Dance with my Father: A Heart's Wish on Father's Day
As a little girl, I had always regarded him as an irresponsible father. He was always attached to his responsibility as a politician, rather than staying at home to be a good father. At night upon coming home, I never saw him extend any dime to Mom for our food. Mom had always gotten that callous hand working hard at somebody’s farm, hoping to bring at least a day’s food for everyone. I had resented being a daughter to this careless man, always coming home drunk at night, boasting about his accomplishment as a politician. I totally did not understand why he could pass as a good man to everyone but not to me, his own daughter. I could not say a thing about what my brothers and sisters felt about him, but had always thought that maybe they had the same resentment towards Dad as me.
Mom too was not aware how I kept so much anger inside seeing him drunk while loudly challenging everyone to a fight in the wee hours at night within the neighborhood. Everyone seemed to have brushed aside this usual scene. Neighbors would even laugh at it, never taking him seriously. Amazingly, he had a lot of true friends when he was still alive, ready to defend him anytime, which explained why he never got a taste of defeat, while running for a government office.
What annoyed me more was that Dad wasn’t noticing that growing anger inside. He would hug me, would kiss me tenderly, and would always talk about how proud he was for my achievements as a child. I had always seen him in my other sister’s school program, either as a proud father pinning ribbons, or as an invited speaker. But I though that was not extraordinary, he loved to be in public places anyway. Needless to say, he was also active with my school activities when I entered High School, and even if I was not excited seeing him, he didn’t seem to notice it. We would always dance “Cha-cha” at school, and people used to compliment him for being a graceful dancer, as well as a very supportive Dad. Everyone who had seen us together on stage seemed to be very happy and proud for me, while I was the rebellious one seeking to set revenge by not giving in to his wish of seeing me perform. When I was a kid he thought I would be a good singer, so I thought not singing anymore would show my belligerence against him.
1994, I went away to the next city living an independent life. Each day he had grown weaker, I never seemed to mind at all, everyone dies. I had never seen his everyday struggle with arthritis and high-blood pressure. At that time, I didn’t know how I would feel losing him when he was not really the father that I wanted, but I still visited my home town because I deeply adored my Mom who was there for me all the time.
I could still remember being amazed at how much love Mom felt for him, taking care of him as if he had been a good husband. She would always have that worried smile about Dad’s health, and she never failed telling every one of us how important it was to at least send papa to his monthly check up. Mama was not healthy as well, but she would hide her illness, as long as Papa gets the attention from all of us. So that when she died ahead of Papa, it never came as a surprise to us, her children. We have witnessed how exhaustion enveloped her, carrying both the father-mother responsibilities on her shoulders.
All the while that I was away, Papa had changed a lot in his old age. There were a lot of events I could recall that Papa was kind of worried about me. He would always shed that tears in his eyes when he sees me. He seemed to be very happy seeing me around. I would also see that melancholic face when he sees me leaving home again, but that was not enough to replace that hollow space he created when I was a child. My mind had always been judgmental of him, but my heart had always been weaker to join my thoughts. Though he had already changed in so many ways, it was too late for us to make up for the times we've lost.
In 2007, he was 78, when he had a stroke that held him in bed, deeply asleep for 4 days in comatose. My heart and mind debated for a while if I would want to see him in that state. At last my heart won, and I went to the hospital to see him. There, he was unconsciously lying in bed. As soon as I see that wrinkled face, worn out by years of personal struggle, every memory rushed back. I was once again that small baby he used to cuddle with tenderness. In my innocence, I had accepted his weaknesses and his shortcomings. That was when I still do not have any idea what responsibility is all about. I recalled, growing old to learn things in life had set me apart from his loving care. It was clear to me at that moment, that it was my judgment that created a wall for him to be a good father to me. If I had only learn acceptance, as we went along, I could not have wasted that long years of hating him and pushing him away.
I sang the song we used to sing in duet, and I thought I was just imagining him opening his eyes. But everyone in that small room saw him staring at me, while tears fall sideways into his ears. For that straight 3 to 4 minutes, tears had also fallen from my eyes, and it seemed to have washed away the years of hard feelings toward that man who did nothing but struggle against his own failure as a man while continuing to be there for us. Clearly. he was not good at it,and his best was not good enough. For I never noticed that he strived to be a good father. But his constant attempt had clearly dawned upon me in his dying moment as I controlled my sobs to finish off the song he wanted to hear for the last time.
That was indeed the last time, for after that song he closed his eyes forever. For many days he was in the intensive Care Unit, my guilt sent me avoiding all instances to be alone with him. I thought I was the prodigal daughter. I felt that I swallowed my own vile. I suddenly realized that there could have been more to life than bitterness and anger. I could have enjoyed my days with him.
I couldn't believe that the days that followed after his last stare at my face had me wanting to have that second chance with him.
That was first week of July 2008, when the doctor asked us to pull the plug of the life machine that prolonged his life. However, we can’t decide clearly, and we just can’t let go. I never thought it would be that hard to let him go. He set the record of having six flatlines; that is when the heart would eventually stop beating. In his age, one flatline, according to the doctor would cause fatal effect, and eventually death. The doctor asked if Papa was still expecting someone. We could not think about anyone.
One day when I was alone with him in his bed. I said my prayer, asked for forgiveness, and told him I was ready to let him go. Once I said that, there went another flatline, and he finally succumbed to it. It was then clear to me. He wants to leave and say goodbye not to anyone else but ME. I then realized that Papa had clearly seen all my resentment about how he had been in the family, but preferred to play mum about it….Now that I am a parent myself, I realized how hard it is to struggle against my own personal weakness just to be a good parent to my kid. Now, I began to appreciate all the things my Papa did for us. It was never easy for him but he never left us, that even in his own confusion and hardship fulfilling fatherhood, he still chose to stay.
Four years had passed since that day he went away…and Luther Vandross lyrics still make me nostalgic…I am still here wishing to dance with my father again.
Happy Father’s Day Pa…
This experience served as a lesson for me. I would like to make sure my baby and her Dad would spend much time dancing together, until she grows up. (just like this video)
Thanks for watching.