Father Bother

Also published by American Chronicle in a slightly different form

popeyed-yankee-father-200.JPG
‘Popeyed Yankee Father’ – clipart by Publisher 2002,
title & rendering with Photoshop 7 by Gloria

Or, To The Yankees, To Make Much Of Time

I hope the world will always celebrate Father’s Day. To make us fathers feel important – for one day at least once a year.

Today, 2007 June 17, I tell my friend Dr O early this morning: ‘I have to go home.’ I have been helping his wife edit a book, in Word 2003, the Microsoft version I celebrate. ‘Did you know, after having been married for 40 years and a father for 39, this is the first time I’m going to celebrate being a father?’ He looks at me and smiles. I say, ‘You know, physically present, mentally absent. I mean I have not been paying attention.’ He had not been paying attention himself when he should have. He has only one child; I have 12. He is older than my 67.

‘Not paying attention’ means if you asked me in any of those years where my family was, I couldn’t even have heard you ask the question. I was busy writing, or editing, or publishing with the typewriter. Now I’m busy with the personal computer. Now that I’m paying attention, that makes me a one-day wonder of a father!

In contrast to me, the Yankee father is an 18-year wonder who disappears as a father on the 19th year. I haven’t been to the United States, but I know the US is a country where you can’t find any family if you last visited 18 years ago. Remember, this is the home of the brave and the land of the free. Mother says to Daughter: ‘You’re 18; you have just declared your independence. Feel free!’ Father says to Son: ‘You’re 18; you have always been declaring your independence – now you go. Be brave!’

The first real American declaration of independence was by the father who first told his son, ‘You’re free. You’re free to go and live an independent life.’ Since the head of the family is the father, there should be set aside a national ‘Popeyed Day’ – to remind Yankee fathers the times they astonish themselves by being stupid and child-free.

So, the Yankee father’s love is only good for 18 years. And then no more family. I say you’re only as good as your last family.

So, if you are a Yankee father, I don’t envy you. You can’t even keep your family in one place. Yours is all over the place.

What about me? If I were half as good a father as I am a damn good writer, it wouldn’t be so bad. My love is good for forever, but my love as a father has been only as a default setting, a non-choice.

Today, 200 km away from home, I resolve to start my life anew as a father. I drop by another friend, another Dr O, to say hello. When I get home, after a 2-hour trip south of Manila, quarter of noon, a feast welcomes me. ‘Tatay,’ says Ela, the youngest, Tagalog for Father. She says it with feeling. She is with 3 schoolmates in high school, now first year college. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘I have many children!’ Smiles and happy sounds greet me.

I bring out the Toblerone chocolates I just bought from Mercury Drug Store and 7-11, a handful of them, worth P130. About $3, which makes Toblerone a luxury item for me. Today calls for luxury. There is food on the table, the ones I like: chicken ala Daphne (daughter), pasta with tomato sauce, cheese bits – 2 gallons of ice cream: Strawberry by Magnolia, Creamy Halo-Halo by Magnolia, Cookies & Cream by Selecta. Definitely a luxurious day. My wife is here; so is Jomar, Jay, Jinny, Daphne, Neenah, Edwin, Ela and friends. We have a party!

I’m a Filipino living in the Philippines. I became a father 39 years ago, when I was 28. Now I’m the father of 12, from 1 wife. Dearer by the dozen. A good father? I plan to be one.

I don’t envy a good father in the US – he gets to be a father for only 18 years, and then by tradition he is divorced from his children, one by one. I believe in tradition, never divorce. And if I live the next 20 years, God willing, I will be a father longer than any popeyed Yankee father.

Why am I talking about family when I’m talking about father? Why because being a father means we are not important as we are individuals but as we are a member of a family. And that’s the important thing.

In the US, being a father is a catastrophe. That’s because you’re not supposed to be part of a family. This is reflected in this excerpt from Cigna Behavioral Health (cignabehavioral.com):

‘Boomerang Kids’ is the new name for adult children returning home to live with their parents. The United States census report estimates that 80 million households have an adult child living with their parents. What can you do to avoid conflict?

Your child is not welcome in your own home: Isn’t that horrible?

Father Anxiety – or Mother Anxiety – is real in the United States. This is what the author of Father For Life Armin Brott writes (womenof.com): ‘One of the biggest risks to adjusting to a child’s leaving is that he might come back.’

That your child might come back home has become a dreadful thought. What have the Yankees wrought?!

The broken family in the US doesn’t have to be forever. So, I invite the Yankees to be good fathers themselves the rest of their lives.

Now, if you want to be a good father, don’t be a good father – be a good husband. Quietly, my wife told me a few years ago, when I wasn’t really listening: ‘If you want to love your children, love their mother instead.’

Today I’m listening. So, instead of being a good father, the following 25 years are my best last chance being a good husband instead.

Copyright 2007 June 17 by Frank A Hilario.
Researched for, organized-reorganized, formatted & hyperlinked via Microsoft Word 2003.

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