn’t have to leave the room to watch TV and they could spend “quality time” together. He would even watch them when my mom was away, so he could give her a blow- by -blow when she came home.
Whenever my brother and I were sick, my dad would always be on top of things and would spend sleepless nights comforting us. When I developed a cyst in my ovary, he offered to go to all of my checkups with me, even when he was going through regular dialysis sessions himself (I declined of course).
When we were growing up, a lot of cousins (most of them from mom’s side of the family) came to live with us. Dad, who valued his privacy, never said a word and loved all of them like their own children. He even became a valued confidant to most of them.
There is a quote from Maya Angelou that went, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think this best exemplifies how my dad lived. He did not have a lot of over the top achievements under his belt and lived a pretty staid life. But for those of us who had the privilege of getting to know him, he was a superstar. He touched each and every one of our lives in a poignant, almost inexplicable way. He inspired us with his strength, made us feel secure with his calm optimism and taught us to see the good in others by seeing the good in all of us.