This, above all:

This, above all: To be God's best for The Coach and for Anna

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Father's Heart

My college friend, V, a photographer and artist, was born a fish. Even when I had a few years’ head start on him, he still takes to diving better than I do. He is unfazed by the weight of the sea, unafraid to take risks even when his decisions violate NAUI safety guidelines, as well as all the laws of physics. I was his buddy when he first dived in Anilao, and he should’ve paid me for that service for he kept speeding after every fish he fancied, parting away from us, and I had to tear after him to lead him back to the pack—no easy feat for he had a UP swim team’s body, built for speed.

When we dived Kho Tao, Thailand, our entire team had to do an emergency ascent after a mere ten minutes: we lost V underwater. He had seen something interesting and tore after it. His lust for life and all its beauty proved far too irresistible.

V is able to bear pain and when he severely hurt his back in Bohol, he still managed to don his tank for one last dive in Balicasag, never mind that I had to tow him for, oh, about forty minutes.

V is creative, funny and gentle in adversity: when our friend, B, fell into the sea together with V’s camera—one of the first (and very expensive) digital cameras that came out then—V, without missing a beat, hugged the dripping B. He knew B needed more assurance of their friendship than he did over the state of his very wet camera. And when the hard rains lashed at us when we emerged from the Coron seas, with waves that turned white and foamy, and pitched the boat to and fro, V kept us singing for the hour’s trip back to the resort all the songs that contained the words “rain” and “ulan.” And we sang, punctuated by thunder and lightning.

Yet there is an aspect of his life where V is unsure of his footing: fathering. For many years now, V has struggled with his eldest son, who claws at life, at anybody. Several times V finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place. Disciplining his son is such a sorrow: How can V protect his son from his own wrong decisions? Often V finds himself giving up.

But not last night.

Last night V wrote us from Hong Kong, where he and his family have lived for over ten years. The Coach and I read his letter in silence, touched by V's father heart. I asked V's permission to reprint his email here.
Mga kapatid,

Last Friday, my elder son decided to leave home. My wife and I are not in favor of his relationship with his girlfriend because it is detrimental to both of them. The girl is not allowed in the house. On that day I caught them in his room.

My elder son has been making wrong choices in life because of this relationship. He is out of school at the moment, and his violent tendencies have been apparent. He has not been following house rules and advice. He is a total rebel. When he left, I did not decline.

For one whole week, I tried to be strong in my decision to let him go. In fact I locked the gate of the house when I leave so he cannot enter when nobody is home. He cannot take a bath, he cannot eat the food at home. I was hoping that by doing that he will learn his lesson, that it is difficult to be away from your family, that it is difficult to succeed in life without proper education, that life is not easy. He doesn't have money so I assume he cannot be mobile and will probably starve eventually. I thought in my mind, "How long can his friends support him?" All through the week, I was hoping that this experience will teach him life's lesson.

This afternoon, just after office hours (I usually extend my working hours), I received a phone call from him. He said "Papa, why is it that nobody is home? I need to get something from my room." I almost did not hear the other words he said—just the word, "Papa." The word "Papa" melted my heart; it sounded so beautiful to my ears.

That was a spiritual moment. Now I have an idea how God feels when we call him Father. I haven't finished everything I needed to do, but I told him to wait for me because I am on my way home.

If it has been a difficult week for him, so it was for me. I suddenly realized where the pain and frustrations are coming from. What if my colleagues know my son does not live with me anymore? I am supposed to be a good manager, why can't I manage my own son? What if he cannot finish high school in time, or not at all? What about university? Other people's kids are doing well, what went wrong with my son? And the list of questions goes on.

When I heard my son say "Papa," I know deep in my heart that I love my son. I still love my son even if he is a total rebel. I love my son even if he doesn’t get into the university. I still love him even if he does not perform. Children are not trophies, sabi nga ni B. I felt a sense of freedom. Ngayon, alam ko na talaga ang meaning ng unconditional love. Our relationship with our Father God is the same. Even if we, His children, will go astray, it doesn't mean that He will cease to love us.

I will be patient. I will wait. My son is coming back. If I think this way towards my son, I wonder how God feels towards His children.

This night at home, I asked my son if he would like to eat out with me. He said he already had dinner. I told him to sleep in his room tonight: his mother will be arriving tomorrow from New York and his aunt has something for him. I know he was just waiting for the invitation. He went inside his room and sprayed some fragrance. He said he didn't like the smell. Then he asked for two hundred dollars. I gave him two hundred dollars. I felt like I gave him only two ten dollar bills. I wanted to give him some more. After putting the money in his pocket, he said he has to go but will be back. I asked him what time is he coming home. He said, before twelve.

I am not sure if my son has learned his lesson, but I'm quite sure I did.