Friday, February 12, 2010

Heart Failure


The house was difficult to find. I walked downhill; the apartment rows on either side followed the slope of the road. There was no numerical identification to differentiate one unit from the other, and each was an exact copy of its neighbor. Luckily, my father was outside under the shade of the porch, newspaper in hand. When he was still living with us, it was his constant ritual to read the paper immediately after lunch. It gave me comfort to know that some things had not changed.


His smile was warm and tentative, maybe even wary. I did not tell him I would be coming over. I told no one. In fact, until I got to his house, I wasn't sure myself.


What a surprise!
I'm sorry. Is this a bad time? I could come back...
No, no. Don't be silly. Have you eaten? I'll have Ting heat up some food for you if you like...
Please don't bother. I'm not hungry. I'll grab something to eat later. My next class isn't until 2:30...


He invited me inside.


I took off my shoes on the stoop, out of respect for the woman he now lived with after he left my mother. I had not seen my father in 4 years and I missed him terribly. But I knew that if I ever set foot in his house, I had to acknowledge that I had no place there. It didn't matter that blood was thicker than water; I was part of his past. I abandoned my pride by the door, with my shoes.


Ting is 31 years younger than my father. She worked as a waitress at a bar my father frequented. She was poor and tired and hungry and, to her, my father had been a beacon of hope. To my mother, he meant the world. That small house was a haughty display of Ting's triumph and the emotional pain my mother had to endure.


I never understood the reason for my parents' separation. I guess it was ethos that dictated that I simply accept it, that I should not question it. Or perhaps it was an unconscious decision because the less I understood, the less pain I thought I would feel. My mother, on the other hand, sought answers. She loved no other and wanted to know what she had done wrong. She loved him best. Many years later, when I had married and had children of my own, she would apologize for having loved my father more than her children. She said that if she had known that despite all her efforts he would have left anyway, she would have devoted her energies to caring for us instead. On the space next to "cause of death" on her death certificate, it was written: heart failure. It was her heart that failed her.


The visit lasted just a little over an hour---long stretches of unsaid things and some small talk. I wanted to tell him that I was okay, that I needed no apologies, that if he wanted to hear it I'd say "I forgive you"; but in the warmth of his presence, words did not seem necessary. I didn't even say goodbye. Ting had emerged from her room after allowing us time that, I suppose, she deemed a polite and sufficient amount by her standards because, after all, my father and I already had each other for almost 18 years.


I walked away, grateful and broken. My feet felt oppressively heavy, though my footfalls were light. My shoes were loafers in a rich brown hue--the color of living earth--with tassels that danced timidly as I walked. Each step I took landed purposefully and silently, the soles confident on the uneven ground. They were my friend Yumi's, but she asked me to break them in for her because, though we wore the same size, her feet were wider than mine. These are nice shoes, I thought. And when I bowed my head to look at them, a tear fell on my left shoe.

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15 comments:

blooey said...

Honest and very well written, seez.

*hugs*

Arlene said...

this blog is very touching Ajie. thanks for sharing...

msvalwriters said...

my gudnis ajie! when are you going to start writing novels ha? ang tagaaaaal!!!!

mental wayfarer said...

Blooey: Thanks for the compliment, seez, and especially for the hugs.:)

mental wayfarer said...

Arlene: Thanks for reading. I like to ramble while purging.:)

mental wayfarer said...

msvalwriters: Isdatchoo, who I think it is? Teh? Thanks for dropping by.

msvalwriters said...

op kors it's me. who else do you think it would be? hehehe! asan na ang manuscript mo?

Sana said...

You are a wonderful and "forgiving" daughter Ajie!

No heart failures for you because of your generous loving heart (if not we will gang up on don!) =D

Happy Hearts Day!

mental wayfarer said...

Jet: It's you!
Sana: I like the ganging up on Don part.:)

Maria Dahlia said...

i sometimes thought that the reason women stayed with their man (inspite of the clear situation) it's because of children... but you are right, women do tend to stay with their man because they love them more than anything... really heartwarming...

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ajie. Sometimes, we will never know the reasons for some of our parents' decisions. I learned that the hard way, believe me. I guess, as a parent yourself, you know that telling your children some of your thoughts would break them.

gege said...

2 words! wow! and another wow!

mental wayfarer said...

Peter: Your comment was very intriguing. Looks like a chat over coffee would be interesting.

Gege: You flatter me, as always. Thank you.

Paperblanc said...

Major Wow! ang galing!!!

i will wait for the release of your short stories compiled already in a book..you already had lots of materials here..compilation na lang! i would definitely buy! kasama na dun ung isang illustrated book ng The woman with a fat heart (tama po ba?)...

sana..sana..irelease na!

mental wayfarer said...

Paperblanc: I think you have more confidence in me than I do. Thanks! For the compilation, I will need a publisher, a selection, an editor, and lots of courage. The last one is the tricky part...:)