Me, My Mom and My Dad (30 Days of Blogging Prompts – 3)


My Parents, Isaac and Naida Tolentino in the 70s

This is the third installment in the 30 Days Blogging Prompts Journal Swap I am participating in for Swap-bot.  While I am trying to chronicle my entries here, the actual journal is more extensive than what I publish in this blog.

It has taken me longer to write this post than usual.  I’m doing it in installments as the thoughts take shape in my heart.  The third blogging prompt in the series is supposed to be all about me and my relationship with my parents.  Perhaps that is part of the difficulty of getting this blog post together — there is forever present a sense of loss and perpetual mourning in my heart for my Dad.  But here goes..

*To read the posts related to my 30 Days of Blogging Prompts 2013 Journal Exchange on Swap-bot, please click on that sub-category under JOURNALS.

I cannot write about my relationship with my parents without describing them as individuals and as a couple.  I also think it’s important for me to write about this blog prompt from two perspectives, the first being my relationship with them together, and my individual relationship with each of them.

I’m the living eldest child of 3 natural children, and one adopted son.  An older brother born four years ahead of me had died at birth.  From the get-go, I have been, for all intents and purposes, the eldest in the family.  Later on, we would be joined by our half sister after my father passed on in 2010.  She is younger than the third sibling, and older than our adopted brother.

My father was born and raised in Tondo.  It wasn’t the bow-and-arrow-look-behind-your-shoulders Tondo — more like the quieter and more peaceful neighborhoods surrounding the town church famous for its miraculous Santo Nino.  He was the youngest in a huge family, and he was lucky to have finished high school.

My mother was also from a huge family in Bicol.  She had come to the city to work as househelp after gradeschool to help send her two younger brothers to school.  (Both eventually made it on their own individual merits thanks to their Manay.)  She met my dad while working for a couple who needed an errand boy in their bookies business and they fell in love and got married.

My parents tried very hard to be good parents.  They worked hard to give us, their three children, the best education they could afford.  It was a wise decision on my mom’s part who only wanted a better life for all of us.  They toiled side by side, although I know my mom really ran the business.  We were comfortable and well off, but I wouldn’t consider us rich in the moneyed sense.  Perhaps there was a time we were, but the nature of our business was such that when things went south, it went bad.

Filipino families raise their children with a healthy fear and respect of authority.  They literally didn’t spare the rod but it was not like we were beaten senseless for infractions.  We were disciplined within limits.  But even without this, we knew better than to talk back to our parents or to disobey them.   My parents were strict to the point that you can call my upbringing very sheltered.  And yet in my older years, I appreciated that kind of protection from bad influences at an early age.

Whatever they may have restricted me from doing, you would never catch me saying they messed me up or caused me angst and pain that have damaged me as an adult.  On the contrary, I am very grateful for all the good they tried to bring in to my life.  Much of who I am now was because of the upbringing they afforded me despite their own deprived youth.

Individually, I was close to both of them, but I was closer to my Dad, being a Daddy’s girl.  I have a lot of good memories of the special time we spent together, and even the painful ones where I was the only one who could talk to him when my other siblings had drawn a line between themselves and our Dad are memories I treasure.  He would listen to me when he was being stubborn.  I was the only one who could really ever get mad at him — my other siblings just chose to withdraw and ignore him those times he turned against our mother and us.

My father had his sins but I loved him despite them.  He hurt us deeply when he had a second family and when he made us feel like we didn’t matter to him anymore.  He was a difficult man to understand but I never tired of trying to understand him.

When he was on his deathbed, I said goodbye via long distance on the cellphone.  I told him I was not mad at him — that I loved him, and that I was fine.  I told him it’s okay — without telling him it was okay for him to go.  It’s been almost three years since he died and I still cry from time to time.  I talk to him and tell him about the pain in my heart– and I know he hears wherever he is. 

My mother I have always been close but we became closer when she came to New York to help me take care of my son immediately after he was born.  We have always had a high regard for each other, although sometimes we had a love-hate relationship where it came to my Dad.  We were on the same page as far as condemning his womanizing, but there was often a tug-of-war between us somehow when it came to the things that were not of much significance.  Petty things..

Mom is turning 73 on March 9.  I see her maybe once a year if I’m lucky — and I notice that her gait is different, her face shows the passing of time — something my siblings don’t see because they are always with her.  I cherish the times that we get to spend together when I am home, like when we do our pilgrimage to Manaoag, going to mass together even if it means taking the bus to do so. 

I always miss her and wish she would come to visit.  She’s too busy trying to keep busy back home.  At this point in her life, she hasn’t quite come to terms with aging.  She still thinks she has the strength she used to have way back when she ran the business and held the reins.  Because we collectively put our foot down when she insists on doing things she is not capable of anymore, she thinks that we are disregarding her matriarchal prerogative and feels like we are ganging up on her.

Yet she knows her children love her.  I am praying that she be with us a few years longer… She is our anchor as a family.  Through the years, she held us all together and she still does.

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