“Son, when I die don’t burry me next to your mom when the time she passes away too,” my dad told me so long ago.
I just sat beside my dad, unable to utter a word. Confusion engulfed me life rapid wild forest fire, consuming me. I felt cold all over my body.
“Promise me son,” he said to me while he stared blankly pass the view in front of us.
I was eight or nine years of age then. My dad and mom was about to break up. Gossip circulates the community like thick smoke that can’t be ignored.
Week before that, I accompanied my mom to their company’s annual family day. This time around it was held on a beach. Like any other family day, all family members were expected to join. Unfortunately my dad can’t join us because he also had his own job to attend to.
The day went normal, every adult drunk, had fun, joked around and being silly was ok. I was so happy to see my mom so happy, joined every kind of game, laughed, and just having great time.
The last, perhaps one of the most spectacular scene I’ve ever seen, was my mom sitting on the beach looking into the horizon, embraced by her sister ho sat beside her until the sun sets and the sky went orangey-red.
After a few days, our whole family went to my mom’s Christmas Party. I was looking for my dad when I saw him talking with her sister. When I approached them, her sister told me to go away for a moment because they have something important to talk about. I had always been suspicious of my dad’s sister. I don’t really like her. She’s always jealous of us. My instinct was telling me that something is about to happen. She always brings trouble, like a catalyst that can spark Armageddon.
I went back inside the office but hid behind the door, still observing them. My dad seemed to be uneasy and very mad. My dad left and I ran to follow him but he was too fast. He went home, so I thought. Then when I turned my back, I saw a grin across my dad’s sister’s mouth. Chills ran into my spine.
When we got home, my dad was home already, drinking alone. Then he saw us and hit mom – really hard. The next scenes were unimaginable. Me and brothers shocked and our minds went blank.
Later my mom packed our bags and decided to go back to her parent’s house.
“Son, your dad needs you hear. Do you mind staying here for him? Please, he has nothing left if you will go with us. Your brother is still young so he needs me. But you’re big now, accompany your dad – for me,” my mom begged me to stay with dad. I can’t seem to respond, my mom’s face was swollen all over, her eyes red from crying in pain. I wanted to hold her face to mend the pain, but I know the pain she felt from within is too much.
I bowed and told her, “Mom I want to be with you. Don’t leave me please,” as tears begun to fell from my eyes. I was shaking my head, to tell her that I don’t want to stay.
The next thing I know was I was in my mom’s parent’s home, safe and far away from dad.
From what I was told, my dad’s sister told him that my mom was having an explicit display of affection from one of his officemates during the Family day at the beach. That they have been having an affair for like eons already, right under my dad’s nose. As a sister, it was her duty to tell dad about it and to put an end to it. I can’t digest what I just heard because, I was there and his sister was not. How could she tell those things where in fact she was not even there at the Family day? I was told that a reliable source informed her. If it did happen at the beach, then it was a lie. I was with my mom all the time. I didn’t left her side all that day because my dad wasn’t there so it’s my duty to look after my mom.
All the crazy things you could invent out of jealousy and self-pity. Apparently my instinct that day during their conversation was true.
Even though most of the people who were very close and supportive of my mom were telling her not to accept my dad again after what happened, but my dad began courting her and urging her to come back to him, her love for my dad won. I can’t fathom how she must love him to be able to forgive him that easily.
People forgive but don’t really forget. Every time my dad gets drunk he will recall what his sister told her that fateful day. He would hit her again, while she cries secretly outside our house.
Every time my dad gets drunk, my brother and I would hide, listening to my mom’s soft cries and anguish. Then when we think that my dad had already fallen asleep we would embrace our mom. As if telling her that we’re here for her and would always be there for her.
Years pass by and three members of the family were added. Being the eldest I need to work so decided to go away and look for a better job that our humble town could never offer me.
One night, my phone rang. It was my brother’s wife.
“Hello, napatawag ka. Kumusta?,” I gleefully greeted my brother’s wife.
“Kuya, si mommy. She was locked inside their room with dad. He was hitting her hard – again. This time really hard, she cried.
“Your brothers are trying to open the door but to no avail. What should we do?
I was in panic now but won’t let my sister in law take notice of it. “Just calm down, ok?,” I told her. “Try to call nanay (my dad’s mother) and tell her of the situation.”
“Sige kuya, sila Dino* (my brother, her husband) and Ryan* (my brother, 4th of the family), kuya. Galit na galit kay daddy. Papatayin daw nila si dad if something bad will happen to mom. Kuya ang tahitahimik na sa room nila. Hindi na naming alam kung ano na ang nangyayari,” she sobs while she narrates what took place.
