First Father’s Day without Dad

The title probably isn’t accurate. I’m sure there were times when Chipi and I didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with our dad because he or we were away. It is the first time, however, for us to experience Father’s Day since his passing.

There’s a Christian song with a line that goes “He’s a Father to the fatherless…” and it’s a real tearjerker at Sunday worship, but it has always given me a pause. It’s such a simple phrase, but the depths it plumbs! When I think about it – the importance of having a father – it staggers me. Even now at 44, I need my dad, and it makes me feel immensely lost that he’s not around anymore, that I now number among the “fatherless.”

I hope that that statement doesn’t come across as offensive to those who’d become fatherless before I did, especially to those who have always been fatherless. I’m not saying that I had it better and that it’s miserable to join their ranks. What I want to say is that there’s no doubt that having the presence of a good father in one’s life is a priceless blessing, and to lose that presence could really turn one’s world upside down.

My thoughts and emotions seesaw in grieving for my father. While noting his absence fills me with agony, my mind is always quick to remind me, “But you were blessed with a father for 44 years. That’s a relatively long time. He was there for your most important milestones… And you will see him again… And he’s where he wants to be now.” And that’s how I comfort myself when I verge on wallowing in pain. That has been my key to slipping back to a semblance of normal life as I knew it.

Nonetheless, it has come to a point where my sister and I have to knuckle down and settle Dad’s affairs. It’s an incredibly tall task. As difficult as it is to deal with his estate, his pension, his social security, etc., minding his personal possessions is even more daunting. You see, my dad is a collector.

He’s not a hoarder, but some people would probably be inclined to use the term loosely with him. He never threw out his small collection of cassette tapes. The same is true for the small hoard of DVDs he had organized in a shoe box. Almost all of his ID cards from the ’70s (the decade he married my mom and started living in Marikina) to the present are neatly stashed in a drawer. Marveling at his office, we have to remind ourselves that this trove of personal collections had already been significantly diminished by the great Ondoy flood of 2009.

However, just because he had a huge bundle of mostly non-working refillable pens doesn’t mean that he had an obsessive compulsion to acquire and hold on to things. For starters, Dad would be the last person to buy anything non-essential. He never had the latest of anything, and unless whatever he was using was already falling apart, he wouldn’t think to replace it. I remember posting about it on Facebook a couple of months before he passed away. I normally didn’t post about Dad because he wouldn’t have seen it anyway. He had a few accounts that other people made for him (mainly because he kept on forgetting his password) but he never actually engaged in social media. Anyway, this is what I said:

 

In any case, Dad seemed to live by the tenets of the Great Depression. Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without. It was a little depressing having to grow up with this way of thinking, but since hindsight is 20/20, I can now say that it really made things more interesting. It was character building if anything.

That’s not to say that he didn’t appreciate material things; he just never coveted. This realization clicked when my husband told me that when he and Dad were in the ER, waiting for Dad to be admitted (this wouldn’t happen until early evening of the following day), Dad told him that his secret to avoiding sin was not wishing for what he didn’t have. By that time, he had already mastered the science and art of contentment.

This was something that I couldn’t understand growing up and I later simply put down to being a quirk of his. I remember going around the high-end shoe stores at Caesar’s Palace with him as we waited to meet up with friends. I watched him enjoy himself as he picked up and admired different shoes. I knew he could afford them if he really wanted them, but he would gently put every shoe back. “Aren’t you going to buy anything?” I asked. He replied, “I can admire without wanting.” I just huffed in answer because I hated window shopping and was bored. The man just never bought anything he didn’t deem necessary.

His heart didn’t lust after “stuff,” but whatever he did have, he used and reused until it begged for mercy and then recycled or repurposed. He also gave a lot of things away. You wouldn’t think it, spotting all the vintage items in his office, but he usually gave away things that were still new. If something lasted with him, it was because he continued to have a use for it or he imagined that he would have a use for it farther down the road. So, essentially, my point is that my dad wasn’t a hoarder despite all the seemingly random collections.

Now that Dad is gone, I’m glad that he had this habit of storing and filing. The filing system he used only made sense to him though, of course, but I was happy that I could be certain that whatever I needed to find would be among his things because he hardly threw anything away. While I was going through the folders in his home office, I came across this:

This is a clipping of an article I had sent to the editorial section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I don’t remember if I timed sending it so that it could get published around his birthday (November 14th). I mean, I couldn’t be certain that it would pass muster in the first place (Youngblood was relatively new back then) or that it would be published within weeks of being reviewed, but that’s how things unfolded. My article was approved for publication and was published a day before Dad’s birthday. I went with a semi-pseudonym for my byline, retaining my then family name and using P.K., a known acronym among Protestant children, which stands for “pastor’s kid.”

Of course I originally had my own copy. I kept a portfolio of my published work in a clear book, but I had left it in my room at my parents’ house and when Ondoy struck, it was just one of the many sentimentally valuable items my family lost. I was devastated, but what else could I do but shrug and adopt a c’est la vie attitude?

Anyway, I was hoping Dad would still have a copy of the article, but because of Ondoy, I wasn’t really expecting to find one. That’s why I was ecstatic to come across it in one of his folders. I had to take a moment to stop my sorting and sob my heart out. I took it home with me, of course, and immediately got busy with the laminator. Now that I think about it, I should also get busy with the copier and the scanner, but I’ll likely put that off indefinitely – well, hopefully before I end up being sorry for procrastinating yet again.

In my first fatherless Father’s Day, I’d like to take the time to indulge myself further in remembering my dad and being grateful for the privilege of growing up under his care and correction as well as for the many beautiful moments I had with him.

I would also like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the fathers that are still in my life, starting with my husband Mark. He really rose to the occasion when my side of the family needed him.

I would like to thank Dad’s brother, Uncle Philip, for being our rock during that immensely arduous time. He and his wife, Auntie Nerie, were always there to comfort and support us as we struggled through that unexpected upheaval in our lives.

Our other uncles, my mom’s brother (Tito Vic) and brothers-in-law (Tito Edo and Tito Adan), with our aunts also consistently extended their care and support all the way from the other side of the globe.

Chipi and I are indeed very fortunate to still have good fathers in our family even if we’ve lost Daddy.

I’m learning to go on without Dad’s physical presence as my anchor and compass, but all those years of his influence are not for naught. His Christ-centered example and teachings will remain at the core of my being and continue to guide me as I navigate my own way to the finish line.

This Father’s Day is bittersweet, but I’m keeping my eye on the blessing. I’ve been crying, but I can also feel joy. I know my father is happy in heaven with his Father.

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