I said goodbye to Dad eight years ago, but he has never left my side.
Dad's passing left an unfillable void in my heart that time does not heal. A scab grows to bridge the edges of the wound, but a day comes to peel it off and refresh the pain.
But he lives. Each time that I strive to raise my children in the way he raised me - uncompromising on what is right, unflinching in the face of truth, undeterred in taking the straight and narrow path - I see him smiling.
I remember how disappointed he would be, every time he felt that I was not doing my best. He must have seen how I was taking my God-given talents for granted, content with indulging my feelings and reveling in fleeting pleasures. Gearing me towards science was his was of disciplining my artistic inclinations and putting structure in my free-form life.
He read me in the few times that I tried lying. The hurt in his eyes told me I was hurting myself more than him. That way, I learned not to do something if I would have to lie about it, and to stand up for everything I do.
His life was a witness to the path less taken. He repeatedly refused to take the department chairmanship, insisting that a young farmer must be out in the field, in the heat of the sun. He finally agreed to be Chairman as he neared his retirement years. He had a few friends, and we often joked, when he was alive, how it might be hard to fill up a room in his wake. The volume of flowers brought, Mass cards offered, and people who came to console us during his 10-day funeral belied our fears.
He detested self-glorification, shunning awards and minimizing recognition honors. But he reveled in his children's achievements, and taught us to speak up when we were being put down.
He lived a simple, Spartan life. Us kids used to laugh about his outmoded clothes, his practical shoes, his diet of boiled tomatoes and sautéed ampalaya. But he worked like a beast of burden for our welfare. Even as senior faculty, he taught every summer, just to earn a little extra. At the time when all 8 kids were enrolled, from medical school to elementary, he took other teaching jobs in his spare time. But he was happiest to have money to spend on us, buying that tiklis of carabao mangoes or a sack of milagrosa rice or a kilo of Tiger prawns.
If he were alive today, he'd hate that I'm sharing all these things about him, and probably claim that I'm exaggerating. We would not have been able to publish his book of poems, his artistic indulgence, perhaps telling us to spend our money on something "more worthwhile." But he would be pleased if I would be able to do just one bit of what he did, for my own children.
Loving father, doting grandfather, devoted husband, dedicated family man. In memoriam.