The Prison Officer’s Father
Tatay never knew death, even if at the age of 86, he still exhibited a sharp mind and was aware of the fact that most of his peers had gone in the great beyond. He would still persist on what his mind would unfold and would still keep on dreaming as if in his prime as a young man. Tatay loved to travel. He never knew how to stop and rest. All that matters for him was adventure and more of it. Well, he passed away a couple of years ago, that’s right, at the age of 86, not because of any ailment but because he knew somehow he must rest. He never died actually, he merely rested. I know because every time I walk, I remember the gait of my tatay when walking. Looking at my shadows, even taking a glance at the corridors of malls where large glasses separate customers and display, I could see my father. Whenever I giggle or even laugh, I could hear how my father would let go of that guffaw.
I never actually relish being a clone to my Tatay. As a matter of fact, I try to be his opposite. He was high-strung, I am sober. He mastered several languages and proficient in major ones, I try only to learn one. He was a picture of a studious professor; I try to be a belligerent teacher. He was a model spouse; I am nowhere near his record. He never attempted to learn driving; I drive a motorbike, cars and even trucks. He was always at head of his peers, always alone; I am always with my peers and never lacked a company. He was a deadpan, I am humorous. He was easily drawn to an argument; I am always diplomatic. He tried to be good in music; I overtook him and became a part-time musician. He was an avid radio listener; I went ahead by being a radio broadcaster. He was at the centre of any party; I am always at the sidelines. He never absented himself in any feast day, always at the head of the table brimming with a plateful, well as for me; I eat little and seldom would attend any feast or gathering. In other words, I am nowhere a chip from my Tatay’s block even as viewed in any angle. I would even exude as an absolute negation of my Tatay’s persona.
But not for long. No, I never turned from the way I was. I never even ventured to review my contrasting style with my father. I am a different species and never looked back. As I grow older however, I could sense that my father is slowly appearing on how I carry myself. I may be a bit shy in a gathering but when shove to present, I am there projecting an electrifying personality. I may not be a person salivating and searching for a full meal like Tatay, but I, like Tatay, wanted to eat the tastiest food in town, even if only for a couple of spoonfuls. I could only feel the way Tatay must have felt before. He wanted to be brusque but he never had a chance. While I may not have the same opportunity, I would create one for me. Tatay was impatient, a character I was trying to spare my system. Tatay’s impatience developed into irritability which gave him ulcers and intestinal trouble later in his years. For me, my impatience was rerouted to arts, which gave me skill in sculpture and a steady hand in fine arts. I cannot build a building overnight but I can sketch one in a minute. Just the same, Tatay’s impatience or call it imperfection is deeply carved also in my character.
Tatay never died at all. He is with me all along. As I laugh, he was there actually laughing. His smirk is reflected on my facial distortions too whenever I would react at something absurd. Tatay was fond of walking, I would rather drive a vehicle. But strolling in malls and inspecting, there I was walking and it was actually Tatay as I could see him from reflections in the distance. There was even a visitor who mistook me for Tatay because my posture, voice and even the way I express myself were completely a rehearsal of my father’s gesture. It took me a while to plead that I am the son.
A few months before Tatay passed away, he would always be around in my office. He would even feign anger at his residence so that he could conveniently parlay some stories to regale me, a reasonable ground to see me actually since I was very busy in my career duties as a prison officer. While he imposed himself to me when he was enjoying a powerful figure as a parent during my juvenile years, later he would reinvent himself, trying to find means so that he could replicate something he missed and be for a while be like me, which he thought I have acquired through another tact and enjoy a portion of that which he denied himself in the past. Tatay would oftentimes try to see me despite his progressing weakness. He wished to be with me always. He knew that I am given provincial assignments, in far flung penal colonies and for him, it was a good break, an adventurous moment, memorable and satisfying. He would express excitement whenever my sister would sneak him into her own excursions. Tatay was indeed a man of the outside world. He was never a homebody and his frustrations lay whenever sickness would send him bound in his room for long. Sensing relief from troubled health, he would jump out and see the world. Well, during his last few weeks, his world is where his son is.
As I write this piece, I know that it was Tatay who is composing my thoughts and yes, I could feel his warm smile and his pervasive scholarship. And indeed, Tatay is here to stay.