Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day...

Copyright 2011 Johnny Domawa
All Rights Reserved

Today is the 17th, in three days it will be Father’s day. Of all the special days that are present in the modern calendar, this is probably the one that hardly registers. After all, mothers often trump fathers in the parental scale. Except for the rare instances where daughters worship their fathers, most sons and other children have a rather distant relationship with the head of the household.

I mean, let’s just look at Facebook posts on Father’s Day and you’ll get the picture. Only a few people would be greeting their fathers and of those, most will be merely posting and would not be able to actually say the words they write to their fathers. You can laugh about the irony once you get it. 

But probably that’s the role of fathers.

They are probably meant to be kept at a distance, to goad us either by their lack of emotions or their failings. For fathers often fail, in most scenarios. Either they are absent for most of our lives both literally and figuratively; or they mess up so bad we use them as role models for a life we do not want to have.

But it doesn’t always start that way. One of the fondest memories I have of childhood are the rain-soaked afternoons spent trudging beneath pine trees looking for mushrooms with my dad. And when my Mom used to whip me up when I missed my curfew, it was my Dad who stopped her from giving me more. And I looked up to him, a lot during those times prior to his change of heart when he reached middle age. He was the rock and the strong presence that buoyed me in childhood and there is no doubt that such is the image of most fathers during that time.

Things changed, of course as time rolled on. I grew up and the things I could not see as a child became much more apparent with age. I empathized with my mother for her sacrifices more and the distance between my dad and me began to grow.

Fathers, in the eyes of their sons are the greatest stumbling block to growing as a man. If the father is a role model who somehow breaks the usual and becomes a great father, he will be the barometer upon which sons mold themselves. And if he is a failure, he is the image of the man that a son hopes he will not grow up to become.

And either way, the results are often tragic.

Either the son who idolizes a good dad overcompensates and fails miserably (they will tell you: ‘I am not my father! Do not compare me to him!’) and suffer when they could not exceed their father’s stature or they struggle and fail to not fail (they will tell you: ‘Wala akong alam, Katulad ko lang ang tatay ko, isang loko!’ I’m dumb just like my father, so don’t be surprised). Clearly, the best fathers are those who are in between: not too successful and not overt failures either. That way, sons can aspire normally. There are no monuments to conquer and no pitfalls to escape from.

And what is ironic is that the best fathers are the worst lovers at least in most instances. When the man is not the best lover to his wife, he often compensates with the children. Rare is the man who accomplishes both. And the best lovers are unfortunately, often absentee distant father figures since most of their passion is directed towards their wives and lovers. 

So what makes a great father? 

I don’t know. Don’t look at me for answers. I am not a father and neither will I be any time soon. That is something that must be answered by each individual man using his own resources when his time to become one happens. And one does not become a father by merely begetting a child. It takes more than a sperm donation to make a dad and more than a genetic match to make a father.

The Filipino culture makes for a rigid structure where blood relations are the greatest weight that goes against all else. I mean we have the adage ‘Anuman ang mangyari o sasabihin mo, anak pa rin kita at ama mo ako! Whatever may happen or what you say, you are my son and I am your father!’). We all believe that. And it is that same dogged belief that gives license to men to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. That is one of our cultural failings if we really want to be critical about it.

Fathers and Sons

Fathers love their sons. Of this, there is no doubt. Even when outwardly, they love their daughters more. Because sons are the symbols of their hopes and the continuation of their seeds.

All men, no matter how much they would deny it want to be remembered. And when a son grows to be great others will say ‘Sino na ang ama niyan?’ Who is his father?’ It is the source of man-pride, you know in the most basic sense of the word. Sons are the trophies that men hold aloft once they have a family. That’s why men would insist on having sons and why fathers cry in private when their sons go awry. 

Despite whatever distance or resentment that divides men and their cubs, there is always love that is present there, always unvoiced and always repressed. And virtually nothing can break the man-code. Only loonies and battered men lost in delirium would ever actually utter the words ‘I love you son…’. We express love through other means.

Like sharing a drink during family gatherings. I often resented, you know, drinking during social meetings. I hated the effects of liquor and the drunken revelry and madness that follow too much imbibement of alcohol. I still do but lately, I also have come to realize that moderation actually plays a role in the relationships of men. Because alcohol is an excuse.

That’s right. It is an excuse. Women got it wrong when they think that men love the taste of alcohol. It is a not. Men love instead, the excuse that alcohol provides. When men had shared a glass of wine, then they are given license to speak. Particularly for those born in Asian cultures.

Do you give advice to you sons or friends when you are sober? 

Do you reprimand a guy friend or a grown up son for a failure while sober?

Do you rant or vent while sober?

Do you praise a man while sober without restrictions?

Alcohol gives you an excuse to do so. You can do these without drinking but they are limited. Praising a man for example can be done in a formal or joking manner when sober but it is more heartfelt and spontaneous if you’ve wet your lips with just a shot. And men and their sons get to really talk with less reservations when there is a bottle of spirits between them.

Or mechanical things. That’s also the place where fathers and sons bond together. Machines and alcohol, other than these, there is only the invisible divide between a man and his male progeny.

And that bond is never broken.

Fathers and Daughters

Do you know why fathers in the rare instance that they do, express their love more to their daughters?

Or why they are very protective of them?

Because daughters unlike sons, are loans.

Yes, you read me right. Daughters are loans. Like the loan you get in a bank that you have to return, or that car you loan that you have to drive back. Daughters are like that to fathers.

