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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

entry arrow12:01 AM | A Father’s Day Imagining

By Rica Bolipata Santos

She said: Once again, he has not had breakfast with his children. And once again, he did not see them before they went to bed. He must see the children an average of what, 14 full waking hours a week? Doesn’t he know how much his children miss him and need him in their lives?

He wakes up so early and begins to prowl the house. I can hear his large footsteps echo through the walls and floors. I don’t know what I wish for more: for him to be quiet so that they won’t wake up too early; or that he be noisy enough to wake them so that they may see him today.

Once in a while, the prowling wakens someone. It is delicious to watch the child discover her daddy by the foot of the bed. The first few seconds of discovery are most precious. Here lies this moment filled with possibility. But the possibility is always short-lived because the phone at some point will ring.

I watch this from faraway and I realize that it doesn’t matter to our child that the phone rings. (In my mind I’ve already scolded him for the intrusion of the office into this precious moment.) Her father’s arm is around her waist and he keeps her close even as he accommodates the call. She watches his mouth in amazement and I realize he has to do so little to have an impact. Just this solid presence is enough. Maybe this is something I will never understand. I work hard at having my children respect my presence. All he has to do is show up – just like a movie star.

I look at him and wonder what he truly thinks of me. He does not know how much I miss just being the two of us. I clip the thought out right away and censor these thoughts I am told I am not allowed to have. Yes, I am still in love with my husband. Other marriages around me have fallen and sputtered and died out but ours remains burning by the grace of…who knows by what or whose grace? Maybe by the children’s grace for surely I cannot help but be reminded of our love every time I look into their precious eyes. But I am afraid sometimes. Does he still see me apart from the children? Without the children, who would we be? Most of our waking years are spent as parents not as husbands or wives. Maybe that’s why we celebrate Father’s Day or Mother’s Day and not Husband’s Day or Wife’s Day.

Who was it that designed human life this way? We spend the best years of our lives at work and completely miss the childhoods of our children. When we are finally free of the demands of life and it is time to retire, our children have all grown and we can barely recognize them; nor they recognize us. How many children wish they knew their father more? Perhaps life should be built some other way. It makes no sense I know but let me think it anyway.

He said: I wake up at five in the morning and wait for the sun to rise. I try to be quiet and be still so as not to wake the rest of the household but waking up early is a habit I cannot seem to break. No one knows how much I love this hour. I flit from room to room and accomplish a variety of things. I am able to inspect which light bulbs need to be changed. I discover that the fire alarm needs a new battery. I tighten the faucet in the children’s bathroom. I test all the doorknobs to make sure all things are safe. I feel useful this way. If mothers are all about kisses and hugs; fatherhood is all about nuts and bolts. You need both elements to make a family work.

The sun is finally out in full force but the children refuse to wake up. I sit at the edge of their beds and wait for them patiently. I am not sure what is more delicious-observing them in sleep, smooth cheeks on pillow, a bit of dried up drool present; or the slow opening of the eyes to the world and the smile that descends upon seeing me on their beds.

More often than not, it is the former that actually happens. I sit and wait and watch but they rarely get up. I imagine their bodies recharging like batteries. Their mother will have to contend with all that renewed energy. My phone suddenly rings. It is only a little past six and already the outside world has made its presence felt.

I answer the phone automatically and I know that my wife’s eyebrow is raised from wherever she is. There are some differences between us that can never be bridged and I am past trying to build bridges between lands that cannot meet. I will always answer the phone if the office calls. She thinks this is a matter of choice. I think otherwise.

In my mind’s eye, I look at my wife and wonder what she truly thinks of me. She doesn’t know how hurtful she can sometimes be with her quick judgments and harsh words. She tells me I am not present enough as a father. I look around our home and the lovely things that lie here and wish to tell her that this is my presence – the capacity to make this possible. If I were physically present all the time, we would be living in a hut. Women do not know how we men balance our choices as well.

I am still in love with my wife. It is a precious thing that keeps itself alive in spite the number of things that could kill it so easily. She does not know how grateful I am for the children. I wish I could tell her everyday how glad I am that she is present for the children. I wish she knew how terrible it would be if I was the one who stayed at home! With her they read books, do art projects, sing and dance. I don’t tell her though that there are times when I imagine just being alone with them. I would teach my boy how to fly a kite. I would teach my girl how to climb a tree. These things make her nervous so I only dream about them.

I sometimes wonder who designed human life this way. Who decided that fathers must work far away while mothers kept hearth and home? And so the little lives of my children are lost on me. I do not know my daughter’s best friend’s name; nor do I know my little boy’s bedtime story.

Let me say it for the all fathers in the world. The lack of this knowledge is not a sign of a lack of love or interest. It is the limitation of the mind and body and not the heart. More than anything, it is contrast that makes life worth living. This constant defining of “mother” and “father” allows love to flourish more in some mysterious, wonderful way. It is good that no one person can be everything to any one. It allows us fathers and mothers to fill the different spaces in our children’s lives.

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