It’s sem break, and I have just come back from a 5-day trip to Korea with Nelson and our two daughters. It was a satisfying trip on several levels, and one of those is that I had many heart to heart conversations with my girls. Not all of them were serious, of course, but they were all open and sincere, and each one was enjoyable. In those conversations, I invariably had a glimpse of the personalities and characters of my daughters, both young women now, and I really, really liked what I saw. Many a time, I would jokingly tell one or the other that she reminded me of her Dad, or one of her brothers, or a grandparent, or me. And my girls, looking me in the eye, would laugh and say, “I know!”
Which got me thinking.
As a child, and even as a young adult, I had no such awareness. It was not until I was much older that I saw the ways in which I was like my parents or any of the significant family members I grew up around. That thought leads me to many other thoughts, and finally to very important revelations about many things.
As a young adult, it seems I was not very introspective. Oh I was wistful, but the stuff that preoccupied me internally was mostly random stuff prompted by mood and circumstance. My mind was engaged in daydreams and plans, ruminations over my feelings, imaginings and replays of my experiences, mental meanderings about people I knew, people I longed to get to know, people I wish I didn’t know.. My thoughtfulness was experiential rather than existential. I did not really spend time contemplating me: who I was, what I was made of, how I was evolving, where I was headed. Being shallow in that sense is an embarrassing admission to make, but yes, I had no such self-scrutiny.
Two things came along and “rescued” me from that hapless course. One was parenthood. Indeed, only as a parent, when I would hear myself echoing my parents, did it dawn on me how like them I was, how numerous were the ways in which they resonated from me. Of course, there were similarities I liked and there were those I didn’t. Thus, I got to thinking about what I could do to have more of characteristics – not just from my folks – which I liked having, or to shed the ones which I wanted no part of. The second thing was the renewal; being and growing in the BCBP, I learned to be more reflective about myself. I started paying attention to whether I liked myself, how I was moving along in my personal evolution, where I was headed, what adjustments were necessary for me to make, how I could become the best version of me.
Such notions made me truly self-aware. I became attentive to my qualities, my capacities, my decision-making processes, as well as the consequences of all these. More and more, I learned to become deliberate and purposeful, vigilant and discerning.
Another realization had to do with the way I saw my parents. It seems that growing up, I did not really see them as the individuals they were. Rather, to me, they were “mama” and “papa.” For the longest time, my father was the one who generally stopped me from doing the things I wanted, and punished me when I did them despite his restrictions. On the other hand my mother was the one who generally shielded me from my father and helped me get away with things. She was the one I went to whenever I needed anything, and he was the one who provided for whatever it was she got me. I knew their histories, but the facts somehow were not related to the persons as far as I was concerned. I saw none of her childlike innocence, I had no idea what his dreams were made of, I didn’t know what she held in her heart, I didn’t care to solicit his opinions about things. I had reduced my parents to roles. Again, it seems a shameful admission to make, but there I was.
Thankfully, my adulthood – not just in years but in thinking as well – rectified that situation. It took many years and much work, but there finally came a time when the man and woman who brought me to this world became friends as well as parents to me. It was a very special prayer of thanks I made when one day, it dawned on me that I was sitting there, genuinely laughing with my father, and the joke was on him! Now that he is gone, my most joyful memories of him include the many times he took my hand to gently press it as we sat quietly together, perhaps watching my children play, perhaps after a short conversation, always after I raised his hand to my forehead for his blessing. And I will never forget the way he looked at me in my adulthood, with a smile crinkling his eyes.
My mother lives with my sister far away from me now, and so I’m very glad that she has become my textmate. We send each other inspirational as well as inane messages. I call her to ask how to go about a dish I’m cooking, and she calls me to tell me the funny thing my little niece said yesterday. When we visit, we exchange little presents: a blouse, some favorite powder or soap, her favorite Almond Roca, my favorite daing na hito and burong mangga that she makes perfectly each time. She has become friend enough to sometimes go off to her bedroom when I come over, preferring a game of solitaire on her computer to my company, and I think that’s a wonderful thing!
I think of my parents and how we have journeyed together in my life… I think of my children and how I am journeying with them in their lives… I must say “Thank You Lord!”
Thank you for putting us on this earth and gifting us with the exact family members we need to have, to foster our becoming. Thank you for protecting us – and these family members – from the worst of ourselves. Thank you for providing one after another chance for us to make things better. Thank you for hovering close, to affirm us when we do right and to gently correct us otherwise. Thank you for such love you have surrounded us with. Thank you for enabling us, even in our imperfect ways, to love.