“Si Philip* (youngest brother) kuya na shock. Kawawa naman si bunso. Natutulala na,” she added.
“Ok si Diana*? Where is she,” I ask sounding as calm as I could.
“Hindi pa naka-uwi kase may project sa school so baka next week pa siya makaka-uwi,” she replied still sobbing.
My sister Diana is attending college from a University. She only get to go home during weekends.
“Sige, tawagan mo na si Nanay at si tito Juan* (my mom’s youngest brother) for help, Ok? Don’t panic, be alert just in case,” I instructed her then the call was dropped.
My mother’s sister who used to defend her was in abroad so we decided not to tell her for the mean time.
My phone rang again. It was my sister Diana.
“Kuya! Mom and dad!,” she was crying now.
“I know, don’t panic ok? Let’s call for help,” I told her calmly. I was feeling cold now. Telling them all to stay calm but the truth is I am so much afraid now. Memories of distant past came rushing at me - Hunting me again. Picturesque of gruesome painful encounter feels like it was happening all over again.
For a long moment I can’t seemed to think at all – Being away made me feel so helpless. If only I could fly and go home that instant I would already have. I felt so useless. Immobile.
Then I received an SMS from my brothers wife.
“Mom managed to escape and we’re here at the plaza waiting for tito Juan to fetch us,” the text read.
“Mom already called Uncle Danny* (my dad’s youngest brother who are close to mom and dad) to accompany dad so he won’t do anything stupid.
“Nanay is on her way to the house as well.
I didn’t bother replying because I know it won’t help a thing. All I know is that they’re safe for now.
Then one day my dad finally felt all of us. My mom told my dad’s mother that she had enough and couldn’t bear it anything. So she had to return dad to her.
Days had passed when my mom decided to visit me. She texted me before the visit.
“Son, if you want to ask about what happened, I’m sorry but I won’t tell a thing. But it’s ok for me if you ask your father instead. I don’t want to say things anymore. It won’t be of help anyway.”
When I saw mom, I hugged her tight. She hugged me back. Then let go and smiled.
It will all be very different for us now. After 28 years of having dad with us, he finally left us. I think I know what mom really wants to tell me thru her text message. My mom wants us to remember dad as he is. The loving dad we used to know – The thoughtful man who would do anything to protect his family.
After seeing mom’s bruises and marking from that fateful night. I can’t help but admire my mom’s courage to endure everything. That despite what happened she still loves him enough not to say anything what truly happened behind that locked door. Maybe that’s why I still love my dad no matter what he had done to us.
There was once when my dad tried to visit Philip at school and asked him to talk to him. Philip did not move a foot near dad. Maybe he’s still in shock of what he seen at a very young age.
There was once when my dad talks about my sister Diana to common friends in town, about how they used to be so closed but now as if they don’t even know each other. But in truth no matter how my sister hated what he did that night, she would drive her motorcycle around town just to be able to have a glimpse of dad.
There were times I tried reaching out to dad to ask him if he’s ok. He didn’t return all my call and didn’t reply to all my text. Then I just got tired.
Ryan seemed to be the one most affected. He doesn’t want to hear or know anything about him.
Only Dino had contact with Dad.
“Diana, kung mamatay ako pagmamanahan ko ikaw, si Dino, Ryan at Philip. If you and Ryan refuse to accept, then I give it to Dino and Philip. If Philip won’t accept it as well then by all means it will all be Dino’s,” my sister showed me one of Dad’s text messages that she didn’t delete.
I was hurt so bad because my dad did’t even mentioned me. It’s not about the amount of how much he will give to them but it’s all about being recognized. I don’t know if my sister takes noticed of it, but for me not being mentioned at all feels like some part of me died inside.
Then there were many first for us. First Christmas without him. First New Year. First birthdays. So on and so forth.
Some nights I still cried for him. That despite it all he is still my father. My mentor, my one time best friend and someone I used to look up to. But no matter how much I long for him, time won’t ever heal what he had done. He can’t undo it. I think I might already have forgiven him, but I just can’t forget just yet. If ever our paths will cross in a distant future, I don’t think I can face him too. It’s just too painful. I might just pass by his side like a stranger who just happen to be there.
As I now recalled dad’s request to me that he won’t be buried next to mom when they both pass away, I think I don’t I need to do it myself anymore. He already makes sure that it won’t happen himself.
The Curious Cat