Fathers know instinctively that there will come a time when they have to give up their daughters to someone else. Notice that I use the word ‘give up’. 

If you don’t get it, remember the wedding ceremony. Who walks up the bride to the groom? It’s not the mom, that’s for sure. It’s the dad. That’s the dreaded moment in every fathers life: that moment when he has to give up the daughter he always knew he had to give away. Unlike sons that are theirs forever, daughters aren’t theirs figuratively speaking.

That’s why men dote on their daughters. That’s why outwardly, they seem to love them more. And why they are more willing to overlook the failings of the fairer sex and are more critical of their sons.

And it is not fathers that are credited when a woman achieves something. Call it chauvinism or something else, but the fathers are out of the picture. You know what the question is when a daughter becomes someone?

You know it and I know it. Everyone knows it.

‘Sino ang asawa?’ ‘Who is the lucky bastard who’s married to her?’ That is the question. You can laugh about it or find it ironic but fathers know this and they accept it.

Sons though are another matter.

A Father’s Love

A father’s love is often voiceless. Unlike a mom who would be vocal about it, a father is utterly different. The love of a man to his child is expressed in other more subtle methods.
If a man gives all his passion to his work to earn money that he sends most if not all to his family, it means that Family, I love you so much that I will sacrifice all my dreams and my time to give you a good life. If I can buy you a nice house, or that ipod you love for Christmas; if I can send you to a good school and buy you a dress; if I can make sure that you will not be wanting materially, then I have fulfilled my obligation to you. I may never say it in words and at times you may feel that I am choosing my job over you, but that is not the case. I love you and the only way I know to express it is through money. 

Don’t blame men if they do this. If they send you more than three quarters of their salary, they are always saying that they love you. I know that money can never be equated with love but forgive us because sometimes it’s the only way we know how to express our feeling. So don’t hate your workaholic father who probably is often distant. He may seem to be too attached to his job but he is doing it for you. 

Liken him to a dumb man (pipi in the vernacular) who could not speak out the words of love. So instead he does that in sign language and since he is deficient, he equates love with money. Don’t call it stupid, please… the fact that we can’t express ourselves is torment enough…

Of course, it’s different altogether when a father only sends half of his salary or less to his family. Something is already wrong in that scenario.

When a father gets his daughter/son (in the vernacular, pag nagsusundo) you would either find him inside the car a little impatient or smoking nonchalantly besides it. He would only give you a curt smile and give you a comment like ‘ang tagal niyo a or ang aga niyo a’ you’re late or you’re early. These may sound rude or impolite to ones ears and is often interpreted as impatience.

But you never see the fidgeting they do when you are a little late or hear the hammering of their hearts when they wonder if something had happened on the way to meet you. Beneath their rude exteriors and tart comments, they are actually worried. Worried that their kids had somehow met with some unimagined horror along the way. And since they cannot be as emotional as mothers they can only cover that concern with such taciturn comments.

Beyond the lack of words and the silent treatments that you get, you should see further to peel away at the thin veneer that hides their true emotions. You will realize that fathers are softies at best.

A Comparison of Fathers

We tend to compare fathers. Hear the children bicker among themselves and sooner or later they will start bragging about their fathers. That’s in the realm of childhood.

When they grow up, we tend to compare them by their ability to give us what we want. Like ‘Ang tatay ng si ganito, binilhan siya ng ipad… or nakita mo ba ang kotse ng tatay ni ganito?’ 

And then, later we compare them by their position in life.  We try to hide their being laborers or lowly clerks when we give out stories and downplay directors and doctors when we have the chance. 

We chase them and aspire to be greater than them. Rare is the child that wants to exceed their moms accomplishments. Daughters want to be more beautiful than their moms and sons want to marry women who are the same or greater than their moms but when it comes to career aspirations and their dreams, they use their dads as their gauge.
‘Ayaw kong maging isang manggagawa lang na katulad ng aking tatay’ Gusto kong maging isang successful katulad ng tatay ko. Gusto kong ipakita sa tatay ko na kaya ko ang buhay. Gusto kong ipamukha sa tatay ko ang kanyang mga pagkukulang… the list goes on.

Coz the role of fathers is simultaneously to be the rock that we bang ourselves against to make us men and at the same time the reviled kontrabida whose shadow we always struggle against.

The Recipe of Fatherhood
I won’t lie to you. I don’t know what makes a great father. Men become that on their own. As I have said, a great husband might be a bad father or vice versa. You rarely hit the jackpot when it comes to men (and vice versa).

The only thing that I can leave you with is a bit of advice that works on all things in this world and that is to keep the lines of communications open and to keep God always there with you. As to what makes a man a great father, that is up to you

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Dad, we might never see eye to eye any time soon but I forgive you (but know that I resent your decisions and your poor choices…)

For all Dads still living… it’s not yet too late to bridge that divide between you and your children…

For all Dads who passed on… your love remains in your children whether they know it or not…

For all prospective Dads… Advance congrats and learn from the mistakes of your fathers…

For all who’ll never be Dads… sorry friends, it seems our lot in life is to be that grumpy uncle that the family is obligated to invite during the Holidays…

For all Dads who’ve lost a child… that is hard. I know that no parent should ever have to bury their children. It should be the other way around… these are hard times indeed 

For all who want to be Dads… tough luck brothers… stick with it and you might be lucky…
For all MIA Dads… brothers wake up men! You’re fathers now…


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