They say despite our best efforts, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes our fathers did. It’s crazy how I shudder at this thought. It’s New Year’s Day, a holiday most people spend with their families and yet here I am, alone in a café with my laptop and a Caramel Americano for company.
It started simply enough. My sister is home from Japan for the holidays and for weeks, we’ve been playing house ala Hallmark channel. There are several big elephants in the room, each one brighter and bigger than the last but no one wants to talk about them. No one ever wants to talk about them.
“Paalis na rin naman ate mo. Hayaan mo na,” my mom said just as I was about to leave. You see my sister and I don’t really get along that well but while I am a master of hiding this fact, my father is a completely different story. He’s been quiet since the day he picked her up at the airport.
My parents don’t really approve of my sister’s boyfriend. You could say it’s because he’s not very well educated. You could say it’s because he isn’t very well off and has a dead end job. You could blame it on five million different reasons but the truth is, my parents do not approve of him because of one simple reason- my father thinks my sister’s boyfriend is a pervert.
For the longest time, my sister kept him from my parents. I suppose at the back of her head, she knew what they would say. She knew that that man could never support her but what could she do? Love is anything but rational. For many months, she lied repetitively to my parents- a project here, a late night dinner there. Anything to spend a little time with him. She did it really well until she let her conscience get in the way. While I have no problems about lying to my parents, my sister does. She felt guilty that she was deceiving them and figured it had to end soon.
She arranged to meet with her boyfriend with the intention of breaking up with him. From Las Piñas, he commuted all the way to Mandaluyong not knowing that he was about to get his heart broken. My sister had been crying in her room all day. She did not want to say goodbye but the Christian in her told her that she had to. When her boyfriend arrived, the maid escorted him to my sister’s room. He was dizzy from the long commute and decided to sit on the bed for a little bit. That was their first mistake. My father was clear that visitors could only stay in the living room. I suppose because of the circumstances, my sister wasn’t really thinking straight.
“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep lying to my parents,” she began. “You know I love you but if that means I have to break a commandment, I just can’t do it anymore.” She was crying at this point and her boyfriend, realizing he went all that way to get his heart broken, began crying too.
When you’re young, you don’t realize how your actions affect other people. My sister soon realized this. I suppose she expected he would take it maturely but her boyfriend was practically inconsolable. Just as things went from bad to worse, my sister had a bright idea.
“Let’s pray,” she offered. “Let’s offer our relationship to God. He’ll tell us what to do.” Despite their differences in religion, her boyfriend agreed. Isn’t it funny how many things we agree to when love is challenged? With eyes closed, they began to pray- my sister, knees bent beside the bed and her boyfriend lying face up. It was very sweet and heartbreaking. How unfortunate that my father just happened to arrive.
He saw red. It didn’t matter that my sister’s boyfriend was on the bed because he was tired or that my sister was on her knees because they were praying. It didn’t matter that they were breaking up anyway. My father saw what he saw- a strange man on my sister’s bed and my sister on her knees with tears in her eyes. He nearly exploded with the millions of sexual positions he imagined to explain their circumstances. He nearly killed my sister’s boyfriend that day and within weeks, passport in hand, my sister was sent to a different country.
That’s how we deal with things in our house. If you can’t deal with it, send it away. As for my sister and her boyfriend, the shared trauma and the miles apart only strengthened their relationship. And though they were about to break up that fateful day, they are still together as I write this. With my sister coming home for the holidays, I actually thought my father had forgiven her and her imagined transgressions. I actually thought he could change.
As Shirley Templo* once said, you can’t teach an old dog some tricks. Apparently, my father is a better actor than I gave him credit for. He is a dormant volcano disguised as a mountain. This morning, my sister asked permission to leave the house. I don’t know why she did that. Most of us just leave but she wanted to do it properly. A firm believer in the concept of desensitization, she wanted him to know that she was going to spend the day with her boyfriend. At first, my father was quiet but just as my sister was about to leave, he released a litany of words that would put most rappers to shame. My father did not talk about the big elephant in the room. He just took a shotgun and blew it to pieces.
Elephant debris lay splattered in the house. It painted the curtains red and left the newly reupholstered sofa bloody. I got my things and was out the door posthaste. I figured I didn’t really want to pick up the pieces of their emotional a-bomb. I have my own shit to deal with and all this drama just wasn’t for me. Now that I have time to think though, I just can’t help but wonder- are we really capable of change? I really thought my father had forgiven my sister. I thought that in a few years’ time, we would all be one big happy family. I was wrong. Will my father ever forgive my sister’s boyfriend? Probably not. Will he ever forgive my sister? I really don’t know. It’s just ironic that on the day that the whole world is filled to the brim with the exciting prospect of change, my father showed me that no one ever changes. Most of us just pretend.
On the day that my father will learn of my transgressions, I wonder what fate awaits me. Right now, he sees me as the quiet, obedient son. When he learns I am anything but his idea of me, I don’t really know what will happen. I suppose I should take a hint from my sister and begin praying now. Lord, help my father understand what took me years to accept. Lord, help my father change.