Sunday, June 15, 2008

I'm an Absentee Father

My wife sent me an e-mail with some attachment pictures of my ‘kids’ as a gift on Fathers’ Day. I was surprised to see their physical transformation from a once ‘kid image’ to a full grown teenagers. At one time, while looking at the pictures, I almost couldn’t recognize my eldest son riding a row boat for he looks totally different now, especially at 16.

The smile on my face couldn’t hide the memory that lingers in my mind reminiscing the last moment I had with my son. I couldn’t imagine a boy whom I used to ‘baby’ around has finally grown up faster that I could imagine. My eldest daughter’s physical transformation too, comes as a surprise to me. The grade-schooler I used to fetch to school had grown up to a very fine young lady. My youngest daughter, almost a baby when I left the Philippines for abroad, can’t speak audibly then but now talks a lot like a parrot. My other daughter, the most vocal among the 4 in terms of endearment, has her own share of transformation – loosing her 2 front teeth.


My situation at present, as an absentee father deviates from the parental role in the traditional family to just only a “good provider.” Leaving my wife and children in order to try my luck abroad would somehow give my children an assurance of a solid education up to college. But unmistakable sense of loss, often surfacing as resentment – having missed my children grow up. I grope for words to describe the passing of an era which part of my live have been sacrificed.
From the moment they were born, I have looked at my children with a wish that I could see them grow into fine human beings every step of the way. I have perhaps exulted in their triumphs, and bled in their pain, more profusely than in my own. I think of them when I visit a nice place, or eat an unusually fine meal. I worry for their safety, and I cannot imagine not being able to recognize them in their mature years. In the age of absentee parenting, the communication of love has taken the form of a steady stream of gift-giving. This however cannot compensate for the erosion of intimacy.


I like the article written by Randy David that goes with the title “Love in the Time of Migration.” He said that, “It has been very easy to measure the economic benefits from overseas work. But I doubt if one can ever quantify what the Filipino family has given up in terms of love, or what it is doing to recover it.”


I wrote him a letter commenting the trueness and aptness of his article and eventually shared with him my own story. His reply somewhat resonates the remaining dynamo that keeps me going – my resiliency. Further, he told that whilst there’s not much else that can be done, however he suggested to write long letters in my own hand writing once in a while to share my thoughts with my family and to constantly reassure them and to keep hoping and dreaming. However, one phrase that catches my attention is when he said, “Don’t ever give up.”

Amidst all adversities, I must not give up. Perhaps, I may not regain the time I lost of not having my family around but I’m already prepared not to give up our hopes and our dreams. Though I may not see my children grow up but this resentment will not keep me from playing the remaining role that is left for me – an absentee father limited to only just a plain provider but perhaps, that is what love commands me to do.

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