Thursday, February 18, 2010

At 60

Not knowing where to find it, I approached my father.
“Pa, have you seen the flashlight?” He gave me a blank stare which means I had to repeat my words.
“Pa, the flashlight, have you seen it?” I rephrased.
“You’re looking for the plies?” He responded.
“No Pa, flashlight, I’m looking for the flashlight. You know the one you use when it’s dark?" Then I had to act with my hands as if I’m holding one.
“What are you looking for?” He asked with creased eyebrows. I almost give up.
“F-L-A-S-H-LIGHT Pa,” I spelled, teary eyed.
With the newspaper on the chair, I picked it up, rolled it like a cone and from the smaller hole I bellowed.

Seeing my full effort, father laughed at me and the most appropriate thing I could do is to laugh with him. By then I got the answer needed. He just turned 60, the age for a privilege of 20% discounts as a senior citizen and 50% hearing deterioration. These are the days when megaphone becomes a necessity.

I’ve grown up with a father who gives dedication to his job. For so many years of working, I once asked “Pa, how many times have you been late?”
“Once” He answered. It amazed me. It’s amazing for someone who’s always late in school.
“Aren’t you tired of what you’re doing? I mean, doing the same thing over and over?”
“Sometimes, but that’s how I could make a living, I’ve known the ins and outs so well and it’s much harder going back to zero.” That explained well. So I guess nothing could be tiring for something you love.

As a child, I always look forward for Saturday, the payday when father is expected to bring bags of groceries. Dangling sound from the key chain on his bag would be our cue. “Papa’s here!” good news cascaded. All of us would rummage through those groceries and ask for a penny to buy candies but there’s one condition, someone has to prepare him a cup of coffee.

If my mother is a ferocious tiger, my father is a meek sheep. That disqualified him to be the disciplinarian. He’s the most patient person I’ve ever known. A father who went through a lot of disappointments and burdens but never held grudges. You could easily tickle his bone, an incurable giggler. He loves chocolates and my Aunties would tell us how he would fight over a piece of Chocnut when he was a kid. He hates Philippine government as much as local movies. He loves music but rarely sings. He hardly remembers all our birthdays so he keeps a record of it on a piece of paper. Simplicity is his middle name.

So time came when we no longer hear the key chain’s dangling sound. Father won’t be late again, at 60, he went through retirement. He had left the job he loved. I felt his fear, not about having no regular compensation but about doing nothing. He’s not used of being idle for a long period of time. It’s like work-home-work-home and then suddenly he had to adjust to home-home-home-home. It’s not going to be that easy. I would remember those few nights when he’s asleep and I would tiptoe downstairs handling ensaymada (a sweet bread with butter and cheese). Carefully, I would unzip his bag and slip the bread into it. The next day he would ask who put it in his bag and I’ll just prompt the question “How does it taste Pa?” Then he knew it’s me. Sometimes it could be a piece of apple. But now, that bag is just hanging over the door knob and I hoped I could have slipped a lot inside prior to his retirement. Slip things more surprising than ensaymada or a piece of apple, like a crawling crab or a turtle maybe.

He began staying at home, became abreast of the latest shows on TV, enjoyed playing with his grandchildren and spent more time chatting with neighbors. One afternoon he called my name and handed a familiar silk cloth. He didn’t say a word. When I sprawled with my two hands I took aback, father stitched my bathrobe which was torn below the armpit. I stood still asking my self “How many fathers on earth would be willing to stitch his daughter’s bathrobe?” So I guess I’ll be the first one to make statistics for that. I don’t have the figures yet but my father is counted.

So we had plans for him, we can’t let him sit there because we know that’s not him. Treating him like a King is something that won’t make him happy, just a cup of coffee will do. The plans went through, father is now busy. He thinks, he moves, he earns. Doing it lightly and we’re always here keeping track and backing up.

As I wrote this post I had to leave my computer for a while. I stood, passed to my father’s bed and stared to his face with traces of wrinkles where his smiles usually rest. I’d like to hug him but I’m afraid that will wake him up. Just like other fathers, he has shortcomings but those are not enough for me to stop adoring him. So all of us will always have a new chapter in our lives. The age 60 is good one because challenges and blessings never stopped from old age.

In his deep slumber, he has no idea I was writing about him. But I’m not sure if he has an idea how much I love him. If given a time I utter and let him hear those words, I would be more than willing to spell it...a million times…

Regards to your father. :)