I would like to share a short story of how great my father was.
I always knew that he lives with the saying “Time and tide wait for no one”, and that he loved his family so much. I could cry whenever the thought crosses my mind. I could even cry now, writing this. He was a seafarer through and through for 36 long years. His primary goal was to keep his family well provided, at the expense of his loneliness.
It was days before Martial Law was declared in the Philippines in 1972 that he was deployed as a neophyte seafarer. He was then only twenty years old, a fresh College graduate with only his hopes and dreams in his pocket. He had a long distance love affair with my mother. My mother used to tell us that my father would send her lavish gifts from places he’d been to. Happy memories would keep coming, more particularly on the day when they took marriage vows in a simple courtroom ceremony. All the times that my mother brought us into the world, my father was never there. He was always sailing. I had not asked him what he thought of during those times, but I know he regretted for missing to witness our first breath of air.
My siblings and I grew up seeing our father just a month or two in a year. A month more, if we got lucky. We barely knew him all his life. But that short time gave me the longest to earn lessons I can ever learn in my lifetime, the beauty of self-discipline. He was always conscious with time management and wants all work done in perfection. He was the great disciplinarian. I remember when I was around ten years old, he would wake me up at 4 o’clock in the morning and give me tasks, like cleaning the house, and that I should finish them before I go to school. He will get mad if I don’t. I would sometimes hate him for that, but as I grow old I realized all he taught me was all I need to be self-dependent and strong.
On his last sail in 2008, he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, according to medical practitioners, common to seafarers due to exposure on certain dangerous chemicals aboard the ship. We never saw it coming because every time he goes to work, he would always pass all medical examinations. He lost control of his motor skills and eventually all systems in his body. When he can still speak, I asked him if he had any regrets all his life. He answered me with a smile, “I have traveled around the world for free than any man in their lifetime, what more can I ask.” True enough, but my heart felt what he really wants to say. I know that if he can only turn back the time and spend all his time with his family, he would. His illness had made his longest stay with us ever, until he died in August of 2012.
The life of my dear father was too narrow that any man wouldn’t dare to go through. His sacrifices too big to contain. Sometimes it pains me to think that my father finds happiness in his sacrifice. He had sent us all, his children, to college and had ourselves degrees. But my father was my biggest teacher. He gave up his life, so we can live.