My dad is turning seventy soon. Thank God he is still very healthy. But he has come a long way from the gangly teenager he was in his first yearbook.
(FUN FACT: My mom graduated from UP High School Iloilo at the same time that my dad graduated from a diploma course in UP College Iloilo. My dad was very thin, with large eyes. My mom wondered aloud to her friends when she first saw him in their joint yearbook, “I don’t know how this guy’s body could carry such big eyes.” I know what you’re thinking. I get that mean streak from her 🤣. Thank God He changes hearts. Who would have thought she’d end up marrying him after seven years?)
A few years ago, we got to talk about how I was when I was a kid. He said he missed the times I’d spend with him. Being born right smack in the middle of five girls was hard. I scrambled for my parents’ attention, and I thought in order to gain my dad’s favor, aside from doing very well in school, I should do things with him that my other sisters didn’t do.
So I ended up being his sidekick in going to the market. (I always wondered why only “Maria Goes to the Market” when it was always my dad who went to the market 🤣). Tatay always wanted the best and the freshest. So he’d show his love for us by going at least twice a week to the market.
At first he brought me with him. But the very first time I did, I noticed how much he haggled with the tomato vendor. (I think she was selling the tomatoes for Php20 a kilo and my dad was trying to buy them for Php11 a kilo). The vendor was saying, “Manong, alam mong mahirap magpaaral ng pitong anak (Sir, you know it’s hard to put seven kids through school).” I cut in and told my dad, “Tay, please let’s buy them for Php20. I counted your money. You can well afford it. Kawawa naman si ate (Have pity on her).”
He told me later, “You know, I’ve known that vendor for a while. She’s my suki (a regular supplier/customer). So I know four of her seven kids are already done with school and her tomatoes are grossly overpriced. You fell for her sob story. Next time, leave the haggling to me 😜.”
He was that kind of man. He was good at forging relationships with people from all walks of life, so he was good friends with his sukis. He would remember details about their lives.
Last year, on a whim, we passed by the market where we used to go just to see if our favorite puto bumbong vendor was still there.
My dad said that before we moved out of the city, he asked how the guy’s daughter was doing in nursing school. The vendor was awed that my dad remembered and happily told him his eldest daughter finally passed the nursing exam and that he was looking forward to retiring once she gets established. We didn’t find him there and we left with high hopes that he was enjoying retirement.
Anyway, after the tomato incident, Tatay just always stationed me in the car so he could go back and forth when his hands get full while I finish whatever novel I was reading at the time.
I don’t know why he enjoyed my company. He was a man of few words and I didn’t know what to talk about with him, so I’d just sing to him while he drove, making up lyrics for popular songs to make him laugh.
When I was fifteen, all that stopped.
In my quest to gain the highest honors in school, I’d spend more time in competitions, in clubs, or whatever it would take to gain utmost favor from my dad (or so I thought).
I thought performing well would be the key.
I never thought he just wanted those times we had together. Now, he doesn’t even remember my achievements. He just remembers the silly songs in the car and my failed attempt at haggling (which I never got better at 😆).
As I ponder that truth, I realize there is another Father who just wants those times we have with Him.
Sometimes, we think we should DO things for Him to make us feel closer to Him.
But He doesn’t need those.
“The LORD takes delight in his faithful followers, and in those who wait for his loyal love.” —Psalms 147:11 NET