BY LEANI M. AUXILIO
For almost five years now, I don’t, as a rule, celebrate Father’s Day deliberately. There are a couple of reasons to this. For one thing, my dad and I drifted away when he and my mother were estranged several years ago. Things had been shaky between us back then; at one point I ignored him and cut him off from my life for a few months. That’s one reason.
For another, he died on Father’s Day five years ago. My giving him the Silent Treatment has been permanent ever since.
But then I think about how long it has been, how unhealthy it is to hold a grudge against someone who’s already passed over, and I think it’s just not worth it anymore. Flawed though Mario Auxilio may have been, he still remains my father. For better or worse, dead or alive. This is why I’ve decided to stop acting all cool and whatever when asked about him, and for once, on his death anniversary (we never really celebrated Father’s Day when he was alive either, so…), reminisce about the good times we had long before our relationship turned sour.
I remember him trying to teach me how to swim. Not exactly a memory I’m particularly fond of, since, hello, he sometimes threw me off the freaking banca whenever we visited relatives in Bohol? I much preferred my mother’s gentle way of holding me up by the chin and telling me to kick, kick, kick, and not to sink, but hey. He tried.
Then there were the silly dances he made me do with him. Those always made mom laugh, and I blame him and said dances for the way I can’t dance now. No, really. I can’t dance, at all. Or maybe it’s just in our genes to just dance weird whenever we attempt to. In any case we had a weird name for them. Turinggit was what we called those dances, collectively. And no, up to this day I have no idea what that word means. I’m starting to suspect that it doesn’t really mean anything after all, just something he made up, like all those bed time sugilanon he always tells me at night. Still though. It was fun, and it made me happy that even though I got older and didn’t talk to him anymore, he taught Turinggit to my younger cousins.
Then again, they may end up with two (possibly three) left feet like me, so I think it’s too early to be happy for them. Ehem. Moving on.
I mentioned the sugilanon. Just in case you don’t get it, sugilanon is an old, archaic Visayan term that means “story.” I used to cling on to him when it was time to sleep and ask (beg, actually, as little four-year-old snot-nosed kids are wont to do when it’s time for bed) for one more bed time sugilanon each night he was home with us. My favorites were the stories about Little Haiwatha. I know I’m supposed to spell it Hiawatha, but my dad always pronounces it as “Hay-wa-ta.” Everytime I see the classic Disney cartoon these days, I hear my dad’s voice saying “Sa unang panahon, naa’y bata nga gihinganlan ug Littol Hay-wa-ta, unya…” in the background (Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Little Hiawatha, and…), think that LH’s birthday is on July 27 and that all the animals in the forest gather together when it’s the Big Day to celebrate with him. July 27 is my birthday, and as a kid I used to dream of being able to talk to animals. Told you he makes up good stories.
These memories are precious, and I should never have locked them down inside me for so long. I grew up thinking my dad was perfect, and when I found out he wasn’t I kind of (okay, I did) got angry, and didn’t think I could ever forgive him for being flawed. That’s my mistake, because he may have never been able to give me what I wanted from him later on in my life, but he gave me all the best he could have without compromising who he was, and what he knew he was meant to do.
So Dad, this Father’s Day, I wish you happiness and contentment wherever you are. I’m sorry for not saying this sooner, but I know you understand. I take after you a lot after all; as a rule of thumb I don’t do soul-searching sessions often. I know you didn’t either, so, hah. You can’t complain. Anyway. Love you, Daddy Yong. Peace na ta.