Saturday, 16 June 2018

Ode to Superman

On long drives whenever I see blue skies and puffy clouds, I think of my father. Of the many joyful rides at the back of his motorbike. Of his easy laughter over the silly jokes of which he has a steady stream of. Of his endless patience and silent rebukes. Of how I often miss him but how I never tell him. 

My father's relationship with his children has always been that of easy friendship and camaraderie, rather than fearful respect. When we were younger we used to be ruled by the belt until one day he saw the bitterness and fear in my eyes and realised that this was not how he wanted his children to look at him. 

I have certainly not made life easy for him, his first child who was a difficult baby whom he had to rock to sleep at night and who gave him a fair share of heartache from my adolescent rebellion. But he decided that the best way to deal with a defiant teenager was not to trap them in a cage but to leave the doors wide open. That was what I needed, the freedom to find myself without the burden of expectations, and that was how I thrived. 

When I discovered that I liked to write, Papa made me a scrapbook of newspaper clippings to help me find my writing style. When I decided that I loved solving mathematical problems, he bought me all the reference books he could find. When I dedicated my college days to running various school organisations, he waited outside the school gates up until midnight to safely take me back home. He was my best critic and my most devoted supporter. 

We made him proud but he is not a proud man. 

At an academic awards ceremony when I was at university, he was mistaken for a paid photographer while he was taking photos of my friends with their parents using his impressive Nikon camera. Later on after I was awarded the top awards and he went onstage to put the medals on me, he received an embarrassed apology which he took light-heartedly and they shared a laugh. 

He was also once mistaken as a motor cab driver on the day of my sister's graduation when he dropped her off early on less than presentable clothes. In the Philippines, motorcycle rides are a public mode of transport and desperate a parent stopped him to get a ride. He didn’t have the heart to turn her down and she excitedly told him about her pride and relief that her child is finally graduating. He also shared that his daughter is among the graduates and they congratulated each other when he let her off. At the ceremony, she must have remembered him after seeing him go up the stage to put on my sister's academic award and once again gave her congratulations. He didn't tell her he is a school principal so as not to embarrass her further. 

My father is like that, he is kind and generous to a fault. He embraces everyone he knew as family and they in turn treat him the same. His reputation is built on his dedication to education beyond the four corners of the classroom. His former pupils also call him Papa and still visit him many years later whenever they are home. His sincerity has earned him many friends, from my college security guard to the business and political leaders of our small town. 

When I was younger, he was the Superman who lived in our house who could fix anything in the world. When I got older, I discovered that he is also an ordinary man who I would often fall-out with. But I have also realised that though he is far from perfect, he is still very much a hero, not just mine but for the many people whose loyalty he has won. 

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